Breakthrough year for East Coast Digital Programme celebrated

From left to right: Paul Boyle, LNER; Toufic Machnouk, Network Rail; Huw Merriman, rail minister; David Horne, LNER.

A “year of breakthrough delivery” for the East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP) has been marked with a visit by rail minister Huw Merriman to London King’s Cross to see the technology and meet the people involved with making it happen.

ECDP will see traditional lineside signals on the southern part of the East Coast Main Line replaced with state-of-the-art digital signalling - providing continuous, real-time information to the driver’s cab. 

The technology, using the European Train Control System (ETCS), will mean more reliable and greener services for passengers and freight, creating the next generation railway.

During 2022 the ECDP has delivered:

  • Commissioning of new signalling and the successful testing of trains using digital signalling on the Northern City Line between Finsbury Park and Moorgate. This is paving the way for the first passenger trains to operate with ETCS on that route in the spring.
  • Successful testing of the first retrofitted passenger trains using ETCS at the upgraded Rail Innovation and Development Centre (RIDC) testing facility
  • The start of major ETCS retrofitting programmes for freight trains and for commuter trains not already fitted
  • An extensive range of ‘full cab’ and desk top based driver simulators with ETCS capability, to enable nearly 3,000 train drivers to be trained to drive with digital signalling
  • The progression of a world first project to enable ETCS on steam locomotives intended for main line use

The year also saw government approval of the full business case for the ECDP. 

More than £1bn of further investment was announced to enable the full delivery of digital signalling for the first time to one of the country’s intercity rail routes – the East Coast Main Line.

At King’s Cross the rail minster was given a demonstration of digital signalling on a London North Eastern Railway (LNER) driver simulator, met industry leaders delivering the ground breaking programme, and visited the cab of an LNER Azuma train, already pre-fitted with ETCS.

He said: “It has truly been a year of breakthrough delivery on our East Coast Digital Programme, from the commissioning of new signalling to the testing of trains.

“This programme is a fantastic example of cross-industry working with Network Rail and train operating companies to deliver a safer, faster, and more efficient rail network right along the vital East Coast Main Line,”

Toufic Machnouk, Network Rail’s director, industry partnership for digital railway, said: “We are creating the future railway, and breakthrough delivery is happening at pace across the many partners involved with the Programme. 

“We are pushing the boundaries with our collaboration across the industry and demonstrating what the industry can achieve when working together across the whole system.”

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