Siemens and Atkins to deliver digital in-cab signalling on the East Coast main line

Siemens Mobility's in-cab ETCS fitted to a Eurostar e320, though the system is currently only used on the continent.

Siemens Mobility and Atkins have been confirmed as Network Rail’s partners for the introduction of in-cab signalling on the southern section of the East Coast main line (ECML).

Network Rail has been seeking to team up with private sector partners from the start of its programme to design, develop and deploy the European Train Control System (ETCS) on the ECML. As a result, and following a procurement process, Siemens Mobility has been confirmed as the programme’s train control partner and traffic management partner, while Atkins will be the rail systems integration partner.

These partners will play a critical role in delivering the East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP). The first £350 million investment in the ECDP by the government is already being used to begin the introduction of real-time digital signalling on the route and lay the foundations for wider national roll-out.

The ECDP is a cross-industry initiative that will help transform the performance of the ECML, one of the network’s busiest and most important economic routes. It will create the first intercity digital railway in the UK – trains will be fitted with the latest in-cab signalling technology and the old lineside signals will be removed.

Digital in-cab signalling will mean that signallers will be able to talk to trains continuously rather than only at fixed points. They will be able to instruct drivers, and respond to them, in real time, so reducing delays and significantly improving performance.

Toufic Machnouk, Network Rail.

Toufic Machnouk, programme director of the East Coast Digital Programme, said: “This is a major step forward in transforming the network for the millions of passengers that use the East Coast main line.

“We have adopted a partnership approach across the rail industry to deliver Britain’s first inter-city digital railway, moving away from traditional procurement and bringing together technology providers to set a standard for how digital railway is deployed.

“This is just the beginning of a truly exciting journey that will eventually see digital signalling improving the railway right across the country.”

Siemens Mobility will be both the train-control partner (TCP) and traffic-management partner (TMP) for the programme.

As TCP, Siemens will play a central role in deploying and sustaining a high-performance train control infrastructure, incorporating design, build and maintenance of ETCS together with associated infrastructure for the lifetime of the assets on the ECML. The role includes the technical integration of an end-to-end system, including with other existing or proposed systems. The contract covers more than the ECDP and will be worth an estimated £900 million.

The arrangement for Siemens to act as TMP also has a wider remit than just East Coast Digital Programme deployment. The company will be working in both the Eastern and the North West and Central regions, developing traffic management for the TransPennine route as well as the East Coast main line.

Traffic management plays an important role in improving performance for passengers, helping to predict and prevent conflict and re-plan the timetable to reduce delays in the event of disruption.

Rob Morris, Siemens Mobility.

This framework has been let in two lots. Lot 1 is estimated to be worth £108 million while lot 2 will be around £72 million. Rob Morris, managing director of rail infrastructure for Siemens Mobility in the UK, said: “We’re thrilled to be appointed both Train Control Partner and Traffic Management Partner for the East Coast Digital Programme.

“This is a significant step forward for the UK rail industry as we move towards a fully digital railway, and we are delighted to work in partnership with Network Rail to deliver this ground-breaking programme.”

Atkins, an SNC-Lavalin company, has been named as the rail systems integration partner. In a contract worth an estimated £55 million, Atkins will support the route and coordinate the supply chain to deliver the ECDP. It will be responsible for managing integration activities and establishing a collaborative relationship with the route, its technology partners (TCP and TMP) and stakeholders, including government, passengers, freight operators and train owners.

Scott Kelley, Atkins.

Atkins will also provide governance and assurance to the programme. Strategic rail director Scott Kelley commented: “This is a genuinely game changing transformation programme at the leading edge of rail industry integration.

“Our team will bring together unique skills and experience to enable the industry collaboration to deliver the East Coast Digital Programme, establishing the gold standard for future delivery programmes.”

The southern section of the ECML, which stretches from King’s Cross to just north of Peterborough, currently operates with 1970s signalling that is reaching the end of its life and is due to be renewed over the next few years. Staged migration to ETCS level 2, with no lineside signals, will now take place. 300 passenger and freight trains will need to be installed with the new on-cab technology.

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