Successful testing of ETCS on Class 387 trains for Heathrow Express

Testing of Class 387 trains destined for Heathrow Express continues.

Proving that life goes on despite Coronavirus (COVID-19), teams from GWR, Bombardier, DB Cargo, Department for Transport, Heathrow Airport and Porterbrook have successfully completed ETCS testing on Class 387 units for the first time at the end of last month.

The GWR 387s will serve Heathrow Express customers later this year and, once introduced, the trains will offer a dedicated airport experience complete with at-seat USB power, fast Wi-Fi, ample luggage space and the option of Business First.

As part of the Crossrail programme, the spur from the Great Western main line into Heathrow is being resignalled using ETCS (European Train Control System) level 2, an in-cab signalling system that does away with the need for physical signals alongside the track. One fully implemented, only trains with the requisite in-cab signalling equipment will be able to run on those lines.

ETCS will run alongside conventional signalling, termed an overlay, on the whole line from London Paddington to Reading, not only just the link into Heathrow.

This was what was being tested as over 10 return trips were successfully carried out on the mainline between Reading and Heathrow, proving the functionality of the on-train hardware and software as well as related infrastructure.

The project teams have also already achieved a multitude of first-in-class outputs, including:

  • ETCS and refurbishment modifications on 387 units;
  • ETCS software installation and dynamic testing;
  • Required infrastructure upgrades;
  • Technical documentation and support;
  • Operational procedures and notices.
Mary Grant, Porterbrook.

The success of these tests reflects the progress the team is making in other areas. Fitment of the ETCS equipment is being carried out alongside refurbishment of the Class 387 trains at Bombardier’s Ilford depot, and the software has been rigorously tested over recent months at Network Rail’s RIDC Melton facility at Old Dalby, Leicestershire, a process which also allowed for the training of key personnel.

Porterbrook CEO Mary Grant said: “Notwithstanding these challenging times, we need to continue focusing on delivering key projects so that the railway is ready to support UK PLC when the current situation stabilises.

“Introduction of an ETCS-fitted fleet on services to Heathrow is just such a project and will enable a service uplift to meet expected passenger numbers when the airport returns to its role as a key European aviation hub.”

Matt Byrne, Bombardier.

Matt Byrne, UK President of Bombardier, added: “Though we are now on a production pause, project progress and industry cooperation continues wherever it is safe to do so. 

“This landmark refurbishment and upgrade project, involving teams from both our services and rail control solutions businesses, is an industry first: retrofitting ETCS equipment to existing fleets.”

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