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Following Department for Transport approval of the funding tranche for development of the East Coast Digital Programme, Network Rail has started the regulatory Network Change process by notifying all affected operators of the agreed scope of the programme. This includes franchised train operating companies, open access, freight and charter operators who use all or part of the route.
The Network Change process is being managed using NR’s Complex Projects Procedure. Although the exact timescale has yet to be finalised, the expectation is that the transition to ETCS Level 2 operation between London King’s Cross and Stoke Junction will be completed by the end of 2029.
Oversight and management boardsECDP will be using an ‘innovative partnership delivery model’, including a number of ‘boards’ bringing together the various stakeholders, funders and suppliers.
The Route Industry Steering Board, chaired by the Managing Director of LNER, will be the ‘highest point of escalation’ for the programme, overseeing industry-level risks and mitigations.
The Programme Executive Board will set priorities and direct the work, providing functional support and carrying out oversight assurance whilst managing external communications.
The Programme Management Board will look after day-to-day scoping, integration and delivery of all tranches and projects.
The Operational Readiness Group will support all affected businesses to ensure that they are preparing for the change.
Passenger, freight and charter operators affected by the scheme will be reimbursed for their operational readiness preparations, including the training of drivers, train managers, maintenance and support staff, the fitment, testing and commissioning of ETCS onboard equipment and the development of the necessary procedures for ETCS operation ‘under all conditions’.
All trains or locomotives using the ECML south of Peterborough, including the Hertford Loop, will need to be fitted with onboard equipment by December 2024, as there will be no lineside signals. NR recognises that this may pose ‘small limitations’ on charter operators’ flexibility to select locomotive types. However, the scheme is being designed so that operators who cross the ECML at Peterborough or who only run further north will not require fitted stock at this stage, as the ETCS will be overlaid on conventional lineside signalling.
Delivery tranchesThe current intention is that the infrastructure will be equipped to ETCS Baseline 3 Maintenance Release 2 specifications.
The programme will be delivered in a series of ‘tranches’, starting in London in 2021-22 with the Northern City Line between Moorgate and Drayton Park, which is only used by Class 717 EMUs which are already equipped with ETCS.
Tranche 2 covers the remaining train fitment and operational readiness work, which must be completed by December 2024. Meanwhile, the section of line between Welwyn Garden City and Biggleswade will be equipped with an ETCS Level 2 overlay to facilitate integration testing and driver training.
Tranche 3 will see the implementation of a traffic management system at the York Rail Operating Centre. This will be followed by the ‘Progressive Rollout & Transition to ETCS’ under Tranche 4; the first Level 2 area with no lineside signals is currently expected to be Biggleswade to Holme.
Finally, Tranche 5 covers ‘Optimisation of Planning and Operations’ to harness the full benefits of digital signalling for all users.
Infrastructure and fleet modificationsWhilst there are no current plans for remodelling the track layouts, Network Rail confirms that the work will see the replacement of track circuits by axle counters, allowing the elimination of insulated rail joints, and the installation of Eurobalises to provide positioning information for ETCS fitted trains. Control of the remaining lineside signalling between Peterborough and Stoke Tunnel will be relocated from Peterborough PSB to York ROC.
Passenger, freight, and charter trains as well as on track machines, will need to be fitted with onboard equipment. Most passenger stock used on ECML South is already ETCS fitted, except for the Class 365 and 387 EMUs used by Great Northern, where ‘First in Class’ retrofitting projects are underway. Grand Central’s Class 180 DMUs have already been fitted.
Pre-fitted stock, such as the Thameslink Class 700 and Great Northern Class 717 EMUs and Class 8xx inter-city trainsets operated by LNER, Hull Trains and FirstGroup’s new open access subsidiary East Coast Trains will require software upgrades.
The fitment of freight locomotives will be agreed with each operator through the Freight Stakeholder Group established as part of the national ETCS Freight Programme. This is funded to provide ‘First in Class’ projects for 20 vehicles comprising 19 classes. The national programme is also contracted, but not yet fully funded, to fit the remainder of the operational freight locomotive fleet, and ECDP has secured funding to equip ‘a significant number’ of these.
Work is ongoing with the charter business to develop a feasible fitment plan for locomotives and trainsets that frequently require access to the ECML south of Peterborough, for which the funding will be requested as part of the ECDP Full Business Case now being prepared. Third-party rolling stock owners will be expected to work with a ‘preferred operator’ to represent their interests.
This article first appeared on www.railwaygazette.com
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