Fit ETCS as standard to new trains, says NR digital chief
NEW trains procured and specified by the Government should be fitted with European Train Control System (ETCS) as standard, to “future-proof” against further infrastructure upgrades.
Speaking exclusively to RAIL, Toufic Machnouk, Network
Rail’s Programme Director for Digital Railway on the East Coast Main Line, said that “getting the provision of the equipment onboard with the manufacturer would be incredibly sensible” because it creates options for upgrading existing routes to the in-cab signalling system.
He explained that because the Hitachi Class 800-802 fleets and Siemens Class 700 electric multiple units were fitted with ETCS, it “created the opportunity” to upgrade the southern part of the East Coast Main Line to be controlled by ETCS. NR is planning to install ETCS on the southern section of the ECML between Peterborough and London by the end of Control Period 6 (March 2024).
It is also conducting preliminary work to bring ETCS to additional routes, including parts of the West Coast Main Line, the Midland Main Line and East Anglia. A “long-term deployment plan” for ETCS is set to be published next year.
“If we specified with the manufacturers well, there is no real increment to this. If you look at Hitachi now, it has produced a style of train. It may tweak it now and again for other lines - you may want the carriage to be shorter
- but they have the technology,” said Machnouk.
The planned 2022 introduction of Class 810s on the Midland Main Line has been postponed until
2023 to allow Hitachi to fit ETCS to the trains as they’re built, rather than having to retro-fit them after a few years.
“But if you say ‘I don’t want any of that, I want an old dial and no EVC’ [European Vital Computer, a core element of the ETCS system], they almost have to redesign the cab and retrofit that,” said Machnouk.
“It is akin to going to BMW and saying: ‘I don’t want electric windows and I don’t want a satnav, can I have old push-buttons?’
“The standard cab design is a driver-machine interface, so I do think we need to think differently about how we approach train specification.”
Machnouk told RAIL he sympathises with the Government, as “there are some areas which may not see ETCS for a while”, and that he understands the argument of “if there is an incremental capital cost, is it worthwhile having equipment on a train that may not have it for decades because you need other trains to be sorted?”
But he added: “It is immensely easier to have new trains that have ETCS fitted from the start. That’s the way it should be.”