As the railway prepares for a revolution in digital signalling as part of the East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP), ANDY RODEN talks to GoviaThameslink Railway ERTMS Manager OLIVER TURNER about how knowledge is being shared about experience gained onThameslink and the Northern City line
Visitors to GoviaThameslink Railway’s simulator facility at Three Bridges recently might have been surprised to hear Welsh lilts amongst some of the trainees. But this is not an early hint of Cambrian Coast line electrification: it is the latest element of GTR sharing its immense and growing expertise in the use of EuropeanTrain Control System (ETCS).
The reasonTransport forWales Rail (TfW) drivers are using GTR’s simulators is simple. With the impending replacement of Class 158s with CAF Class 197s on the Cambrian route, there is an inevitable need for driver training – and GTR’s Class 700/717 fleets have the nearest equivalent to the Class 197s’ ETCS on-board systems, which are a newer baseline than those in use on the Class 158s.
GTR is perfectly placed to share knowledge, having implemented ETCS across the ‘core’ of the Thameslink route, between London Bridge and St Pancras, and now preparing for the start of operations under ETCS on the Northern City line as part of the East Coast Digital Programme. ETCS will then follow on the East Coast main line as far north as Stoke Tunnel.
In return, GTR staff will head to Wales to experience ETCS operating under degraded modes (which is not applicable to theThameslink core as it retains signals) and stress-test their training materials.
The Northern City line installation of ETCS is regarded as a pathfinder project for the wider ECDP, learning how to deal with regulatory approvals and passing that learning on. ‘It is easier to implement the technology and look at the processes on a smaller scale project before scaling it up’says Oliver Turner.
Mr Turner is GTR’s Head of European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) – of which ETCS is the train control element. A former driver, he has been involved in the introduction of ETCS on Thameslink’s core section and on the Northern City line as well as the Class 700/717 introduction to service.
As a result, he says,‘We have a phenomenal amount of learning in GTR – having been through amongst the biggest changes of any franchise. This means we’re in a good place to help others: we’ve built up a lot of personal knowledge, and we have the hardware to show what we’ve learned in the form of simulators and of course the trains.
‘Others don’t have the hardware, so we’re sharing our knowledge across the industry. The hope is that the East Coast Digital Programme, which includes multiple industry partners – from Network Rail to passenger, freight, charter and heritage operators, on-track machine operators and leading experts in ETCS technology, leads to better and more informed conversations about ERTMS and ETCS rollout.’