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Network Rail awards ETCS contract

A less congested and better performing railway is promised with the signing of a major, multi-million pound contract that will ultimately see freight trains in Great Britain upgraded with European Train Control System (ETCS) in-cab signalling.

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The technology is designed to make freight trains safer, make better use of the network, and provide greater flexibility in the timetable. Rail freight, says Network Rail, removes7.6M lorry journeys from the road each year and directly contributes £870M to the nation’s economy every year. ETCS will provide more efficient and reliable running of freight trains alongside passenger services.

A landmark contract has been awarded to Chippenham-based Siemens Rail Automation by Network Rail to start installing ECTS in-cab signalling on Britain’s freight fleet with an ultimate ambition of equipping around 750 vehicles, creating skilled jobs within the UK.

This technology forms part of the country’s ‘Digital Railway programme’ – the industry’s improved plan to tackle the growing demand and strain on the railway by accelerating its digital modernisation – and will mean eventually, freight trains will have improved operational performance on a mixed traffic network. The Government has announced £450M in funding for digital railway schemes, as part of its National Productivity Investment Fund.

The initial focus will be on the heaviest used types of locomotive and the learning from this first stage will be used to inform the wider potential fleet roll-out from 2022 onwards.

The initial phase is expected to lead on to become one of the world’s biggest ETCS retro-fit programmes; Siemens will install its Trainguard 200 ETCS on-board solution on freight locomotives which operate across Great Britain. Siemens’ Trainguard Level 2, Baseline 3 system will be installed to align with Network Rail’s proposals for deploying ETCS to the rail network. The contract will see Siemens working with Network Rail and the six freight operating companies.

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