Test train runs under cab signalling on Thameslink route through central London

Test train runs under cab signalling on Thameslink route through central London

A Network Rail test train has run through central London completely under the control of the European Train Control System (ETCS) over two weekends of testing.

This marks the culmination of six years of development work by the Thameslink Programme and the first time a train on the national rail network has run under the cab signalling system in the capital.

The installation of cab signalling is a crucial part of the Thameslink Programme. When it is combined with automatic train operation, it will allow 24 trains per hour to run in each direction between London Blackfriars and London St Pancras International at peak times.

The equipment to allow ETCS operation has been installed on the railway between Elephant and Castle and Kentish Town and the unique Network Rail Class 313 test unit has now successfully made multiple runs under its command.

Paul Bates, project director for the Thameslink Programme said: “These test runs were an important step for the Thameslink Programme and the culmination of six years of work at our test facilities in Hitchin and in our lab at Southwark. It was a credit to everyone who has worked on this project that the equipment worked first time, even on the technically-demanding switchover from traditional signalling to ETCS at Elephant and Castle.”

Keith Wallace, programme director for GTR, said: “This is a significant milestone for the programme and will ultimately lead to a 24 trains per hour service our Class 700 fleet will deliver in 2018.“

The Class 313 was created to test different suppliers’ ETCS equipment on a section of railway north of Hertford, near Watton-at-Stone, and has since spread its wings to visit the Thameslink ‘core’ section. The train ran under ETCS control during a closure of the core to passenger trains – possessions – on the weekends of October 18 and November 1. Signalling was from Three Bridges ROC.

A crucial aspect of the testing was the transition between traditional signalling, and its associated warning systems, and the ETCS controlled central area. In 2018, the new Siemens Class 700s will not only transition between signalling systems but also between manual and automatic train control.

The next step will be the spring visit of the Class 700 to the test track and more intensive testing with the 313. Then in late summer, the Class 700 will begin testing its ETCS equipment between Blackfriars and St Pancras International.


What is ETCS?

European Train Control System (ETCS) is the train-control element of ERTMS and includes Automatic Train Protection (ATP). ETCS works on the principle of providing to the train a maximum distance that it can travel, the speed profile of the track ahead and other track information about the route that has been set. The train then permits the driver to drive the train, but should the distance or speed limit be exceeded, or be in danger of being exceeded, then the ETCS onboard equipment intervenes to control the train, bringing it to stand if necessary.

Who is supplying the ETCS equipment?

The ETCS equipment used on the Thameslink Programme is supplied by Siemens, who are also building the Class 700 trains.

Where will ETCS be in operation?

ETCS and automatic train operation will be in place from Elephant and Castle to Kentish Town and also towards London Bridge station