The UK’s East Coast Main Line railway network will become the country’s first major digital rail line following an investment of £350 to modernised the line with a cutting edge signalling system.
The investment will help replace the existing system that uses conventional physical signals, first developed in the Victorian era, with a fully digital system that will serve a section of rail which a third of the UK’s population lives within 20 minutes of.
The digital signalling system allows operators to track trains minute by minute as they complete their journeys. The east Coast Main Line not only operates with passenger trains, but is a vital line for the movement of commercial and freight trains.
Toufic Machnouk, Programme Director of the East Coast Digital Programme commented that: “Today’s announcement is a big step towards transforming the network for the millions of passengers that use the East Coast Main Line and a welcome endorsement of the partnership approach that the rail industry has adopted to deliver Britain’s first inter-city digital railway. The funding detailed by the Secretary of State is very significant and will enable the vital building blocks needed to build a modern, right time railway.”
Network Rail is tasked with updating the UK’s rail infrastructure with £1.2 billion that has been ring-fenced by the government to improve the countries key rail lines.
Network Rail is a non-departmental public body of the Department for Transport charged with maintaining and operating the UK’s rail infrastructure. The firm oversees 335 kilometres of track and maintains over 600 tunnels.
The agency is in the process of modernising the rail system and have previously sought the development of a security system that can identify security threats such as objects or bags that have been abandoned in the station. The desired security camera system should also be able to identify ‘undesirable behaviour,’ as well as station overcrowding. Successful systems will be able to handle video feeds from 30 cameras placed in different station environments.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps commented on today’s investment that: “As the country recovers from COVID-19 we want to speed up our economy and reap the benefits of new transport technology. The Victorians gave us the world’s first great rail network and now it’s our turn to be modern transport pioneers and build on that great tradition. Upgrading this country’s conventional signalling system, and giving drivers technology fit for the 21st century, will boost train performance, cut delays, improve safety and support the supply chain. This is just the beginning. In time, we will digitise signalling right across the country to make good on our promise of better reliability and punctuality for passengers.”