The East Coast Main Line (currently LNER who last week were awarded a three-year contract) is set to become Britain’s first mainline digital rail link with £350m of new investment to install state-of-the-art electronic signalling designed to cut journey times and slash delays.
This huge cash injection – on top of £1.2bn already earmarked to upgrade one of the country’s most important rail arteries – will fund the replacement of conventional signalling with a digital system that allows trains to talk to the track. This will smooth the flow of trains, make journeys safer and reduce signal failures that every year result in thousands of hours of delays.
The new technology allows signallers to know exactly where each train is at every minute of every journey. The East Coast Main Line is a mixed-use railway, with trains of different sizes and speeds, both passenger and freight, all using the same tracks. This smart signalling recognises these different trains, allowing train and track to talk to each other continuously in real-time. This ‘in-cab’ system will mean an end to conventional signalling at the side of tracks – first used in the Victorian era.
More than 80m journeys are made each year by LNER linking London with Edinburgh, with congestion on the route compounded by signalling nearing the end of its useful life.