Network Rail has a Rail Innovation and Development Centre (RIDC) at Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire that was purpose-built to dynamically test rolling stock, on-track plant and machines, infrastructure, and equipment.
Last month, the centre reached a major milestone in the East Coast Digital Programme when the European Train Control System (ETCS), which was installed by Alstom, successfully completed a dynamic test on rolling stock. The test was controlled from the ETCS National Integration Facility (ENIF).
A key stage in validating and showing the successful integration of the ETCS trackside element with ETCS onboard technology is to dynamically test the ETCS test system. The dynamic testing was supported by Network Rail's Class 313 test train and an Angel Trains' Class 180 which is operated by Grand Central, both of which have been retro-fitted with Alstom Atlas 200 on-board ETCS technology.
The RIDC supports both high and low speed testing of vehicles and infrastructure and has two separate test tracks, including a high-speed test facility between Melton Junction and Edwalton. The system can be configured to support 125mph and 90mph testing and is capable of supporting testing of ETCS System Requirements Specification onboard software versions 3.4.0. and 3.6.0. (or Baseline 3 Maintenance Release 1 and Baseline 3 Maintenance Release 2).
ETCS is the core signalling and train control component of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), and continuously calculates a safe maximum speed for each train. With ETCS, physical lineside signals are replaced by in-cab signalling that provides continuous communication and speed supervision.
ERTMS is a key element of the East Coast Digital Programme between King's Cross and Stoke Tunnel, south of Grantham. This stretch of railway will be the first to migrate to ETCS operations to create a more capable, reliable and flexible East Coast Main Line that works better for passengers and users.
Working with Network Rail, Alstom successfully tested version 3.4.0 of their software, which provides a technologically-advanced ETCS baseline system. The system can also be configured to test products from different on-board ETCS manufacturers.
Toufic Machnouk, Network Rail's Director, Industry Partnership Digital, said: “This test track is the most advanced ETCS dynamic test facility in the UK and is a key building block for deployment of ETCS rolling stock on to the network. Successful completion of this dynamic testing exercise is a major step in getting the site ready for the industry to commence the First in Class testing of ETCS on board systems.
“This is the first site of its kind in the UK and achieving this milestone is testament to the dedication and tenacity of the project team. The focus now turns to getting the system entered into service and ready to receive trains in early 2022.”
Jason Baldock, Managing Director, Alstom, Digital and Integrated Solutions, added: “Dynamic testing at the RIDC test facility proves the UK rail industry is up to the challenge of providing the skills, capacity and capability to deliver the digital railway. It has been a complex challenge, but we have learned invaluable lessons for future ETCS deployments.”