The train tested was a Class 180 which is owned by Angel Trains and operated by Grand Central and saw a retrofit of European Train Control System (ETCS) equipment to allow it to operate with digital signalling. The retrofit has been possible thanks to upgrades made to the RIDC facility which can now undertake testing of trains fitted with the technology.
The upgrade means that First in Class (FiC) ETCS trains can receive dynamic testing which will aid the approval and authorisation procedure and allow operation on the GB rail network. This will prepare the train to be ready for the Government funded East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP), which will eventually lead to traditional signals being removed from the tracks for the southern part of the East Coast Main Line.
RIDC saw the arrival of the Class 180 towards the end of April. Alstom was supported by its partners at Network Rail, Grand Central and Angel Trains to carry out FiC testing alongside accumulated endurance running to demonstrate the reliability of the Alstom ATLAS 2 ETCS onboard system.
The trackside ETCS system at RIDC was installed by Alstom’s specialist signalling team in the UK.
The Class 180 fitted with Alstom’s Onboard ETCS system is the first to be tested at RIDC which is compliant with ETCS standard Baseline 3 Release 2 (required standard for ECDP roll out). The onboard system is also the first to support Packet 44, which allows operation with GB specifics including miles per hour and represents a huge achievement for the project team.
The results from the testing are currently being reviews by teams with detailed planning also being undertaken for the next step in this milestone project and will see the commissioning of the Class 180 into ETCS Level-NTC (National Train Control) operation later in 2022 and is the next step in moving to full ETCS operation on the East Coast Main Line in the not too distant future.
Toufic Machnouk, Network Rail’s Director, Industry Partnership for Digital Railway, said:
“The availability of RIDC to commence the testing of the first retrofitted train is a key cornerstone in GB digital capability and the network master plan. It provided the proving ground for ETCS trains that will enable the migration to ETCS operations on the network. This is a national capability for the industry that will serve the ECDP as the vanguard scheme and the broader application of digital signalling technology in this country”.
Jason Baldock, Alstom Digital & Integrated Systems (D&IS) UK Managing Director said:
“This is a hugely important milestone not just for Alstom and our partners on the Class 180 project, but also the wider industry, as we have now tested in the UK the most up-to-date ETCS Onboard technology at the state-of-the-art RIDC Melton test track, which has also been delivered by an Alstom team. This is a huge step forward for the future roll-out of ETCS in the UK, and is a testament to the hard work and collaboration of the participating businesses in delivering this technologically challenging project”.
Richard Morris, ETCS Project Manager at Angel Trains, said:
“This is an exciting milestone for Alstom, our Class 180 trains, and the future roll-out of ETCSs across the country. We are proud to have supported this project and look forward to working alongside our industry partners to continue to innovate the UK rail industry.”
Sean English, Chief Operating Officer, Grand Central Rail, said:
“Grand Central Rail is delighted to have supported the development and testing of the ETCS System on the C180 FiC train as it represents a major milestone for the ECDP, bringing us a step closer to operating in ETCS Level 2 (L-2). The Grand Central team are looking forward to placing into use the FiC train in L-NTC later this year, which will allow us to understand the reliability of the system, thus paving the way for a smooth transition to ETCS L-2 operations.”