The technology is the latest specification of European Train Control System (ETCS) software. The test involved a train transitioning into ETCS BL3 R2, also known as 3.6.0, just before Finsbury Park, on the Northern City Line in north London.
Unit 717001 made the transition successfully, and continued its journey to Moorgate. It is the first train to use the most recent version of the digital signalling system.
When Great Northern's twenty-five Class 717 trains were built, they were equipped with an older version of the system, ETCS B3MR1 (also known as version 3.4.0). On 27 November, the first passenger services began to run in ETCS Level 2 using this version of the software, on the Northern City Line.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has approved the transition to the updated software, so Great Northern is now upgrading its Class 717 fleet. This will ensure that its trains are compatible with the digital infrastructure being installed on the East Coast Main Line.
The operator will upgrade the entire fleet early next year, which will mean that the trains are ready to operate in ETCS on the East Coast Main Line from 2025. Between now and then, the operator will run steadily more trains with digital signalling, as it trains more drivers to use the technology. It will keep traditional signals at the side of the track until all drivers are trained, at which point it will switch off the old system.
GTR has recently adopted a strategy for communicating with the public about how the East Coast Digital Programme works.
Aaron Meakin, ERTMS Fleet Project Manager at Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “After last week's success in running the very first passenger trains in Level 2 ETCS, we've now passed a second significant milestone for our Class 717 fleet and their journey towards a digitally signalled railway.
“We are pleased with how the train performed during dynamic testing and are proud to be in a position where we can share our knowledge and experience of operating our trains in the very latest version of ETCS with the wider industry.”
Sarah Hewlett, Network Rail Programme Manager, ECDP, said: “Getting all aspects of track and train ready for digital signalling has many strands, and testing the latest version on a key train fleet provides another piece in the jigsaw. We are pleased to have worked closely with GTR to get to this stage, and would like to thank all involved with this achievement.”
Matt Colclough, Customer Service Operations Director at Siemens Mobility UKI, said: “We are really pleased to have delivered this software upgrade on the 717s so GTR can get the full potential out of the ETCS technology and benefit from state-of-the-art in-cab signalling on the Northern City Line and beyond. This will mean the digitally connected trains are enabled to talk to the smart infrastructure, so we can really make the digital railway a reality and transform passengers journeys in and out of London.”