Siemens to deliver "delay-busting digital technology" to UK rail freight fleet
Siemens has won a multi-million-pound contract to upgrade the UK’s fleet of freight trains to make them safer, make better use of the network, and provide greater flexibility with timetables.
Network Rail said the deal – which is part of an £450mn ‘digital railway programme’ – will see freight trains improved with “delay-busting digital technology”.
The initial phase is expected to lead on to become one of the world’s biggest ETCS retro-fit programmes; Siemens will install its Trainguard 200 ETCS on-board solution on freight locomotives which operate across Great Britain. Siemens’ Trainguard Level 2, Baseline 3 system will be installed to align with Network Rail’s proposals for deploying ETCS to the rail network.
The contract will see Siemens working with Network Rail and the six Freight Operating Companies (FOCs).
ETCS ensures trains always operate within safe limits and speeds, providing safe movement authority directly and continuously to the driver through a driver’s display.
The system permits the driver to operate the train, but should the ETCS distance or speed limit be exceeded, or be in danger of being exceeded, then the on-board equipment intervenes to control the train, bringing it to stand if necessary.
Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport said: “We are making the biggest investment in the railways since Victorian times and this includes £450m for integrating digital technology on our railways. This technology has huge potential to improve journeys for passengers and to boost our freight industry by cutting delays and increasing the number of services.”
The design, testing and approvals stage for each class of vehicle starts now and work to retrofit the entire freight fleet of 750 trains will begin in 2022 and continue through to Control Period 7 (CP7, 2024-2029).
Additionally, around 2,400 drivers will require additional training on how to use the new solution. Siemens and Network Rail will provide support to the FOCs during this time.
It’s expected the programme will involve more than 150 skilled engineering jobs across the UK, with the installation teams being based at the Holgate and Eastleigh depots.
Rob Morris, Managing Director of Siemens Rail Automation in the UK said: “We are delighted to be working closely with Network Rail and the Freight Operating Companies (FOCs) on this landmark digital railway project, which will ultimately be one of the largest ETCS on-board retrofit programmes in the UK.
“This solution will allow the freight operating companies to continue to safely deliver a reliable service as ETCS technology continues to be rolled-out across the UK.
“Having proven our equipment and delivery capabilities in a number of similar projects in Europe, our experienced teams are now looking forward to working collaboratively with Network Rail and the freight operating companies to deliver this digital railway project.”
Suez Canal expansion plans greenlit by Egyptian president
The Suez Canal is to undergo a two-year expansion project, following the weeklong closure of the channel by the stranded Ever Given container ship in March.
Plans set forth to expand narrow sections of the Suez Canal have been greenlit by the Egyptian president to safeguard against future blockages.
Dredgers will widen and deepen the single-lane stretch close to the southern mouth of the canal, near where the 400m container ship got wedged earlier this year, while a second lane opened in 2015 will be extended to promote two-way traffic and alleviate the impact of bottlenecks.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gave the order to “immediately start implementing the proposed development plan and put in place a timetable for completion as soon as possible”, according to reports. It is understood he expects the work to be fully completed within two years.
Ever Given negotiations rage on
The Ever Given left hundreds of ships stranded and disrupted an estimated $9.5bn in goods each day when it became wedged across a narrow passage of the trade route in March. After a week of dredging, towing and manoeuvring, it was eventually freed from the banks of the Suez Canal in the early hours of 29 March and set course of the Bitter Lakes holding area.
There the vessel, its crew and its cargo have remained ever since, while legal action between Egyptian authorities and the ship’s owners rages on, though SCA chairman and Managing Director, Admiral Osama Rabie, refutes allegations that crew have been detained.
“[There] is no truth in the allegations of detaining the ship crew, pointing to that the SCA does not mind the departure or recrew operations provided the presence of the sufficient number of sailors to secure the vessel and in the light of the presence of the ship captain as he stands as the juridical guardian of the ship and the cargo aboard,” Rabie said in a statement.
The SCA initially sought $916m in compensation to cover refloatation costs, including repairs where the channel was damaged to move the vessel, bonuses for the rescue crews who worked throughout the jam, and a package for “loss of reputation”.
Now the SCA and its chairman and Managing Director, Admiral Osama Rabie, have agreed to reduce the bill by a third. The authority has reportedly offered payment terms for the $600m to the Ever Given’s owner Shoei Kisen. Shoei Kisen has also declared a general average on the goods on board, with shippers liable to shoulder a significant outlay to get the 18,000-plus containers aboard to their final destination in the Nertherlands.