Siemens to deliver "delay-busting digital technology" to UK rail freight fleet

By James Henderson
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 pro...

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).

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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.”

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