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2016 2 Feb

Parliamentary visit to European Train Control System test centre

Posted in Technology

Senior members of the All Party Parliamentary Rail Group (APPG) visited the ETCS (European Train Control System) National Integration Facility (ENIF) to learn about Network Rail’s Digital Railway Programme and test Hitachi’s ETCS driving simulator.

Lord Berkeley and Martin Vickers MP, Secretary and Chair of the APPG, were given an overview of the signalling modernisation programme last Tuesday (27 January), which forms a key part of Network Rail’s blueprint for the railway of the future. Senior members of the Digital Railway Programme outlined the principle technologies involved and the working timetable for deployment, and were joined by representatives from development partners Siemens, Hitachi and Signalling Solutions Ltd.

After a technical briefing both parliamentarians accepted an invitation to use Hitachi’s ETCS driving simulator to experience first-hand how trains will be operated in future.


ETCS is the signalling component of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) and will underpin the digital modernisation of signalling on the network. Driving simulators are used to train drivers on ETCS which provides a target speed, including movement authority, on a screen in the cab. The train ‘knows’ where it is through a combination of trackside equipment and on-board sensors, while instructions from the control centre are conveyed through the GSM-R (Global System for Mobile – Railway) signal.

The ETCS National Integration Facility at Hitchin utilises a five-mile stretch of railway on the Hertford Loop between Molewood Tunnel and Langley South junction, controlled from a new structure in the former Hitchin goods yard. The test facility is being used by Network Rail to examine suppliers’ trackside ETCS equipment, using a converted Class 313 laboratory train.

By signalling each train according to its braking and accelerating capabilities, ETCS will release much needed capacity from the current network, and also deliver considerable cost savings over traditional lineside maintenance and renewal programmes. ETCS is an important part of Network Rail’s digital modernisation programme, which will combine hundreds of signalling locations into 12 Rail Operating Centres (ROCs), using traffic management software to control the flow of trains.

Parliamentary visit to European Train Control System test centre

The visit was hosted by Jerry England, group Digital Railway director at Network Rail, who said: “Modernising the network is vital if we are to meet the rising demand that will add another one billion rail journeys a year by 2032. We were delighted that two senior parliamentarians with a deep interest in the railway network found time to learn about the benefits of digital technology for both passengers and industry.”

Parliamentary visit to European Train Control System test centre

Lord Berkeley, a rail expert, and a former civil engineer said: Modernising our railways with digital technology will release desperately needed capacity on the network and improve connectivity and reliability. It was greatly encouraging to learn more about Network Rail’s plans and how they are working closely with companies like Siemens, Hitachi, and SSL to develop, test and deploy advanced technology for the benefit of passengers and industry.  This is the best solution to release capacity where it is needed and I look forward to the start of the roll-out of this comprehensive package in the next Control Period”.