Published at 07:40 on Wednesday 30th November 2016
Tags: IEP, ECTS, Hitachi, Class 800, Network Rail, ERTMS, Signalling, In-Cab, Hertford Loop, Watton-on-Stone

IEP Class 800 No. 800002 catches the evening sun while running around 90 minutes early on its return to North Pole depot after ETCS testing at Watton at Stone on 11th November. Peter Watson

The Hitachi-built Class 800 IEP sets to be introduced into passenger service on the Great Western route from 2017, have commenced testing the digital signalling technology that is designed to create extra capacity on the rail network.

Intercity trains fitted with digital signalling technology carried out tests at Network Rail’s state-of-the-art signalling facility ENIF in Hitchin.

Digital signalling systems feed more continuous information from trackside equipment into the driver’s cab, enabling trains to run closer together and creating more regular services. The European Train Control System (ETCS) informs drivers about how to change their speed as well as about potential hazards ahead, and the Hitachi trains have been testing on Network Rail’s state-of-the-art signalling facility on the Hertford Loop, control of which is based at ENIF in Hitchin.

The intricacy of ETCS is measured in ‘baselines’, the higher the baseline the more advanced is the system, and Hitachi used its Baseline 3 ETCS inside the driver’s cab at ENIF, an improvement on the more common Baseline 2 version. Version 3 offers enhanced performance on commuter and intercity routes, often the most congested and complex on the rail network. All versions of ETCS are a far cry from the long standing signalling system currently used on the country’s rail network.

The potential long-term benefit of introducing new signalling systems is the ability to unlock significantly more capacity to help address rising passenger numbers, which have doubled in the past 20 years and are set to double again over the next 25 years.

The trains will carry out further tests at ENIF to ensure that they are ready to use ETCS. Hitachi’s Baseline 2 ETCS has already achieved regulatory approval to run on passenger services, but further tests are required for Baseline 3’s regulatory approval.

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