Plans to pilot a proposed ‘Digital Railway’ project that aims to increase capacity on the UK’s key routes are set to be revised in order to focus on the most pressing challenges, the new head of the initiative has stated.
David Waboso, managing director of the programme, told Rail Technology Magazine that instead of aiming to have the entire pilot line between Norwich, Yarmouth and Lowestoft (NYL) European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) enabled by 2019, there will be a focus on improving signalling solutions in order to give the line the capacity it needs.
“I looked at NYL and spoke to the route and they have an absolute drop dead date of 2019 where they need new signalling infrastructure,” he stated.
Among the issues facing the project is that many of the signallers with experience working the current lever frame technology are retiring, so if a more modern solution is not put in place by the end of the decade, there will be a “real problem”.
Mr Waboso added that the NYL line serves a large number of commuters, so requires careful thought about any major overhauls that could create disruption.
“You can’t do anything that gets in the way of that,” he stated. “I thought, ‘do I really want to put ERTMS in the middle of that?’ Or should I support a signal solution, still using ERTMS technology, but not the full Monty?”
Looking forward, Mr Waboso said he wants to focus on areas where Digital Railway solutions can be proven to have a real impact on current problems.
For instance, he identified the Brighton Main Line, East Coast and Transpennine routes as having particular performance and capacity issues that could be eased by the use of the Digital Railway. However, no firm plans for such projects have yet been put in place.