ETCS goes live on Thameslink


    The goal of running 24 trains per hour in each direction through the heart of London has come one step closer with the successful first test of a Thameslink train controlled by the new signalling system.

    To have trains running so closely together, in-cab signalling will be required. So both the track and the trains will be fitted with European Train Control System (ETCS) Level 2 with an ATO (Automatic Train Operation) overlay.

    This will allow trains to be driven automatically between St Pancras and Blackfriars, minimising separation and therefore maximising the number of trains that can safely travel down the line. The driver will supervise the process and all instructions will be shown on an in-cab display rather than relying on trackside signals.

    The new system has been tested already. One of the new Thameslink Class 700 trains has run at the ETCS National Integration Facility (ENIF) at Hertford and a Network Rail Class 313 test train has been along the Thameslink tracks.

    Finally, both have come together. Train 700110, fitted with ETCS Level 2 in-cab signalling, successfully ran through the Thameslink core last Saturday night. The ATO overlay will be tested in September.

    Dave Hooper, Thameslink programme director for Siemens Rail Systems, which supplied the signalling system, was understandably pleased. “This is another key milestone achieved for the Thameslink programme,” he said.

    “Close collaboration between Siemens, Network Rail and GTR has been an essential ingredient to this success, as has the robust planning and preparation that helps make these achievements look simple when, in fact, this is ground-breaking progress for ATO and ETCS service introduction in the UK.”

    GTR is the train operator for the Thameslink services. John Killeen, head of fleet programmes, said: “Ultimately, ETCS will allow us to run our trains under automatic train operation at high frequencies through central London. This, in turn will create the capacity to run extra Thameslink trains to and from Peterborough and Cambridge, giving passengers fantastic new journey opportunities.”

    The new system is due to go into passenger service, after a lot more testing and driver training, in 2018.


    1. So the Class 700 (700110) has completed its test as it been fitted with ETCS Level 2 system and is to be tested in September with ATO overlay. Will the other Class 700 Desiro City trains also be fitted with ETCS & ATO signalling systems and is to be driverless if it is successful then the Class 700’s will become the first ever driverless trains on the Thameslink network with the 2nd link to be opened from St. Pancras International (Low Level) to the ECML towards Cambridge, Peterborough, Hitchin, Stevenage, Ely and King’s Linn in 2018.

        • Ride and refinement are fine. Seats are ironing-board style, which is acceptable, though many dislike them. There are no tables, though. Not even little ones to put a cup of coffee on, let alone proper ones to work on during the >~2h journey between Bedford and Brighton. Neither between the bays of seats, nor flip-downs in the airline seats. The only place to put down a coffee is on the floor or on a seat. Not good. It feels to me as if these train interiors are well suited (ish) to the inner-suburban aspects of the route, but utterly inappropriate for the outer-suburban / middle-distance aspects. Many journeys commonly undertaken on these trains are surely >~1h, and as such the lack of tables is a serious problem from a productivity / pleasantness perspective! Compare with Chiltern’s 168s (for example since I travelled on one this morning) which run the ~1h service from Oxford Parkway to Marylebone … plenty of tables, 2+2 seating, mains sockets, WiFi, … that is an appropriate config for a 1h journey to/from/in/around a city, and the 700s are enormously inferior in that regard!

          Feels to me that there should be different interior configs for those units planned to work the long-distance routes vs those for the inner suburban ones. Fleet flexibility might be argued to suffer but fine, sometimes having the “wrong” config isn’t the end of the world. Unfortunately, that approach has not been taken here.


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