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.