Digital signalling progress on rail route through North London

Most Great Northern trains travelling towards Moorgate now use a “ground breaking” new technology

Digital signalling (credit GTR)
Digital signalling (credit GTR)

More than half the trains Great Northern commuters take to Moorgate are now controlled using digital signalling.

The European Train Control System (ETCS) does away with the need for signals at the side of the track. Instead, drivers are continually fed a safe target speed to aim for on a computer screen in their cab. The company says this allows trains to run closer together and enables a more consistent and reliable service for passengers.

The first passenger train ran to Moorgate using digital signalling technology in November. Since then, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which operates the Great Northern franchise, has been steadily training more of its drivers to use the system.

Now, just over half of all journeys on the Northern City Line – between Finsbury Park and Moorgate and used by trains arriving from routes through Barnet, Enfield and Haringey – use the ETCS. This number is set to steadily increase as more Great Northern drivers are trained in the new technology, and journeys will become more reliable.

Oliver Turner, head of digital signalling at GTR, said: “We are delighted that our Great Northern commuters can now expect at least every other train to be digitally signalled.

“It represents a significant step towards a digital future in which technology will improve customer journeys on both the Northern City Line and, eventually, the East Coast Main Line. We are proud to share our knowledge and experience gained here with the rest of the rail industry.”

GTS says introducing digital signalling on the busy commuter line is “an important first step” towards replacing regular signals with in-cab digital signalling on the southern part of the East Coast Mainline, between King’s Cross and Grantham. It forms part of the East Coast Digital Programme, which will see the first introduction of digital ETCS to an intercity mainline in Great Britain and provide the foundation for the future expansion of digital signalling across the UK rail network.

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