East Coast Digital Programme improvements completed but further work will close rail line for a weekend and two working days in February: ECDP work being carried out over Christmas 2023, Network Rail (landscape)-2

Monday 15 Jan 2024

East Coast Digital Programme improvements completed but further work will close rail line for a weekend and two working days in February

Region & Route:
| Eastern: East Coast

Network Rail teams have completed two weekends of upgrades as part of the billion-pound East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP).

Further engineering work is planned between King’s Cross and Peterborough in February half term that will close a section of the East Coast Main Line for a weekend and two working days.

Over the past two weekends, engineers have worked around the clock carrying out further improvements to the track, as well as adjusting overhead line equipment, and testing newly installed cabling and equipment. This is in preparation for digital, in-cab signalling to operate on the East Coast Main Line in 2025, resulting in more reliable, resilient, and greener journeys.

During the next piece of work, from 17-20 February, Network Rail will commission the first section of the new digital signalling system between Welwyn and Hitchin, paving the way for train testing in the next phase of the programme.

As a result, between Saturday 17 and Tuesday 20 February, no Thameslink or Great Northern trains will operate between:

  • Potters Bar and Peterborough
  • Potters Bar and Royston
  • Stevenage and Hertford North

Additionally, on Sunday 18 February only, there will be no trains between Alexandra Palace and Potters Bar.

An amended train service will run between:

  • King’s Cross and Potters Bar (Saturday 17th, Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th. On Sunday 18th this will run to/from King’s Cross and Alexandra Palace)
  • Moorgate and Potters Bar (Saturday 17th, Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th. On Sunday 18th this will run to/from Moorgate and Alexandra Palace)
  • Moorgate, Alexandra Palace and Hertford North
  • Royston and Kings Lynn

An extremely limited rail replacement bus service will run:

Saturday 17 to Tuesday 20 February:

  • Peterborough and Bedford via Huntingdon and St Neots
  • Peterborough and Hitchin
  • Royston and Hitchin
  • Stevenage and Luton Airport Parkway via Hitchin
  • St Albans and Stevenage via Welwyn Garden City
  • Potters Bar and Hitchin
  • Hertford North and Stevenage Hitchin and Peterborough (calling at all stations)

Sunday 18 only, in addition to the above:

  • Alexandra Palace and Welwyn Garden City via Cockfosters
  • Potters Bar and Cockfosters via Hadley Wood

Weekend work mostly additional to the East Coast Digital Programme will also see changes to services on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 February. Over this weekend, engineers will be working in the Peterborough area to replace switches and crossings, which allow trains to move between tracks.

Buses will replace Thameslink trains between Peterborough and Huntingdon.

Ricky Barsby, Head of Access and Integration for East Coast Digital Programme, said: “This is a huge milestone for the project. Commissioning the Welwyn to Hitchin stretch will allow us to start testing the new system with trains and is testament to the incredible hard work and dedication of our engineers over the last year.

“We know this extended work, especially working over a Monday and Tuesday, will cause disruption to passengers and we are very sorry for that. Our engineers will be working around the clock to complete this work.

“We would encourage all passengers to check their journey via National Rail Enquiries before they travel and want to thank them for their patience and understanding.”

Jenny Saunders, Customer Services Director at Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “We are very sorry for the disruption this will cause our Great Northern and Thameslink customers. Unusually, this work straddles two working days in addition to a weekend, so please plan ahead and check your journey to see how it is affected.

“The extremely limited rail replacement bus service is likely to be very busy over this four-day period, so we are encouraging customers to travel later in the week if they can.

“In particular, we’d urge people to work from home on Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 February if possible, to keep replacement bus services free for key workers.”

Notes to Editors

Thameslink and Great Northern tickets can be used on the following alternative routes:

Saturday 17 – Tuesday 20 February:

  • Greater Anglia train services between Cambridge/Cambridge North and London Liverpool Street
  • London Underground between Kings Cross St Pancras and Tottenham Hale.
  • London Underground between Kings Cross St Pancras and London Liverpool Street.
  • Elizabeth Line between Farringdon and London Liverpool Street.

On Sunday 18 February only there will additionally be the following ticket acceptance in place:

  • London Underground between Kings Cross St Pancras and Cockfosters


Digital signalling

Digital signalling, using ETCS is a proven technology already in use in many countries in Europe and elsewhere. The ECDP will see the first introduction of ETCS to an intercity mainline in Great Britain, and will provide the foundation for the future expansion of digital signalling across the network.  ETCS is currently in use in the central London section of Thameslink and on the Cambrian Line in Wales, and now on the Northern City Line (Finsbury Park to Moorgate), in the first stage of ECDP.

More reliability: With signalling information being provided directly to the driver, via a screen in their cab, there will no longer be a need to maintain a large amount of lineside equipment involved with traditional ‘traffic light’ signals.  As a result, the amount of signalling-related engineering work will reduce in the future by around almost half. Additionally, trains are sometimes affected by signal failures; moving to a modern, digitally based system makes this less likely, potentially reducing thousands of hours of delays, and making train services more reliable.

More punctual services: Digital signalling gives train drivers continual information about the safe maximum speed for their train. It provides drivers with additional information about the route ahead, that today’s fixed ‘traffic light’ signals do not. This enables more ‘efficient’ operations, helping trains stay on time.  The new technology allows continuous communication between the trackside and onboard equipment. Signallers can continuously communicate with every train on the network and respond in real time using digital tools to help smooth the flow of trains and recover services more quickly after disruption.

Greener journeys: Digital signalling contributes to a greener railway. The East Coast Main Line is already electrified, and these upgrades will deliver a further 55,000 tonne reduction in carbon emissions over 60 years – the equivalent to over 65,000 one-way flights from London to New York, or over 2 million passenger train journeys from London to Edinburgh. This is because there is much less physical equipment to produce and maintain compared with what’s needed for ‘traffic light’ signals. The estimated whole life carbon saving over a 60-year period (the expected life span of a ‘traditional’ signalling system) is around 39%. The technology also allows gentler braking, meaning journeys are smoother and use less energy. Finally, a more reliable and punctual railway will encourage more people to choose rail over road and air, ultimately reducing transport emissions for the long-term.

For further information about the ECDP please visit www.eastcoastdigitalprogramme.co.uk

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Joshua Chapman
Media Relations Manager
Network Rail

About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

Follow us on Twitter: @networkrail
Visit our online newsroom: www.networkrailmediacentre.co.uk