East Coast Digital Programme selects Atkins and Thales as key partners for Heritage rail vehicles Pathfinder Project: Black Five locomotive, photo credit - West Coast Railways

Wednesday 13 Oct 2021

East Coast Digital Programme selects Atkins and Thales as key partners for Heritage rail vehicles Pathfinder Project

Region & Route:
| Eastern: East Coast

Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, and Thales have been appointed by Network Rail to deliver an industry-first pathfinder project for Heritage Rail Projects as part of the East Coast Digital Programme.

The pathfinder will carry out design and trial fitment of the technology to determine if it is a viable technical and commercial option for heritage vehicles.

The option of retro-fitting the technology would enable heritage steam and diesel vehicles to continue operating on mainline infrastructure in radio-based train control. In a world first, the pathfinder project will see European Train Control System (ETCS) in-cab signalling equipment, supplied and installed by Thales, trial fitted on Tornado and designed for a Black 5 steam locomotive, as well as a Class 55 Deltic diesel locomotive which was built over 40 years ago.

These vehicles have been selected because they are best placed to support the project. Tornado is a large modern build with established designs and power, and the Black 5 and Deltic are representative of other vehicle types.

ETCS is the signalling and control component of European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), which will replace traditional lineside signals with in-cab radio-based signalling, initially on the East Coast Main Line.

Having previously undertaken a feasibility study on behalf of Network Rail and the ECDP, Atkins will now complete the on-board design, with Thales conducting the trial installation of ETCS before carrying out intensive testing.

ETCS is a core part of ECDP and will transform the rail network by deploying modern train control technology to improve performance, reduce delays, enhance safety and reduce costs.

Toufic Machnouk, Network Rail’s Director, Industry Partnership Digital, said: “This is an important world first pathfinder project which is also immensely technically challenging. The technology blends steam technology with modern electronics; by trying it out and then taking stock of the results, we will know if it is a technically and commercially viable option for heritage and charter operators.

“Establishing the pathfinder project and the work required to fit the vehicles with the technology is an example of exceptional industry collaboration.”

Phil Paisley, Atkins project manager, said: “This is an exciting project to be part of. Thanks to the skilled and committed Network Rail, Atkins and Thales teams, we’re now able to fit these trains with the equipment needed so that they can continue to be enjoyed by the public.”

Mark Newill, Project Manager at Thales in the UK, added: “Supplying and installing our ETCS equipment onto heritage and charter units for this pathfinder project allows Thales to demonstrate the robustness and versatility of our ETCS equipment. Whilst heritage and charter units each come with their own unique challenges, we are excited to be working in partnership with the East Coast Digital Programme and the vehicle owners to ensure these locomotives can be enjoyed by future generations.’’


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