First locomotive fitted for digital signalling in Britain’s main freight fleet moves to dynamic testing: 66039 fitted with ETCS technology travels to RIDC, Network Rail (1)

Friday 26 Apr 2024

First locomotive fitted for digital signalling in Britain’s main freight fleet moves to dynamic testing

Region & Route:
| Eastern: East Coast

Today the first locomotive in Britain’s principal freight fleet (Class 66s) to be fitted with digital signalling equipment is moving on to dynamic testing on a test track, having successfully progressed through static testing. 

DB Cargo locomotive 66039 is the ‘First in Class’ (FiC) to be retrofitted with European Train Control System (ETCS) equipment. With the fitment at the Progress Rail depot in Doncaster complete, it was today hauled to Network Rail’s Rail Innovation and Development Centre (RIDC) in Leicestershire. RIDC is ready equipped for ETCS testing and the loco will be put through its paces on the test track in the coming weeks.

The Class 66 is the most common type of freight loco on Britain’s rail network. Today marks a step forward towards hundreds of freight locos being equipped for ‘next generation’ digital signalling, with its ability to enable longer, faster, heavier freight trains – taking lorries off Britain’s roads and reducing transport emissions.

Within a competitive sector, all freight operators in the East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP) have come together to share learnings and agree the base design with Siemens Mobility which is providing the design and fitment of its ETCS Trainguard 200 on-board equipment onto the locomotives. This reflects ECDP’s partnership model of a benefits-led approach where partner operators collaborate on design.

The process has taken 16 months from the start of retrofitting, reflecting the painstaking collaboration involved as the industry has come together to deliver the first of its kind. The time invested in the FiC design will serve to enable an ongoing fitment programme. The base design involved will eventually provide regulatory approval for all types of Class 66 and its sister fleet Class 67.

Over the next few years, hundreds of freight locos will be fitted, many of which will be required to deliver ‘no signals’ operations through the ECDP. ECDP forms the foundation for the progressive roll out of digital signalling throughout the wider network. 

The loco will now undergo dynamic testing at RIDC and after that the loco will accumulate 5,000 miles of fault free running before going through the necessary regulatory approvals.

Ed Akers, Network Rail’s Industry Partnership Director, ECDP, said: “The task of retrofitting hundreds of freight locomotives is one of the biggest challenges we face in the transition to a digital future. The Class 66 FiC project has required innovation, tenacity and perseverance to get to this point.  I pay tribute to the hard work of all those involved – the industry wide collaboration involved is providing a strong foundation for the ongoing process of freight ETCS fitment”.

Neil Ethell, Chief Operating Officer, DB Cargo UK, said: “Today marks a significant milestone for DB Cargo (UK) on the journey to becoming European Train Control System (ETCS) ready. We’re incredibly proud to be undertaking the first in class fitment of a Class 66. Overall, the design and installation for the Class 66 has taken 4 years, which shows the level of complexity in a retro fitment project of this scale. We’re excited to see how it performs under rigorous testing at RIDC”.

Rob Morris, Joint CEO of Siemens Mobility said: “The Class 66 moving to RIDC marks a major step forward for the Programme. Our teams and fitment partners have worked tirelessly to deliver. The retrofitting will transform the everyday for freight users as well as delivering wider societal and community benefits afforded by digital signalling. A tremendous well done to all involved to date.” 

Notes to Editors

Digital signalling

Digital signalling, using the European Train Control System (ETCS) is a proven technology already in use in many countries in Europe and elsewhere.  The East Coast Digital Programme 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 on the Northern City Line (Finsbury Park to Moorgate), in the first stage of ECDP.

For more information about ECDP please visit

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Joshua Chapman
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