"The biggest difference will be that we will operating our High Speed Azuma Trains at 140mph using Digital Signalling, Traffic Management Technology, with reduced journey times for our customers."
Virgin Trains East Coast operates on routes totalling 936 miles, from London to Peterborough, the East Midlands, Leeds, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh and beyond to Aberdeen, Inverness and Glasgow. The fleet consists of 44 trains - 30 electric trains, and 14 diesel trains, known as HSTs (High Speed Trains). More people travel from Leeds to London, and from London to Leeds, than on any other southbound or northbound long-distance journey. Virgin Trains commenced operations on the line in 2015, taking over from East Coast. The iconic British line is a joint venture between Stagecoach (90%) and Virgin Group (10%). This week our reporter Sarah Wright spoke to Paul Boyle, the Head of ERTMS to discuss more about his role and his passion for the industry.
Sarah Wright (SW): How did you get into the rail industry?
Paul Boyle (PB): I started in the rail industry straight after school at 16 as a Junior Railman at Darlington Depot and quickly started preparing for the Train Driving grades at 17; since then I have not looked back. I had always lived in Darlington alongside the East Coast Main Line (ECML) ( @Virgin_TrainsEC ) and my grandfather worked in the Darlington Railway Workshops as a boiler fitter building steam locomotives. Railways are in my blood and I have probably seen a train almost every day of my life.
SW: What do like most about your job?
PB: I love the variety of what I do - every day is different. One day I can be shaping the future of VTEC’s operation on the ECML under ERTMS, and planning the ways we will use our new Azuma Trains. And another day I can be helping customers out on the concourse at one of our stations; leading our contingency response to disruption as one of VTEC’s Duty Officers; or driving one of our fantastic trains to London Kings Cross.
SW: What’s the biggest challenge in your role?
PB: The biggest challenges in my role are the co-dependancies that are part of a National ERTMS Programme that is changing and in transition into Digital Railway. The key challenge for me and my team at VTEC is to keep focused on what we need to prepare and deliver to meet our commitments to the programme and support this through close collaboration with our industry partners.
SW: What will be some of the biggest differences between rail now and in 10 years’ time?
PB: I think on the ECML, the biggest difference will be that we will operating our High Speed Azuma Trains at 140mph using Digital Signalling, Traffic Management Technology, with reduced journey times for our customers.
SW: What’s your favourite rail journey?
PB: That would have to be the Journey on VTEC’s “Highland Chieftan” at the northern end of VTEC’s route from my home town Darlington to Inverness, this route takes in many highlights such as the magnificent Durham Cathedral, Newcastle and its famous Tyne Bridges, the ECML then hugs the Northumbrian Coast passing through Alnmouth, over the fantastic Royal Border Bridge at Berwick-Upon-Tweed, before crossing the border into Scotland.
After taking in the great views across the Firth of Forth and Edinburgh, our route then travels through the Central Highlands of Scotland, passing through Pitlochry, passing over Drumochter Summit at 460 m above sea level, through the Cairngorm Mountains to Aviemore before reaching Inverness 349 miles later. The best view in the house is of course from the Drivers Cab and if you are really lucky you will catch the “Northern Lights” dancing above the Moray Firth as you pass over the second highest part of the route at Slochd Summit (401 m).
Last week's 5 minutes with... Ellen Linnenkamp, Managing Director at Strukton Rail, North America.
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