UK train company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has broken new ground after it became the first mainline rail passenger operator to successfully begin and end a journey using Automatic Train Operation (ATO) when governed by European Train Control System (ETCS).
The Siemens system – fitted to an eight-car train – was automatically brought to a stop at London’s international terminus on Saturday 17th March using ATO. The GTR train continued its automatically-controlled journey through three more stations before the system was disabled and control was handed back to the train driver.
ATO will initially operate on GTR’s network between St Pancras and Blackfriars in May 2019, then extended to London Bridge around six months later.
The pioneering journey came following substantial work on the busiest part of the UK rail network as part of the Government-backed Thameslink Programme that began in 2013. Due for completion later this year, it will create direct links between major airports and ease congestion on other lines in the centre of London. The latest ATO technology has been fitted to the new Siemens’ Class 700 trains that were launched in 2016. According to GTR, the automated system will allow the company to run up to 24 trains per hour in each direction, providing 70% more seats through the centre of London.
Working with Network Rail and Siemens, GTR began testing the automated in 2016, when it began proving ETCS at Network Rail’s ETCS National Integration Facility. In order to prove its safe operation, the rail operator has worked with the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to make the necessary amendments to so it can operate in both ETCS and ATO.
GTR’s systems integration manager, Jim Doughty, said that the inaugural ATO run followed nearly two years of on-track testing. “These runs will not only help build industry confidence in the system but also facilitate the commencement of the delivery of a world class training package to our drivers in readiness for the increase in services.”
Mark Ferrer, operations director of digital rail for Siemens, said: “This brings to life the hard work and commitment from the entire team, including Siemens, Network Rail and GTR, proving the operation of digital signalling on a critical part of the railway infrastructure and realising the future of train control.
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