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Viewpoint | Digital transformation

Will Wilson   Siemens

With world wide railway networks continuing to experience unprecedented levels of demand ,it is essential for the rail industry to respond to these pressures and meet the changing needsof its customers.

In the UK, the doubling of the number of journeys in the last 20 years has put enormous stress on the system.

As a result, large parts of the rail network are struggling to cope, with many trains overcrowded and platforms congested. This growth is forecast to continue and so the challenge for the industry is how to provide the desperately-needed extra capacity on our congested railway.

Clearly one option is to build new lines, but this is expensive, takes a long time to deliver and causes a lot of disruption over a prolonged period.

So the key challenge is to get more capacity out of the existing rail network. Siemens’ work with Network Rail for Thameslink is a good example of this and represents the starting point of the journey to a full digital railway.

Due for completion in 2018, the government sponsored Thameslink programme will transform north-south rail travel through London, with passengers set to benefit from more connections, more reliable journeys, better stations and new trains. Train frequency will increase from 16 to 24 trains per hour in each direction through the core area from Blackfriars to St Pancras in peak time.

As part of the overall programme, Siemens is helping to deliver the High Capacity Infrastructure project, which will provide the European Train Control System (ETCS) and enhanced signalling control systems needed to support automatic train operation (ATO) and timetable management. These systems are crucial to the programme being able to reliably achieve the 24 trains per hour service.

Our system is “vertically integrated”,meaning that we are providing the trains, train control and signalling systems that will allow safety, reliability and capacity to be increased. ETCS will be at the core of this (and the digital railway), increasing capacity and energy efficiency through more effective train control.

Thameslink will be the first operational application of full ATO over ETCS in the world and represents Siemens’ first operational application of ETCS in the UK. Its introduction means that every train runs at the optimised speed profile, performs accurate stopping, and maintains a strict adherence to station dwell times. Our continuous automatic train protection (ATP) system, provided as part of the ETCS, means that it will do all of this with an increased level of safety protection.

When deployed across the Thameslink Core and London Bridge areas, the enhanced control system and ETCS protection will enable the train-borne ATO unit to achieve the driving performance at closer intervals and greater throughput which is required to achieve the 24 trains per hour timetable.

  • William Wilson is Siemens director, sales and commercial

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