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Railtrack urges suppliers to bring forward TPWS tenders

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RAILTRACK HAS reacted to the Ladbroke Grove crash by attempting to speed up the installation of a £150M signalling safety system.

One senior contractor told NCE that Railtrack zone directors had taken the 'unheard of' step of personally asking those tendering to install the TPWS (Train Protection and Warning System) to bring forward their bids.

Tenders were due to be submitted in the first week of December. But the deadline has been brought forward to the third week of November.

'We have been told that we have to get moving on this very quickly,' said NCE's source.

The head of another major rail contractor said it was reacting to Railtrack's calls for urgency by proposing an alternative procurement route to allow installation work to be carried out faster.

'Railtrack is dealing with 14 tenderers across all seven zones. We are proposing that they use fewer contractors, on a partnering basis,' he said.

Speaking at the publication of the Health & Safety Executive's first interim report into the crash, chief inspector of railways Vic Coleman said a TPWS system would probably have prevented last week's disaster. Once the Thames Train had passed signal SN109 at danger it would have been brought to a stop.

But Institution of Railway Signalling Engineers chief executive Ken Burrage said Railtrack should commit to installing the £1bn ATP (Automatic Train Protection) system.

'TPWS is slower and doesn't prevent against the same range of eventualities,' he said.

TPWS uses a system of electrical induction loops buried in the track bed and a pick-up antenna attached to each train. The loops are connected to the signalling system. When a train passes a signal at danger and travels over the loops, an electrical impulse is generated which is picked up by the antenna, causing the brakes to be automatically applied. The system was due to be fitted to signal SN109 by the end of 2003.

ATP uses a system of trackside digital radio transmitters which relays information to a train's on-board computer. This monitors the train's speed and applies the brakes if it is being driven too fast for the track conditions or upcoming signal aspect.

Burrage said claims by train operators that the ATP system was too unreliable for the British network were 'rubbish'.

'The reason why this system has not been installed is because the authorities have not been prepared to make the investment and do not have the management will to make it work,' he said.

Royal Academy of Engineering president Sir David Davies has been appointed by the Government to assess the cost and effectiveness of train protection systems. He is expected to report back with his findings by the end of the year.

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