The lonely outposts of signal boxes which pepper the West Coast Main Line route will soon be a thing of the past. Railtrack plans to condense all of its signalling and level crossing operations into eight Network Management Centres split geographically around the country.
'At the moment we are not very good at delivering new train paths. This will allow us to manage the whole network more effectively and look at how additional services can be fitted in,' says project director Tony Cruddas.
The first pilot scheme for the system will be built at Manchester, and Railtrack is hoping that signal operation will be ready for 'migration' by the end of 2000. But Cruddas says the rate of migration to the Network Management Centres will depend very much on the zones themselves.
'I would foresee it taking at least 10 years,' he adds.
A new transmission based Train Control System, which will relay signal information directly to the driver's cab, will also be introduced before 2005. This will increase capacity by making tighter headways possible, and should also increase reliability by removing trackside equipment susceptible to failure and vandalism.
The contract award for the development of the Train Control System is due in June, and will be followed later in the summer by the systems development contract award for the Network Management Centres. Building tenders for the NMCs are currently being produced by Railtrack.