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New tech roll-out to improve rail journey times and create jobs Posted On 20 November 2020

The Government is funding a new study as plans to update signalling system accelerate

Plans to introduce digital signalling on key sections of the rail network around Peterborough have been given a boost by the announcement of a £1.2million feasibility study, funded by the Government.

The study could fast-track the introduction of the technology – created to cut delays and improve safety – to sections of the East Anglia route from Peterborough to King’s Lynn, plus parts of the West Coast and Midland lines, and will help to identify the most efficient and effective way to bring in the system and a new way of working associated with it.

And, in a statement released hours before an interactive virtual consultation with experts from the rail and technology sectors, the Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, hinted at the creation of “high-skilled jobs as we level up the country and build back better after COVID-19”.

Currently, conventional signalling means the network can struggle to recover as one short delay could cause a knock-on effect and disrupt train journeys hours later on other parts of the network. The new technology gives signallers better information in real time, giving them the chance to communicate with train drivers to help reduce the impact of delays.

This in-cab communication will bring an end to conventional signalling at the side of tracks, which was first used in the Victorian era.

In response, David Clarke, technical director of the Rail Industry Association, is reported to have said: “With around 60 per cent of signalling equipment units on the UK rail network needing to be replaces over the next 15 years, rail suppliers will need to gear up to ensure they are ‘match fit’ for a significant amount of work; ensuring its roll-out is delivered efficiently, to time and to budget, n order to ensure value for money for taxpayers and passengers.

“New digital technology will improve the reliability and resilience of the network, providing better services for passengers and freight, and will create highly-skilled jobs across the UK at a time when they are vitally needed.”

The development funding follows the announcement of £350million of new investment toward the East Coast Digital Programme which will introduce digital signalling on the East Coast Main Line between King’s Cross and Stoke Tunnel in Lincolnshire in a bid to improve journey time.

And Andy Jones, the director of Operational Programme Delivery at Network Rail, said: “The first three schemes on the East Anglia route, the West Coast Mainline and the Midland Mainline will help drive forward the modern railway well all need.”

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