East Coast has become the first train operator in Britain to begin using a new digital radio system which engineers say will deliver enhanced train performance, improved passenger information and a safer railway.
The new GSM-R digital radio system was this week switched on for the first time in full passenger service. It was initially switched on across over 100 miles of railway on the East Coast route between London King’s Cross and Stoke Summit, near Grantham.
The system, which provides seamless digital clarity radio links between train drivers and signalling and control staff – even through the line’s 18 tunnels – will be phased in across the entire British railway network by the end of 2014.
The system incorporates immediate notification of all drivers in the area of an incident – a feature which has already averted more serious delays on two separate occasions on the West Coast route.
East Coast Property and Projects Director Tim Hedley-Jones said: “East Coast have achieved a significant milestone in being the first train operator to begin using the GSM-R system over the busiest section of our route.
“GSM-R will deliver clear safety and performance benefits, initially on the East Coast route between London King’s Cross and Stoke Summit, to the south of Grantham.”
The introduction of the new radio system has proved a major logistical challenge for East Coast and infrastructure provider Network Rail. Across the first section of route to begin using the system, 40 GSM-R communications masts and 91 equipment cabinets have been installed at the trackside – while more than 75 East Coast drivers and 56 Network Rail signallers have been trained to use the new technology.
The new cab radios have also been installed into 24 East Coast Class 43 diesel High Speed Train driving cabs. A programme to fit the digital system into the remaining six HST and 60 Class 91 electric driving cabs is beginning this week.
Meanwhile, Network Rail and other train operators will now press ahead to roll out the new radio system to all routes south of a line between the Wash and the Severn Estuary by December 2012, when licenses covering frequencies used by existing analogue train cab radios are due to expire.
Further expansion will see the system cover all rail lines across Britain by the end of 2014, fully replacing existing life-expired analogue radios which have become increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain.