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Great Northern’s Class 717 fleet set for upgrade to very latest in-cab signalling technology

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Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has received authorisation from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to upgrade its Great Northern Class 717 fleet to the latest specification of European Train Control System (ETCS). It is the first fleet to receive authorisation to upgrade the on-board digital signalling system to this most recent version.

GTR’s 25 Class 717 trains were built fitted with ETCS B3MR1 (also referred to as version 3.4.0) and the fleet recently received ORR authorisation to be placed into passenger service using digital signalling on the Northern City Line.

Upgrading the software to the latest version of ETCS BL3 R2, also referred to as 3.6.0, will allow the trains to make use of the latest digital infrastructure to be installed on the East Coast Main Line, as part of the next phase of the government-funded East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP). The programme will see traditional lineside signals replaced by state-of-the-art in-cab signalling technology (ETCS) which will create a more reliable railway with lower emissions.

Final testing for the upgrade will take place this autumn, ahead of upgrading the entire fleet early next year, so that the trains are ready to operate in ETCS on the East Coast Main Line from 2025.

Aaron Meakin, ERTMS Fleet Project Manager at Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “State-of-the-art in-cab signalling is going to give everybody a better rail service. Winning approval from the regulator to upgrade the software on our 717s means we’ll be ready to run these trains on the East Coast Main Line as soon as that’s possible.”

Ricky Barsby, Network Rail’s Head of Access and Integration for the East Coast Digital Programme, said: “The approval from the Office of Rail and Road is a key step forward on the billion pound East Coast Digital Programme.

“We continue to make good progress on the scheme, which will bring significant benefits for passengers when complete, including better and more reliable journeys.”

Mark Swindell, CEO Rock Rail, said: “Rock Rail is very pleased that its Class 717 fleet is the first train to achieve authorisation to upgrade the on-board ETCS digital signalling software to version 3.6.0 as part of the East Coast Digital Programme, a leading digital signalling programme that is essential for increasing capacity and reliability on one of the busiest parts of Britain’s railway network.”

Kevin Clark, Fleet Operations Director at Siemens Mobility UKI, said: “This is another great example of us working with our industry partners to provide and install the technology which will ensure these trains can provide the best passenger service on the East Coast Mainline.”

Image credit: GTR

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