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Digital countdown

‘We need to grasp the opportunity of digital train control far faster’, says Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail. ‘The digital railway will transform passenger information and the way we inspect and control track.’

Currently ERTMS is being rolled out across Europe and the British version developed on the Cambrian line. ERTMS operates in-cab signalling and a GPS system, Global System for Mobile Communications–Railway, which creates a bubble round the train – protecting it from other trains as it moves along.

Digital Train Control takes the system much further introducing intelligent data, information on other trains, freights and locals, and factoring in live time delays and changing service patterns. The system shrinks the gap between train paths.

Progress Made

Mark Carne was speaking at the Rail Exec Club run by Rail Media. Planners, pioneers and every type of operator piled into the Drapers’ Hall in the City of London on March 5 to discuss progress being made in expanding the railway and plans to take that forward faster still. As well as Mark Carne, speakers included Jeremy Long, MTR and Jon Shaw, Bombardier.

Jeremy Long, chief executive officer of European Business at MTR, revealed plans to start running TfL Rail branded services this May between Liverpool Street and Shenfield. Looking round Drapers’ Hall he asked all those who had been involved in Crossrail to put their hands up – over half the people there raised an arm. New Class 345 Crossrail trains – built in Britain – will be introduced in May 2017 and will start running through the tunnels a year later.

Jon Shaw from Bombardier, which is building Crossrail’s 345 Aventra fleet at Litchurch Lane, praised the comeback of the UK’s home-based train building industry. Jon has been working on trials of the IPEMU, the Independently Powered adapted Electrostar 379013, on the Manningtree branch. Jon, from Derby, pointed out battery operated devices were popular in Essex and the train had proved a great success.

A Greater Challenge

Humour aside, the rail industry still faces a difficult ride in media terms. The recent problems at London Bridge station demonstrate the challenge of trying to deliver substantial improvement to the infrastructure whilst maintaining intensive commuter rail services – a challenge that chief executive Mark Carne admits he hadn’t fully appreciated when he first joined the organisation in 2013.

‘I think the challenge of transforming the railway – and with the investment we’re making in the railway – whilst still keeping it running reliably every day is a greater challenge than I anticipated,’ he said.

Other industries might have the luxury of crossing a bridge when they come to it but the railway, mentally, has to make the leap years in advance. Undaunted, Carne and the rail industry will be pressing on this summer with plans for a digital railway that delivers fast and frequent services on a scale never envisaged before by even the most positive RailStaff reader.

Clock Ticking

A better informed public and corporate transparency is welcomed by Carne. ‘I welcome Freedom of Information. We’re willing, more than willing, to do it.’ He went on, ‘Of course it will present all sorts of challenges… but we’re a public service and we’re spending a lot of money on behalf of the public to deliver that service. We have to make some really difficult choices… It’s right that the public has the opportunity to see how we make those choices and, in a sense, to hold us to account for the way in which we do it.’

The clock is ticking on railway capacity and Mark Carne, who collects antique clocks as a hobby, is determined to make every minute count.

The second Rail Exec Club of 2015 will be held on the 23rd of April at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Birmingham. Capacity is also an issue and to make sure of your place, book now.

More details are available at: www.railexec.com

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