Since the time of the first railways, rail vehicles have all carried numbers as a form of identification.
The system has evolved over the years but with companies sharing a common approach, it has enabled information to be easily shared across the industry.
As of January 1, 2018, new regulations mean that numbers on new trains – as well as existing trains that operate across borders into Europe – will be longer than usual.
The change is as a result of a new European Vehicle Number standard, to provide consistency to operators, maintainers and suppliers.
According to the RSSB, the current system for numbering British trains, Total Operations Processing System (TOPS), is based on the approach adopted by British Rail in the late 1960s.
Britain’s railways rely on a RSSB-managed IT system – known as “R2” – to administer and process rolling stock data.
RSSB said that this means the change should be relatively hassle-free for Network Rail and train operating companies, as R2 does all the hard work in generating and allocating vehicle numbers, managing registration and providing the link between the EVN and the National Vehicle Register.
European Vehicle Number’s explained (courtesy of the RSSB):