NETWORK RAIL has informed all affected operators that agreement has been reached over the intended scope for the East Coast Digital Programme.

First signals away section: LNER Azuma No 801104 heads a classmate on a King’s Cross to York service at Offord Cluny on 1 June 2020. This is part of the section between Biggleswade and Holme currently planned to be the first where lineside signals will be removed when ETCS is introduced.
Fraser Pithie

Although the exact timescale of the move to digital signalling depends on ‘certain key aspects of the programme’, the expectation is that the transition to European Train Control System (ETCS) Level 2 on the East Coast main line between King’s Cross and south of Stoke Tunnel will be completed by the end of 2029.

Network Rail says the current target is to implement ‘ETCS Baseline 3 Maintenance Release 2’. From Fletton Junction, south of Peterborough station, and including the Hertford loop, the final configuration will include ETCS Level 2 with no lineside signals and therefore all rolling stock running on this section of the route will be required to be ETCS fitted and certified. From Fletton Junction, through Peterborough station and to Stoke Tunnel, the planned implementation will be ETCS Level 2 with lineside signals. On this section of the route trains not fitted with ETCS will be able to run conventionally using the lineside signals as today, and trains that are ETCS fitted can run under ETCS. This latter installation will include a recontrol of Peterborough Power Signal Box to York Rail Operating Centre (ROC).

The programme itself will be delivered in a series of ‘tranches’, starting with the Northern City line between Drayton Park and Moorgate. Tranche 2 includes all the work required to fit trains with ETCS equipment and achieve operational readiness and will be complete by December 2024 in readiness for the first signals away deployment. The current plan is to use the line from Welwyn Garden City to Biggleswade fitted as an overlay section (ETCS Level 2 with colour light signalling retained) for ETCS Level 2 practical driver training, as well as vehicle/infrastructure integration testing. Tranche 3 involves the implementation of a Traffic Management System based at the York ROC. Tranche 4 is the ‘progressive rollout and transition to ETCS’; the first ETCS Level 2 area with no lineside signals is currently proposed to be Biggleswade to Holme. Finally, Tranche 5, ‘optimisation of planning and operations’, sees the full benefits of digital signalling realised by all users of the route.