Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has completed static testing of a new digital signalling system on a Class 387/1 Great Northern Electrostar train. 

Testing of the system is part of the East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP) which will see the European Train Control Signalling (ETCS) tech installed on the East Coast Main Line to allow for in-cab signalling, improving service reliability and lowering emissions. 

The Class 387 is the UK’s first major commuter fleet to be retrofitted with the tech and it has now been moved to the Rail Innovation and Development Centre for dynamic testing of the ETCS odometry equipment. 

GTR’s European Rail Traffic Management System fleet project manager Aaron Meakin said: “We’re delighted with how the newly retrofitted ETCS system has performed on our Class 387 train in static testing. It bodes well as we move into dynamic testing at RIDC.” 

Digital signalling works by providing in-cab information to drivers in real-time and allowing signals to identify the type of trains operating on the rail network, meaning that signals and overall operations can be fine-tuned to accommodate individual trains and their capabilities, such as breaking power. 

The equipment was built by French rolling stock manufacturer Alstom at its Litchurch Lane site in Derby, where the initial static testing was also completed. 

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Alstom will also be working on the next stage of testing in Melton Mowbray where three dynamic testing events will be carried out with an estimated completion date of October 2023. 

The train is expected to return the following November, after which GTR’s 28 other 387/1 trains will be fitted with the tech at the company’s in-house Hornsey depot. 

Alstom’s project director Aaron Weeks highlighted the Class 387 train as the first in the UK to be fitted with the company’s ATLAS 3 onboard digital signalling tech and said: “Alstom recognises that the digitisation of the UK rail network needs new ways of innovative cross-industry working and the ongoing close collaboration between our team and partners at GTR, Porterbrook and Network Rail on this project is a great example of this.” 

News of GTR’s continued testing of the system comes shortly after Network Rail announced its next steps for the fitting of digital signalling infrastructure on the East Coast line as part of the ECDP, with works taking place in June between Welwyn Garden City and Hitchin in Hertfordshire.