UK regional rail operator Thameslink is moving forward with another digital signalling project after signing a £32.7m contract to upgrade its Class 700 fleet with the technology. 

The five-year contract to install the connectivity tech on the 115-strong fleet was signed by Cross London Trains, the Department for Transport, Govia Thameslink Railway (Thameslink’s parent company), Network Rail and Siemens Mobility. 

Govia Thameslink’s announcement for its Class 700 fleet follows the project on its Class 387 trains to install the technology, which completed static testing in May and is part of the wider ECDP with Network Rail

That programme will see the East Coast Main Line become the UK’s first intercity mainline to use digital signalling technology, which allows drivers to receive real-time, in-cab signals. 

The tech also means that signals on the rail network will be able to understand the trains operating near them and fine-tune their operations to accommodate for different vehicle capabilities such as breaking speed.

Govia Thameslink European Railway Traffic Management System fleet project manager Aaron Meakin described the contract as great news for the company and its other partners in the East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP). 

Development and software design for the upgrade will take place this summer ahead of testing and commissioning on the first-in-class 700 unit to take place starting in 2024. It is expected that, following safety approvals and validation processes, the entire Class 700 fleet will have been upgraded by 2026. 

Ed Akers, principal programme sponsor for the ECDP at Network Rail, said: “Preparing and upgrading trains is the biggest challenge ECDP faces, due to the complexity involved with many partners and commercial arrangements. 

“We’ve worked hard to secure this new contract for the largest passenger fleet on ECDP and all parties will be working collaboratively to ensure effective delivery of these upgrades.”