The UK’s first test of a digitally signalled train on an intercity mainline route has been conducted by train operator Great Northern, the latest milestone for the country’s adoption of the technology. 

A Class 717 train using the European Train Control System (ETCS) was tested on the line between Welwyn Garden City and Hitchin just north of London as Great Northern began a testing programme that will continue until mid-2025. 

The train operator is part of the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) family, which has been the first UK train company to work with Siemens Mobility on dynamic testing for the £1.4bn ($1.7bn) East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP) installing the ETCS technology. 

Oliver Turner, head of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) for GTR, said: “We’re proud our Class 717 train and ERTMS team were instrumental to this landmark use of digital signalling on the East Coast Main Line. 

“This weekend’s testing marks the very first step in an intensive testing process to ensure the system is safe. We are working closely with the rest of the industry to share the lessons we’ve learned – and continue to learn – from introducing and operating ETCS.” 

The intercity testing programme follows the “switch on” of ETCS for other areas of GTR’s network, including Great Northern’s services on the Northern City Line in London. 

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

ETCS technology provides in-cab digital signalling to provide real-time information to train drivers and improve efficiency by strengthening communication across the rail network, thus improving the reliability of services and reducing emissions. 

According to the ECDP, use of the tech is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 55,000 tonnes over the next 60 years for the UK’s East Coast Main Line. 

The news of Great Northern’s latest testing scheme comes shortly after Network Rail announced it had begun dynamic testing of the country’s first freight locomotive fitted with ETCS.