Portable ETCS Feasibility Study

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Project Outline

The European Train Control System (ETCS) is part of the rail industry’s programme to roll out the introduction of modern signalling and train control technology across the network, which will increase capacity, reduce delays, enhance safety and drive down costs. When ETCS is fitted to trains, together with trackside infrastructure, it will replace the need to drive to traditional colour light signals. All new trains that have recently been or that are about to be built are required to be equipped with ETCS capability as standard. All other existing trains will have to be retrofitted with ETCS equipment to enable them to run on the ETCS network.

The portable ETCS project was established by Network Rail with the objective of developing a viable solution to facilitate non-ETCS enabled rolling stock to operate on ETCS-enabled lines. This objective was primarily to benefit heritage and charter trains, as on the Cambrian Coast Line, historic steam services have been unable to operate since ETCS was deployed in 2011.

‘Portable ETCS’ refers to a modified solution whereby specific parts of the on-board equipment are capable of being installed when needed for a train to operate, and then removed again afterwards, such that the portable equipment is only used when needed to run a train service on an ETCS-enabled line. The remainder of the system would be installed on-board permanently, including the power supply.

Key statistics

Project Portable European Train Control System (ETCS)
Client Operational Programmes Delivery, Network Rail
Services Project Management
Duration July 2020 - March 2021

Our Service

Mercury3 provided Project Management services from July 2020 until its completion in March 2021, with the remit of delivering GRIP Stage 2. The key deliverable was the Feasibility Study, which the project collaborated with the University of Birmingham to produce. This study assessed all the elements required for an ETCS fitment, which of these could be portable and where these could be positioned on a heritage train. The project team then assessed other non-technical factors, such as cost and ergonomics implications in order to draw informed conclusions.

The project team also collaborated with Dutch company ProRail, who were also exploring potential portable solutions to share findings and lessons learnt throughout.

Lastly, Mercury3 managed and supported either the production or checking of all other GRIP 2 deliverables. These were presented at the Stage Gate 2 Review with senior stakeholder representation from the digital railway programme and each of the relevant disciplines across Network Rail.

Due to the nature of these types of projects, producing an all-encompassing clear remit is often difficult to achieve. The project, therefore, had to manage additional scope & changes within its tight schedule. This was managed well & within budget mainly due to the good work practises & procedures instilled from the outset.

B Langstone

Senior Planner, Arcadis

Key Achievements

Endorsement from all senior stakeholders was achieved, first time, at the Stage Gate 2 Review.

The project was delivered on schedule, with a circa 5% cost saving.