Train delays to be reduced by new digital signalling - pledge
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All new trains and rail signalling will be digital or digital-ready from next year to reduce overcrowding and cut delays, it has been revealed.
Much of Britain’s rail signalling uses Victorian technology, with line-side traffic lights controlling trains.
With more than half of these systems needing to be replaced within the next 15 years, government-owned Network Rail will install digital versions which will enable trains to run closer together, boosting frequency, speed and reliability.
The technology is being used to enable extra capacity for 40,000 more passengers on Thameslink trains through London Bridge later this month.
Network Rail has pledged that 70pc of journeys will benefit from digital signalling within 15 years.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “We’re at the stage with the railways that we were with digital television when everything was being sold as HD Ready.
“What we want to do is make sure that all new trains and all future signalling projects are digital ready.”
This will enable the transfer of trains to digital systems to be a simple “plug and play” process and “not rewiring the train”, Mr Grayling added.
Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne said: “Not since the railway transformed from steam to diesel in the 1960s has a technological breakthrough held such promise to vastly improve our railway for the benefit of the millions of people and businesses who rely on it every day.
“The age of a digital railway has today moved from the drawing board and into reality as we reveal a blueprint that will improve the lives of millions of passengers and freight users across the country.
“Today’s commitment is to adopt and roll out new digital technology, for both trains and track, that will deliver faster, more frequent services for passengers and businesses alike, giving our economy a massive boost.”
Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald claimed digital signalling upgrades will have a “limited impact” without more lines being electrified.
Greater Anglia is currently spending £1.4bn on 169 new trains as part of a new contract to provide services on routes in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and North Essex from 2019 onwards.
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