European Rail Traffic Management System

The system has been introduced on the Cambrian and ends steam operations.

ERTMS in the UK

The introduction of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) in the UK took place on March 28 when the Aberystwyth Arriva Trains Wales 0435hrs Machynlleth to service departed. So ended several years development work on a project that has proved expensive and a huge challenge to all involved. This particular scheme was called the Early Deployment Scheme (EDS) to establish what problems would require to be overcome.

In a curious twist of railway history, the system required a new semaphore signal on platform 3 at Shrewsbury as a direct result of the newest signalling system in the UK – which does away with fixed lineside signals where ERTMS is in operation.

Following the implementation of the scheme, all trackside signalling equipment was removed which means that the only trains that can run have to be fitted with compatible signalling equipment in the cab. Arriva’s class 158s have been fitted plus a few former class 37s, now renumbered class 97 and reliveried into yellow!

Ansaldo, the Italian signalling company were engaged to devise a solution to fitting bad equipment to steam locomotives but after spending several million pounds on the project, have given up and left. Because of this the daily summer steam service from Machynlleth to Pwllheli has had to be cancelled by Network Rail despite their ‘on the record pledge’ to ensure the continuation of this popular summer daily steam service by finding a solution to cab fitting steam locomotives with ERTMS kit.

Another pledge was also broken when the RETB signalling system equipment was removed quickly after the new system went live. It was understood that Network Rail promised to retain the old RETB system in case of problems with ERTMS.

Some of the railway press suggested that a Swedish portable ERTMS system could be used on steam locomotives, but this system is not considered by the rail industry to be a genuine solution, and rumours to the contrary should be ignored Network Rail said.

Principle UK steam operators, West Coast Railway Company, continue to strongly resist ERTMS as their business is now being restrained by system going live without a steam capability. West Coast was promised over a year ago that a solution would be found using Ansaldo as contractors working on behalf of Network Rail.

In railway operating terms, it is not understood why the 30 steam services, one a day, could not go ahead using a Pilotman based system which was proved to be safe following arisk assessment proving by the use of statistical analysis that the risk had emerged as being ALARP (As Low As Reasonably Practical).

This assessment was supported by a HAZOP, a hazard based operations risk assessment exercise, in accordance with Rail Regulatory safety guidelines.

Meetings carried on up to April in an attempt to resolve the situation and now it appears that Network Rail will have to compensate West Coast under their Track Access Agreement obligations for cancelling the services. This cannot be a long term solution because ERTMS is meant to increase network capacity, performance and safety rather than constraining operations by limiting the type of train that can operate on it!

Network Rail Project Sponsor for the scheme, Jim Morgan hung up on when asked difficult questions and P. J. Taylor of the Network Rail HQ media team were reluctant to offer anything other than a bland statement saying nothing sensible regarding the operation of steam services other than all parties are working towards a solution and that a technical briefing for the media would be held in May. (No date has been arranged yet as of May 24).

The NR media team acknowledged that steam was a problem but that they were looking at various solutions and a way forward and as it was important to iron out issues with their customers before making a comment.

Cambrian Cancelled but now its TWO Jacobite services

Following Network Rail’s confirmation that in their opinion, it is not possible to operate the Cambrian daily steam service this summer because of the introduction of the European Rail Traffic Management System, a new opportunity has been grasped by West Coast Railways.

The Cambrian steam cancellation is down to the authorities rejecting the incredibly detailed risk based assessment and hazard identification operation carried out by safety experts. It all revolved around the fact that that there would be no automatic way of stopping the train if it ran into a dangerous situation.

This is because the automatic warning systems present on the rest of the network, such as TPWS system, have been decommissioned along with all fixed signalling equipment from the Cambrian route rendering the on-board locomotive warning equipment redundant. Despite safety experts saying that the probability of the four people on the locomotive footplate being rendered incapable at the same time was not accepted by the authorities.

It is more likely that Network Rail do not want a precedent setting where an unfitted train (in ERTMS terms) would be allowed to run in an ERTMS operated route.

The engine booked for the service was Ian Riley’s LMS ‘Black 5, No. 44871 will now head for Scotland where it will be used on a second ‘Jacobite’ service in the evening. This daily steam service has become so popular that ALL first class seats have already been booked for the 2011 season and standard class seats are nearly all gone as well!

No. 44871 will be used to operate an evening ‘Jacobite’ called ‘The Sundowner’ leaving Fort William at 1710hrs and arriving back at 2130hrs running on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from June 1 to the end of July.

The extra loco and carriage stock will be based at the existing Fort William depot and makes efficient use of the facilities and staff there as well as providing backup traction and rolling stock if ever required.


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Cambrian Steam Service

Posted on Thursday 30th May 2013 | 2:03 PM

It was my intention to catch one of the steam specials since moving to Wales in 2008, it was hugely popular, and one of the most beautiful settings for a journey by Steam. Network Rail have shafted us good and proper, any idiot from child upwards could have told them that a GPS based system would no be compatible with a 100 year old steam engine, their pledge was meaningless and the millions spent on an Italian solution wasted. This is either incompetence or the deliberate eradication of Steam from the whole UK network. The fact that they have swiftly removed the pre existing system suggests the latter. I would be very interested to know what happened to all that infrastructure which we as tax payers own? and whether NR will be compensating the wider Welsh economy as well as the Steam operators themselves for this apalling debacle.

william sutton

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