Targeting digital systems to improve capacity and performance on the railway
A digital railway benefits passengers, freight and the national economy.
Our railway is full in many places.
With the fastest growing network in Europe, Britain’s railway carries twice as many passengers as it did just two decades ago.
Increasing demand will mean there will be a billion extra journeys by the 2030s. The network also needs more space for freight trains, which transport £30bn of goods annually and are much more environmentally friendly than road travel.
Capacity challenges are most acute in many of our major cities, not just London.
Traditional options like building new tracks or extending trains and platforms will not on their own deliver the space for extra trains we need.
The only way to meet demand is to deploy digital signalling and train control in combination with traditional upgrades. This will release capacity from the infrastructure by making it work smarter and more efficiently.
Digital train control systems will help improve the performance of the network to provide passengers with a better experience.
Conventional signalling and train control systems reduce the flexibility of the network, which struggles to recover quickly when things go wrong. A small delay on one part of the railway can still be causing knock-on delays hundreds of miles away on other parts of the network, many hours later.
Digital traffic management systems will improve the performance of the railway by reducing delays and the time it takes to restore the timetable when disruption takes place.
Traffic management controls the flow of trains across the network in the most efficient way, maximising the throughput and adapting as network conditions change. It helps to manage disruption and reduce secondary or knock-on delays.
It will also improve passenger information and supports effective timetable planning by developing options for more effective ‘conflict free’ timetables.
Conventional lineside signalling systems are also very costly to install and maintain. Despite their high construction and maintenance costs, signalling asset failures are a major cause of delays. In 2014-2015, there were 16,228 signalling failures that were severe enough to affect a service.
Digital signalling systems remove a lot of trackside physical infrastructure and are operated by on-board equipment, which is placed in train cabs. This provides better information for drivers and is more cost-efficient to operate.