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ETCS testing goes ahead despite COVID-19

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A camera mounted over the driver’s head monitored the ETCS DMI on the control desk.

Despite the restrictions imposed by Coronavirus (COVID-19) social distancing requirements, Porterbrook, PCMS, Great Western Railway, Bombardier and DB Cargo (supported by ROG) successfully complete a programme of tests of the European Train Control System (ETCS) on an eight-car GWR Class 387 train operating on the main line between Reading and Heathrow.

The team was supported by signalling teams from Heathrow Airport Limited and Network Rail along the route.

To keep the driver safe, innovative temporary remote monitoring equipment was installed that linked the driver’s cab with the passenger saloon, where the testing team was located. Cameras were temporarily located in the train’s cabs, above the driver’s position, to relay the ETCS Driver Machine Interface (DMI) display back to the testing team located further down the train.

Under ETCS, the DMI shows displays the train’s speed and movement authority to the driver.

A camera mounted on the side of the cab ‘looked’ forward through the windscreen.

A second camera, located in the traditional ‘second-man’s’ position in the leading cab, captured the infrastructure and signalling ahead to ensure there were no discrepancies between classic signals on the route and ETCS data feeds.

Both video feeds were linked back to display screens in the passenger seating area, giving the monitoring technicians a good view of what was going on in the cab without them having to come close to the driver or to sit too closely together.

The displays also showed other aspects of the route including the track layout and details of the signalling.

The trials took place over the weekend of the 1 – 3 May 2020. During this time, 20 specific tests of the ETCS on-train and lineside equipment were completed. This means that a move to ETCS operation on the Heathrow route remains on target for introduction later this year.

Mary Grant, Porterbrook.

Porterbrook chief executive officer Mary Grant said: “The latest successful Class 387 ETCS proving run is a testament to what can be achieved when the railway industry works together.

“Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the team managed to safely maintain social-distancing and complete an exhaustive programme of tests in record time.

“My thanks to all our suppliers and partners for supporting this programme, which is a key to delivering enhanced capacity on services to Heathrow.”

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