Network Rail has awarded the first contracts for a new nationwide traffic management system for the UK railways.
The traffic management system is set to help replace 800 signal boxes with 12 state-of-the-art rail operating centres over the next 15-30 years.
Once fully implemented, Network Rail says the system will cut the cost of running Britain’s railways by £250 million each year, as well as improve industry efficiency, reduce delays, and provide more accurate and timely information to staff and passengers.
Contracts worth a combined £28.8 million have been awarded to Thales UK to deploy traffic management technology at Network Rail’s Cardiff and Romford operating centres by December 2015.
Thales is one of three global suppliers who have been working with Network Rail since 2012 to develop and test a traffic management software prototype, using real-time information to mock up how the new system will control the railway in the future.
An additional contract for traffic management development, delivery and support has been awarded to the Signalling Solutions partnership worth £3.4 million, with completion scheduled for December 2015 too. Signalling Solutions is a joint venture between Alstom Transport and Balfour Beatty Rail.
Hitachi Rail Europe also bid for the work but lost out. It, along with other firms, will be able to bid for future traffic management contracts Network Rail is currently planning for other parts of the country.
Robin Gisby, Network Rail managing director of network operations, said, “As the number of people and businesses relying on rail continues to grow, it is vital we have the technology to make the best use of Britain’s rail infrastructure. The traffic management which will be deployed on the network uses tried and tested technology used on railways around the world to help deliver a leaner, more efficient and reliable network.”
The new highly automated systems will allow larger areas of the network to be controlled from fewer locations, and will help increase capacity and improve reliability through more effective handling of disruption, said Network Rail.
The different train operators will also be using common systems to maximise the benefits the new technology will bring.
Earlier this year, Network Rail signed a five-year £65 million deal with Computacenter for desktop services.