A major upgrade of the signalling on the Northern City line to Moorgate is underway, and will however see the line closed at weekends for the work to be carried out.

The Northern City line has been chosen to start the rollout of the new signalling system which will eventually be deployed along the East Coast railway, and eventually, UK wide.

The new system, the European Train Control System (ETCS), will allow Network Rail to remove lineside signalling and put all that information on a display screen inside the train cabs instead. Not only does that reduce the cost of a signalling system as there’s less hardware, there’s also a reduction in maintenance costs, as there are no longer any signals to maintain.

While good for Network Rail, the benefit for passengers is that they can also run trains closer together, depending on the signalling set-up, and with better oversight of where trains are on the network, the controllers can respond more rapidly to problems before they affect passengers.

ETCS was first used in the UK on the Cambrian line as a test deployment, and then on Thameslink in the central core of the network. It’s also one of the signalling systems being used on Crossrail.

There’s now a plan to upgrade the entire East Coast Mainline railway, and that’s where the Northern City line comes in. Conveniently, it’s a simple line in railway terms and is also operated by GTR, which has experience from the Thameslink project. And the Northern City line recently started using a fleet of new trains, which were fitted with the in-cab equipment ready for the signalling upgrade.

However, although ETCS can operate without trackside signals, it still needs sensors to know where trains are, and that’s what Network Rail is installing this summer along the Northern City line.

The installation is expected to be fully completed late next year, and then the drivers will have about a year of training and building up experience before the old system is switched off.

Ahead of that, there will be several weekends of track closures between Finsbury Park and Moorgate this summer as Network Rail teams work to install new equipment.

  • Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th June
  • Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th July
  • Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th August
  • Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th August
  • Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd August
  • Saturday 28th, Sunday 29th and Monday 30th August
  • Saturday 4th September and Sunday 5th September
  • Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd October

(updated 5th July with additional closure dates in red)

During these closures, trains will be diverted into King’s Cross station.

Toufic Machnouk, Programme Director for East Coast Digital Programme, said: “The East Coast Digital Programme is fundamental to improving reliability on the Northern City Line and the work taking place this summer is vital to keep the programme on track.”


Article last updated on July 5th, 2021 at 10:32 am

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4 comments
  1. Chugga Chugga Choo Choo says:

    Maybe their ETCS will be more reliable than the other version in use further West, which has been an unmitigated disaster!!

  2. PMD says:

    With ETCS being ‘in cab’, I wonder if it could lead to drivers not looking out properly (instead concentrating on what’s inside the train).

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