Digital Signalling Upgrade for Manchester Rail Route


The UK railway infrastructure has been under immense pressure to meet the ever-growing capacity needs and greater passenger numbers.  So, since 2016 Network Rail have been investing into introducing the latest signalling and control technologies in line with the European Train Control System (ETCS) and Traffic Management Programme.  This means that the traditional and ageing approach to signalling which is currently to utilise trackside signals to control the safe movement of trains will eventually be a thing of the past.

As part of the Network Rail digital improvement strategy signalling equipment which was nearly 40 years old around Trafford Park has now been replaced with the latest digital technology. And as part of the £36m Great North Rail Project investment Network Rail installed 23 new signals and 109 associated pieces of new signalling equipment.   The new digitised system will improve reliability for both passengers and freight trains, whilst also improving safety & efficiency levels. Moving over to European Train Control Systems will also allow trains to travel at their fastest speeds and to run closer together.

Roisin Nelson, sponsor for Network Rail, said: “This major work on this key rail artery into Manchester will transform connectivity for both freight and passengers across the Northwest. Work like this has never been more important – future proofing this economically important rail link as Britain emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. I’d like to thank passengers and residents for their patience while we delivered these improvements over the last year. The investment will keep passengers on the move, products on supermarket shelves and vital goods going to businesses across the country for decades to come.”

Chris Jackson, Regional Director at Northern, said: “Our customers are at the heart of everything we do and the work carried out by colleagues at Network Rail will ensure our customers are able to travel on a more modern and more efficient rail network.

“We’re proud to be part of an industry that is delivering so much for the people of the North and the work to improve the infrastructure goes hand-in-hand with our own improvements which, over the past 18 months, have seen the full introduction of 101 new trains, the complete refurbishment of our older trains and significant enhancements at our stations.”

The upgrade started in August 2020 and finished over the August bank holiday weekend.

As well as replacing trackside signalling equipment with in-cab train computer displays and control centre systems this now means that the future of signalling will belong inside the train.  In-cab computer displays will bring the latest information to drivers from one of 12 operating centres across the UK.  Improved signalling technologies will mean more reliable train journeys with fewer delays whilst also improving the overall experience for rail passengers.