‘Big railway’ must become more like the Underground

 

Hendy: ‘Obviously a good thing to do’

 

Sir Peter Hendy says that the ‘Digital Railway’ is the only way that the railway will be able to cope with the growing demands for capacity.

Addressing the UK Rail Summit in London last week, the Network Rail chair said a cultural change was required so that the railway becomes accustomed to operating the kind of service frequencies more commonly associated with a metro system.

The former Transport for London commissioner pointed out that digital signalling now enables 36 trains per hour to operate on London’s Victoria Line. “We’re going to have to run the big railway like that … I think I should call it Metroisation,” he said.

While he conceded that introducing this technology on the railway network would be more complicated than on the homogenous Tube, where all trains stop at all stations, he said the technology was essential even on lines with an infrequent service.

The technology that ought to be being debated is not electrification … but they way in which you run more trains on the track and get more out of it

He added: “The technology that ought to be being debated is not electrification … but they way in which you run more trains on the track and get more out of it and I think that that’s such an obviously good thing to do.”

Hendy said that new arrangements are being made with suppliers of digital signalling, “where they get paid on the successful output of the system, and not on the detailed specification they input”.

However, Professor Stephen Glaister, chair of the Office of Rail & Road, expressed caution. “The digital railway is clearly a way to increase capacity. I wonder whether it’s not being oversold,” he told the summit. “It may increase capacity usefully in certain circumstances, it will take a lot of time and cost a lot of investment.”

 

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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