Pioneering rail technology gets tested in Wales

Pioneering rail technology gets tested in Wales

A major Network Rail scheme to improve the Cambrian line with one of the world’s most advanced signalling technologies moves a step closer to completion today.

For the first time, the new European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) will be fully tested on a live railway between Pwllheli and Harlech on 13 – 17 February using Arriva Trains Wales’ ERTMS-fitted class 158 passenger train fleet.

The Cambrian line in mid-Wales is the testbed for ERTMS in Britain and once the scheme is completed; it will become the first railway in the country to benefit from this new technology.

The test run is vital to determine the readiness of this new system before it is introduced in phases on the Cambrian line and subsequently across Britain to bring a more reliable railway, as well as the prospect of more trains to passengers.

In addition, the success of the exercise will see seven Arriva Trains Wales drivers become the first in the country qualified to operate ERTMS-equipped passenger trains.


Three signallers from Network Rail with their new skills in ERTMS will also be pioneering the use of the new system to manage train movements from the new signalling centre at Machynlleth.

Rob Carr, senior programme manager, Network Rail said: “ERTMS is the next frontier for Britain’s railway; it will significantly improve reliability and capacity on the network.  We have carried out a series of tests on the separate elements of the system but this exercise is the ‘full-dress rehearsal’ and a vital milestone for this programme.  The test-drive will give this system a thorough and stringent health-check before we launch it in stages on the Cambrian line and we hope to commission the first phase on Pwllheli – Harlech by Spring this year.”

Peter Leppard, director of operations and safety, Arriva Trains Wales said “This is a ground breaking project and we are proud to be delivering the first trial section of ERTMS on the British rail network.”

Key facts -

-      16 out of a total of 24 passenger trains have been fitted with ERTMS

-      3 special Network Rail locomotives have been fitted with ERTMS

-      215km of track is now fitted with ERTMS equipment including
        * 96 axle counters (a device that detects the passing of trains)
        * 346 eurobalise (an electronic transmitter)

-      1 brand new signalling control centre built at Machynlleth, with two brand new digitised signalling panels equipped with ERTMS

With ERTMS, the speed of train movement is continuously supervised and if the actual train speed exceeds the permitted speed, brakes will be applied automatically to stop trains before the danger point.  In addition, ERTMS also enables train drivers to exchange real-time information, via robust radio frequency, with signallers, so that communication of train movements is continuous.

ERTMS is a proven and tested signalling standard that has been adopted by countries including France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Italy and is also rapidly being adopted by other countries around the world.  In Europe, it is designed to replace the existing systems to create an interoperable cross-border railway, encouraging more opportunities for international freight and passenger travel by rail.

Trains between Pwllheli – Barmouth will be replaced with alternative services on 13 – 17 February for this exercise.  Passengers are advised to check the changes before they embark on their journey by contacting Arriva Trains Wales or the National Rail Enquiries.