Green light for Railtrack signalling

£10bn of infrastructure work is up for grabs

Railtrack’s announcement last week of £10bn worth of investment in railway infrastructure over the next 10 years is good news for suppliers of railway equipment, especially signalling and power supply kit.

In its network management statement Railtrack said it intends to spend £2.5bn on modernising signalling infrastructure and £300m on electrification supply equipment: overhead line, third rail, transformers, rectifiers, circuit breakers and substations. Less will be spent on track as much of the 32,000km of track is in modern form.

A further £40m will be spent on completing installation of secure driver to signalbox radio communication throughout the south east by the end of 1997.

There is also good news for rolling stock operators. Railtrack has committed itself to upgrading the West Coast Main Line (WCML) to enable it to carry 200km/h tilting trains, saving 17 minutes on a journey to Birmingham and 22 minutes to Glasgow. Adtranz, Fiat and GEC-Alsthom are expected to be in contention. And there is a commitment to working with the Piggyback Consortium on a new high capacity freight route from the Channel Tunnel to Scotland which could see up to 30 new freight trains a day, carrying articulated lorry trailers.

This will need specially-designed rail wagons, for which four groups: Thrall of the US with Babcock, Powell Duffryn Rail Projects; Finland’s Transtech; and Bombardier Prorail; are developing prototypes.

Railtrack is committed to introducing train protection to reduce the risk of trains speeding or passing signals at danger.

In the long-term, it aims to introduce transmission (radio)-based signalling (TBS) alongside conventional signalling technologies. The first installations of TBS are likely to be part of the WCML modernisation, and on the Great Western routes to Swansea between 2004-08 at a cost of £375m. TBS includes automatic train protection as a built-in feature. Two consortiums are likely to be vying for the WCML work: Transig, comprising Adtranz and Westinghouse and GEC/Alcatel/Siemens. Westinghouse is providing TBS for London Underground’s Jubilee Line.

Other resignalling projects expected to cost more than £25m include 160km on the Great Eastern lines from Liverpool Street (estimated at £220m); West Anglia route (£65m); Leeds station area (over £25m); three projects in the Midlands around Derby, Nottingham and Saltley (£105m); and Manchester Victoria and south Manchester (£75m).

Smaller suppliers expecting to win work include Leicestershire-based Transmitton, which specialises in control and monitoring systems for electricification. It hopes for work on the WCML, Thameslink 2000 and in the south west of England.

Nottingham based electronic document management system supplier Pafec has a £750,000 contract to supply a 160-user system to Railtrack for the WCML modernisation, and expects the size of system to be increased.