Railtrack demise scuppers ATP

Plans to install a basic form of automatic train protection on the West Coast mainline were put on hold when Railtrack went into administration, the company said this week.

Plans to install a basic form of automatic train protection (ATP) on the West Coast mainline were put on hold when Railtrack went into administration, the company said this week.

In his report on the Paddington and Southall rail disasters Lord Cullen said the sophisticated technology should be installed on the UK’s high-speed network by 2010.

But progress on the West Coast mainline has been slow so far. A test on part of the line – to bring a train to a halt from only 30mph using trackside signals – was completed in December. Another test using just radio signals to control a train is planned for later this year, but any further work will be put on hold until the government has found a buyer for Railtrack.

‘We will press ahead with testing,’ a spokesman told The Engineer. ‘We are not going to install [the technology] on the West Coast mainline in the near future. We can’t make any plans to do any of it because Railtrack is in administration and we can’t take any final decisions.’

Railtrack was also planning to have a version of ATP fitted to the East Coast mainline by 2005, but it is likely those plans will be suspended too. Other ATP tests have been carried out on the London to Bristol line.

European law will require the UK and other member states to introduce a fully blown version of ATP on all high-speed lines eventually. In its most advanced form, or level 3, the European Rail Traffic Management System as it is known, will control the movements of all trains on the network via satellite from a central computer.

This will remove trackside signals, and allow rail operators to run more trains faster and closer together, safely.

However, the system is likely to be extremely expensive and could cause long delays for passengers while it is installed.Meanwhile, the government was accused this week of planning to push Cullen’s deadline for ATP back to 2015, but a spokesman said the suggestion that there would be a delay was unfounded. He said that as yet the cost of the system was unknown.

However, the government is still expected to press ahead with plans to roll out the installation of the train protection and warning system on the slower lines. This will stop trains travelling below 75mph that have passed a signal at danger.

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