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New rail system to signal fewer delays; pounds 45m radio-based plan could see faster trains.

Byline: ERYL CRUMP

DELAYS on train services in North Wales could be reduced by 20% if a new pounds 45m sign alling system is a success.

The Strategic Rail Authority is to test the radio-based system along the Cambrian Line in mid-Wales in three years time.

It could mean trains running faster, with fewer delays.

If successful the system will be introduced on to other lines,including the North Wales coastal route.

The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) will control trains on the Cambrian line, with radios transmitting instructions to drivers from a central base at Machynlleth.

An SRA spokesman said: ``The Cambrian trial is on target to start in 2007 with its completion planned for 2008.

``The system will replace the existingRETB (Radio Electronic Token Block) system, which is due for replacement. Signals along one short section of the track not currently RETB controlled will be removed and the entire 136-mile route will be controlled from one site.

``Transponders,known as balises, will be fitted to track allowing trains to update their on-board equipment and new rules and procedures will be introduced allowing trains to travel faster.`` The system will later be rolled out to the North Wales main line from Holyhead to Chester, with the branch line from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Llandudno likely to be the first. The spokesman said the line is due to be resignal led and the new system will be introduced without line side signals.

He said: ``ERTMS is a standard train control system that is best installed as lines are resignalled,as it reduces the need for costly line side signalling,provides Automatic Train Protection (ATP) and provides a better environment for the driver.

``It can also improve railway punctuality or capacity by making it easier to recover from delays.

``At present trains on the North Wales lines are restricted to a top speed of 90mph because of the time allowed for drivers to stop after sighting a signal.

``But the new system has signals in the train cab, so you could have 100mph or faster. The system will allow more flexibility in the case of late-running trains.''

Installing the system on the Cambrian lines is estimated to cost about pounds 45m. Installing the necessary equipment in trains is likely to cost about pounds 250,000 per unit.

Rail watchdogs have welcomed the investment A spokesman for the Rail Passengers Council said: ``Fitting this device on the Cambrian lines will allow train companies to improve services on this vital route and it makes sense to spread it to other lines used by Arriva Trains Wales, the holder of the Wales rail franchise.''
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 21, 2004
Words:440
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