Giles Watling, MP for Clacton, has welcomed the launch of the Digital Railway Strategy, which will help create a railway fit for the twenty-first century.

The strategy, launched on 10th May by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP and Network Rail Chief Executive Mark Carne, will ensure that all new trains and signalling are digital or digital ready from 2019 – making journeys faster, more punctual and safer for passengers. These innovations will improve the lives of millions of passengers across the country, and will give a huge boost to the economy. New digital rail technology will:

  • safely allow more trains to run per hour by running trains closer together
  • allow more frequent services and more seats
  • cut delays by allowing trains to get moving more rapidly after disruption
  • enable vastly improved mobile and wi-fi connectivity, so that passengers can make the most of their travel time and communities close to the railway can connect more easily

Moreover, digital rail technology will ensure the best use is made of the almost £48 billion being invested in maintenance, modernisation and renewal on the rail network between 2019 and 2024, which includes new and replacement signalling. The government has also earmarked £450 million specifically for digital railway schemes.

Digital signalling will mean drivers are provided with real-time information about the network and the location of other trains. They will no longer have to rely on signals by the side of tracks, which will mean fewer train services held up, reducing stop-starting. And in the event of disruption, the digital railway will advise signallers of the best option to get services back to normal and help the network recover more quickly.

Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary, said:

“We are investing in the biggest modernisation of our railway since Victorian times to deliver what passengers want to see – faster, more reliable and more comfortable journeys.

“Passenger numbers have doubled in recent years – which means we need to invest in new technology to help deliver the reliable and frequent trains that passengers want.

“Investing in a railway fit for the twenty-first century will help the UK become a world leader in rail technology, boosting exports and skills. As we celebrate the Year of Engineering, this is a chance to show young people how digital innovation is opening doors to careers that will shape the future of travel.”

Mark Carne, chief executive, said:

“Not since the railway transformed from steam to diesel in the 1960s has a technological breakthrough held such promise to vastly improve our railway for the benefit of the millions of people and businesses who rely on it every day.

“The age of a digital railway has today moved from the drawing board and into reality as we reveal a blueprint that will improve the lives of millions of passengers and freight users across the country. Today’s commitment is to adopt and roll-out new digital technology, for both trains and track, that will deliver faster more frequent services for passengers and businesses alike, giving our economy a massive boost.

Giles said:

“I am pleased that the Government and Network Rail are taking the modernisation of our railways so seriously. This strategy, once implemented, will have a positive impact on our local rail services, and it is encouraging that traffic management technologies are going to be delivered to enable services to get back to normal more quickly following any disruption through Greater London and Essex.

“I do, however, recognise that it will take some time to implement these positive changes, and I will continue to work with Greater Anglia and the Department for Transport to improve the situation for passengers as soon as possible.”