Railtrack’s Commercial Director, Richard Middleton, named GEC Alsthom on May 15 as preferred bidder for a contract to develop, test and install on the West Coast main line transmission-based signalling conforming to Level 3 of the European Train Control System. He expected a contract worth ’between £0·5bn and £1bn’ to be signed on July 1.

GEC Alsthom is joined by Siemens and Alcatel (Stuttgart) acting as subcontractors. Siemens and GEC Alsthom together won a contract in April 1996 to develop a TBS concept for WCML under a four-stage plan that would have seen one of two rival systems installed in 2002-04 (RG 9.95 p571). Railtrack aborted this twin-track strategy in September 1997 by rebidding the whole job as a single contract.

The primary objective is to have a Level 3 moving-block train control system, using GSM-R digital radio as the data highway between trackside and trains, in operation between Crewe and London by May 2005 when Virgin’s tilting trains are due to start running at 225 km/h. The proposed train control system provides automatic train protection - mandatory above 200 km/h - and will increase line capacity allowing Virgin to double inter-city frequencies under its Passenger Upgrade 2 agreement with Railtrack (RG 12.97 p844).

Elsewhere, speeds will not exceed 200 km/h. GEC Alsthom expects ’progressive introduction’ of trackside and train equipment ’throughout the period of refurbishment of the WCML route until 2006.’ By then, TCS is to cover most of the WCML - which is actually a 900route-km network linking London with Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. Meanwhile, GEC Alsthom must develop and install processors and cab displays on around 1000 locos and multiple-units.

Pockets of conventional lineside signalling will remain. A contract for conventional resignalling at Euston, the WCML terminus in London, was expected to be announced by the end of May, and Manchester South is pending. These are not covered by the TCS contract, though GEC Alsthom must define interfaces.

Control centres for the WCML are also outside the TCS contract. Railtrack is developing plans for nine Network Management Centres covering Britain, and if this happens, regional NMCs at Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow are likely to supervise the WCML.

HRailtrack is to enter into a ’partnering agreement’ with Brown & Root to manage the £2·2bn WCML modernisation, now due to be completed in 2006 including the train control system. The two companies will form an integrated project management team, sharing risks and rewards but not revenue or regulatory risks. Brown & Root has been involved in the WCML since 1994. o