Looking back over several years of articles written for Rail Engineer covering the European Train Control System (ETCS), it is somewhat depressing to observe that none of the predictions for system introduction have come to fruition in the timescale stated or at the forecast price.

Right across the world, national railways have struggled to implement ETCS systems for many different reasons, which include technology, operating rules, cost, and train fitting. Only Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, and Norway have committed to nationwide roll out, and these are progressing. All have relatively small route kilometres compared to countries such as the UK, France, or Germany, and have a supportive regulatory regime.

The UK rollout has been markedly slower than many other countries with only the Cambrian trial site, the Thameslink central core, and the spur from the GW main line to Heathrow airport being operational. Papers given at conferences over the last decade have predicted a much greater implementation of ETCS than has been achieved. The much-publicised East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP) is making progress and the Finsbury Park to Moorgate section will be fully commissioned in 2024 with the rest of the route between Kings Cross and Stoke Tunnel (near to Grantham) taking until 2029 to become completely cut over. Thereafter, the master plan shows it will not be until the late 2030s that anywhere near a multi-route rollout will begin to happen.

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