Why is Crossrail so late?

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Yellow Fang

Yellow Fang

Legendary Member
Location
Reading
For clarity, ETCS is the bit currently being implemented on the line from Hayes to Heathrow, and which will eventually be implemented on everything West of Paddington to take over from ATP. All this is above ground.
The chap I was talking to was of the opinion ETCS probably would not be implemented on all the track west of Paddington before we retire. I don't know exactly how old he is but I am 53.

CBTC is being implemented in the tunnel. ETCS needs radio links which can't be established in a tunnel, so CBTC is used again. This is similar to ETCS, but with a bit more experience of moving block signalling, as very tight headways are desired where the infrastructure cost of tunneling (sometimes undersea tunneling) is necessarily high. i.e. it will cost you a lot of money to build a big tunnel, so only really worth it if you run lots and lots of trains down it.
We have a simulator that can be converted for Paddington to Heathrow service, not Crossrail. That goes through a tunnel as it approaches Heathrow. It has ETCS. I am pretty sure it does not have CBTC, unless it is somehow built into the ETCS system. I had never heard of CBTC before this week.
 

BrumJim

Forum Stalwart (won't take the hint and leave...)
The chap I was talking to was of the opinion ETCS probably would not be implemented on all the track west of Paddington before we retire. I don't know exactly how old he is but I am 53.



We have a simulator that can be converted for Paddington to Heathrow service, not Crossrail. That goes through a tunnel as it approaches Heathrow. It has ETCS. I am pretty sure it does not have CBTC, unless it is somehow built into the ETCS system. I had never heard of CBTC before this week.
Yes, there is a tunnel on the approach to Heathrow that hopefully has stopped collapsing. OK, it only did it once during the build, but I'm still going to keep mentioning this. There is some fiddle to get ETCS working in this tunnel which you can do because it isn't that long, but I'm not involved in that area, so don't know the full details. But for the Elizabeth Line section, CBTC is essential.

Yes, given the railway timescales, I wouldn't expect the Great Western Main Line to be ETCS before I retire either. The only accelerator for such work would be a major crash (fatilities) and public enquiry, but I think TPWS is good enough to prevent these.
 

mjr

Comfy armchair to one person & a plank to the next
Maybe I've found a reason to blame Sadiq Kahn. ETCS is quite a new system. Elements of it were not very well understood. But it is European, so Sadiq Kahn is unlikely to suggest it be dumped.
That's isn't any part of it. ETCS is used because it's the best available, not only European. I think it's also specified for Trans-Pennine, while East-West will be ETCS-ready, and those are in staunchly Leave areas!
 

BrumJim

Forum Stalwart (won't take the hint and leave...)
Was specified before we even had the referendum, so didn't really have a choice at that point. We could change, but it would cause massive additional costs and delays.
 

mjr

Comfy armchair to one person & a plank to the next
Was specified before we even had the referendum, so didn't really have a choice at that point. We could change, but it would cause massive additional costs and delays.
East-West was specified without it (only to be ready to upgrade to it) before the referendum, so I am unsure of that.

Why spend money on a second-best system just to be able to say it was invented here... oh, wait, that's most of Brexit!
 

BrumJim

Forum Stalwart (won't take the hint and leave...)
East-West was specified without it (only to be ready to upgrade to it) before the referendum, so I am unsure of that.

Why spend money on a second-best system just to be able to say it was invented here... oh, wait, that's most of Brexit!
Strangely, working on EWR signalling at this very moment (not in any design element, though). EWR is a bit of a fiddle, as it was argued that it is an existing railway, just mothballed. Practically it is not predicted to have the sort of utilistion that warrants ETCS, so to keep a lid on costs, classic signalling is used, but with EU spec axle counters rather than old-school track circuits.

Certainly agree that inventing a new ATP system just for the UK would be ridiculous. You would end up with an inflexible single-supplier system that would leave you at serious risk of obsolescence.
 
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Yellow Fang

Yellow Fang

Legendary Member
Location
Reading
What's so special about Crossrail? Oh yes. It's for Londoners. So that makes it special.
How much has it cost? How much is it over budget? Non of that matters. It's for Londoners.
Up here we've been fighting for years to get a disused junction reopened. This would make a vast difference. How much is needed? £750,000. Guess what? There's no money. Why? Because it's all been spent on Crossraill. And that is official. Straight from Dept for Transport.
But it's for Londoners so that makes it alright.
Why are we spending vast sums on HS2? It's for Londoners. so that they can live where houses are cheaper but still get into the office.
Rail improvements north of Birmingham? Forget it. There's no money. It's all been spent on Londoners.
I think I sympathise with this. If you have a certain amount of money that can a) make a good system a bit better, or b) greatly improve a poor system - better to go for b).
 

Oldhippy

Über Member
Because it is making a lot of consultants and quangos very wealthy.
 
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Yellow Fang

Yellow Fang

Legendary Member
Location
Reading
East-West was specified without it (only to be ready to upgrade to it) before the referendum, so I am unsure of that.

Why spend money on a second-best system just to be able to say it was invented here... oh, wait, that's most of Brexit!
Because the best system is very expensive and not ready perhaps?
 
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Yellow Fang

Yellow Fang

Legendary Member
Location
Reading
ETCS can be many flavours. Level 1 is fixed block, level 2 is fixed block with track to train telemetry. Only level 3 is moving block, and I'm not sure that anyone has managed to put level 3 into service anywhere yet.

CBTC is a bit tricky, particularly if you are overlaying it with another signalling system. Turkey had a lot of problems with it in the Marmaray tunnel with long delays.
Is CBTC a system for underground trains? Is the route to Abbotswood underground? I thought ETCS was specified for the new underground section between Paddington and station near Liverpool Street.

Other things I don't understand:
  • What is the really expensive bit with ETCS, the hardware or the software?
  • Why if ETCS is an established system is there so much effort getting the software to work? Why can't you just buy the software and configure/tweak it a bit?
  • If the three systems work independently, why can't the three systems be installed to run side by side? One system takes up where the other system leaves off. If you have a system that has to translate between three protocols, using different equipment, I can see that would be difficult.
 

BrumJim

Forum Stalwart (won't take the hint and leave...)
Is CBTC a system for underground trains? Is the route to Abbotswood underground? I thought ETCS was specified for the new underground section between Paddington and station near Liverpool Street.

Other things I don't understand:
  • What is the really expensive bit with ETCS, the hardware or the software?
  • Why if ETCS is an established system is there so much effort getting the software to work? Why can't you just buy the software and configure/tweak it a bit?
  • If the three systems work independently, why can't the three systems be installed to run side by side? One system takes up where the other system leaves off. If you have a system that has to translate between three protocols, using different equipment, I can see that would be difficult.
CBTC is definitely the tunnel system.

ETCS cost is a bit bigger than just hardware and software. The costs are in testing, development, modification, risk assessment, i.e. the site-specific stuff.
ETCS is existing in only that the specification has been developed and written. If you want to look, it is here. But you will need to fine the EIRENE specifications too. If you wanted to develop your own system, then you've got to write all this stuff again, and go through the same refinement stage that this spec has gone through over the years. The sort of costs that will make Track and Trace seem like fantastic value for money.
The three systems are designed to work side by side, with a complex driver interface which only shows the signalling system in use at that point in time. This is despite some industry push-back. Signalling has long relied on simple electro-mechanical displays to show the status. Making this purely software and screen-related has to show performance and fail-safe features. Last thing you want is a blue screen of death or even worse, frozen display showing everything is OK when it isn't.
However the real problems are in the transitions. The first step was static transitions, i.e. train comes to stop at a station, and then changes over before it sets off. The future plan was for dynamic transitions.
 
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Yellow Fang

Yellow Fang

Legendary Member
Location
Reading
EU-funded projects
1. ETCS shall be installed in railway infrastructure projects receiving financial support from European funds when:
(1)
installing the train protection part of a CCS subsystem for the first time; or
(2)
upgrading the train protection part of a CCS subsystem already in service, where upgrading changes the functions or the performance of
the subsystem.


So did Crossrail get any EU funding?
 
OP
Yellow Fang

Yellow Fang

Legendary Member
Location
Reading
CBTC is definitely the tunnel system.

ETCS cost is a bit bigger than just hardware and software. The costs are in testing, development, modification, risk assessment, i.e. the site-specific stuff.
ETCS is existing in only that the specification has been developed and written. If you want to look, it is here. But you will need to fine the EIRENE specifications too. If you wanted to develop your own system, then you've got to write all this stuff again, and go through the same refinement stage that this spec has gone through over the years. The sort of costs that will make Track and Trace seem like fantastic value for money.
The three systems are designed to work side by side, with a complex driver interface which only shows the signalling system in use at that point in time. This is despite some industry push-back. Signalling has long relied on simple electro-mechanical displays to show the status. Making this purely software and screen-related has to show performance and fail-safe features. Last thing you want is a blue screen of death or even worse, frozen display showing everything is OK when it isn't.
However the real problems are in the transitions. The first step was static transitions, i.e. train comes to stop at a station, and then changes over before it sets off. The future plan was for dynamic transitions.
Blimey. I used to be a computer programmer. At least we could sell our customers working software and hardware, not just a specification for them to build it themselves. The specification I used to work off most often was a protocol document for controlling video servers. It was surprising how each video server vendor implemented the same protocol slightly differently.

Windows is a lot more reliable than it used to be, but it still does odd things from time to time. I still see blue screens of death on some of our older simulators.
 

BrumJim

Forum Stalwart (won't take the hint and leave...)
EU-funded projects
1. ETCS shall be installed in railway infrastructure projects receiving financial support from European funds when:
(1)
installing the train protection part of a CCS subsystem for the first time; or
(2)
upgrading the train protection part of a CCS subsystem already in service, where upgrading changes the functions or the performance of
the subsystem.


So did Crossrail get any EU funding?
Probably, but the new part of Crossrail is fitted with CBTC.

ETCS is being fitted to the Heathrow airport link for a different reason. The problem with fitting ETCS is that every train operating on the route needs to be fitted with ETCS. With Heathrow spur, the only trains travelling on this are Heathrow Express, Heathrow Connect and Crossrail, with Crossrail taking over from Heathrow Connect. And maybe a leafbuster train or two. For all other routes, you have to consider any freight loco or department train that might want to go along that route. So since ETCS is the future, Heathrow spur is a good place to start.
 
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