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UK’s first self-drive mainline train takes passengers through Crawley

Automation will make this ‘core’ north-south connection across the capital the new heart of the region’s railway network.

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A driver engages Automatic Train Operation (ATO) in a Class 700 Thameslink train.

Govia Thameslink Railway passengers have ridden the UK’s first self-drive mainline train, on a journey passing through Crawley and arriving in Horsham, in a major milestone for the industry.

The Thameslink trains will in future use the technology, developed by Siemens and operating on Network Rail’s new digital signalling system, to run between London St Pancras and London Blackfriars at a rate of a train every 2-3 minutes – a frequency never before achieved on Britain’s railways.

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Automation will make this ‘core’ north-south connection across the capital the new heart of the region’s railway network.

It will serve 80 more stations than today on 12 separate routes, helping create capacity for up to 60,000 more people in each peak and speeding journeys for hundreds of thousands of passengers.

Delivered by the Government-sponsored £7bn Thameslink Programme, which also includes Britain’s biggest new train fleet and the £1bn upgrade of London Bridge station, it is a key element in GTR’s RailPlan20/20 modernisation plans.

GTR Engineering Director Gerry McFadden said:

“Govia Thameslink Railway is blazing a trail with self-drive trains which can run at higher frequency than manual operations. We are embracing digital technology to boost capacity through the heart of London, an historical bottleneck that has held back rail expansion across the south of the country.

“Self-drive technology also has great potential for the rest of the country’s rail network, particularly on congested routes, and could in future reduce the need for costly infrastructure projects.

“This is a world-first in terms of the technology being used and a UK-first for self-drive trains. It’s a fantastic achievement and a vital part of our RailPlan 20/20 plans to modernise Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and Gatwick Express on the busiest part of the UK rail network.

“We’ll always need a driver in the cab but this technology allows us to run more trains, more frequently than we could by driving the trains manually and for passengers, the trip will be as smooth as ever.

“Trains can run more frequently, which allows us to add 80 more stations to the Thameslink network across the south and east of England, speeding journeys for hundreds of thousands of passengers. Drivers and their union representatives have been fully consulted.”

The Siemens in-cab system uses optimum acceleration and braking on board the Class 700 Thameslink trains while maintaining a smooth ride for passengers. The driver remains in the cab to check the platforms at stations, close the doors, and manage the overall safe operation of the train.

Automatic train operation works with Network Rail’s new digital signalling system, which means trains can safely travel closer together through the central section of London with knock-on benefits for hundreds of thousands of passengers across the wider network.

Today’s trip from Peterborough to Horsham was a demonstration of the technology that will be put into use in 2019 when the service gradually increases to 24 trains per hour in each direction – the equivalent of a train every 2 to 3 minutes.

Twelve different routes will pass through the central section from places as far afield as Peterborough and Cambridge, and Brighton and Maidstone, meaning passengers will be less likely to need to switch to the Tube.

This automatic train operation is one of a series of innovations to significantly boost capacity on the most heavily congested network in southern and eastern England, creating space for 40,000 more commuters into London each morning and evening peak this May, and 60,000 by December 2019.

Martin Chatfield, Network Rail Project Director for High Capacity Infrastructure, said:

“Seeing the first UK mainline train running in ATO for passenger services is a truly momentous day for the Thameslink Programme High Capacity Infrastructure Team, and the wider industry teams that have been involved. This underlines the combined efforts of Network Rail, the supply chain, and the train operators over the past five years to reach this point. It not only proves the digital railway technology within the heavy rail environment, but it also demonstrates that an industry approach is the way to solving railway capacity issues in the future.”

Mark Ferrer, Operations Director Digital Rail, Siemens said:

“This brings to life the hard work and commitment from the entire Siemens, Network Rail and GTR team, collaboratively proving the operation of digital signalling and automation technology on a critical part of the railway infrastructure and realising the future of train control. This major milestone is the culmination of years spent testing in labs, on various test tracks and on the actual Thameslink Core with the new Class 700 Desiro City trains. The introduction of these technologies delivered in the UK, maintains Siemens’ position as a world leader in the application of leading edge solutions to the in train control systems, and new generation digital trains.”

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Charity

Brighton Marathon runners ‘on track’ to raise £80k for Chestnut Tree House

Around 12,000 people ran in this year’s Brighton Marathon, many running for various charities. Many ran for West Sussex based charity, Chestnut Tree House & are set to raise an incredible £80k!

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Two Brighton Marathon runners, raising money for Chestnut Tree House. Photo: Matt Pitts

A total of 199 people took part in the Brighton Marathon and BM10k for Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice on Sunday 15 April, and are set to raise a staggering £80,000 for the charity.

Runners from across Sussex and further afield set out from Preston Park on Sunday morning, and were supported by volunteer cheer teams along the route. 97 people ran in the 10k race for Chestnut Tree House and 102 took on the 26.2 mile course.

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The first runner to complete the Brighton Marathon 2018 for Chestnut Tree House was 48 year-old George Miller from Steyning, who ran the course in 3:18:38. It was a double success for George on Sunday, as not only did the first-time marathon runner beat his target time of 3:30, but he raised an incredible £1,120 – smashing his £750 fundraising target!

George Miller finished in a fantastic 3:18:38.

George said he was very proud to be able to represent Chestnut Tree House and is inspired by the amazing work they do for children and young people with life-shortening conditions and their families throughout Sussex.

First time marathon runner, Jaimey Willett. Photo: Matt Pitts

Other Brighton Marathon runners in Team Chestnut included Steve Bird, 39, from Burgess Hill, who ran it in 3:26:28; Chestnut Tree House Trustee, David Pegler, 50, who ran a personal best of 3:35:14; first-time marathon runner Jaimey Willett, 37, from Chichester (4:18:53); and Lee Kemp, who is already planning to run his fourth Brighton Marathon next year.

Lee, 35, said:

“When I visited Chestnut Tree House, I was moved by the care services they offer and inspired by the incredible work they do. The care they provide to local children and families is so important – that’s what I run for.

Lee Kemp is planning to run his fourth Brighton Marathon next year. Photo: Matt Pitts

“I was aiming for under four hours so am delighted with my time of 3:58:19. This was the third time I’ve run the Brighton Marathon for Chestnut Tree House, and I’m already planning to come back next year! The support around the course from the charity really helps encourage me, so I’d like to thank all the volunteers who came out to cheer us all on.”

In the BM10k race, 41 year-old Steve Allen was the first across the finish line for the charity with a time of 38:57.

All runners for Chestnut Tree House were given a warm post-race welcome at the charity’s tent in the Event Village, where they could meet some of the team, refuel, and recover with a complimentary massage from Niki Harrington of Symbiosis.

Steve Bird & his daughter, Amber.

Lauren Gowing, Events Fundraiser at Chestnut Tree House said:

“The event went really well and it was great to meet our runners and congratulate them on their achievement. We feel privileged that so many people chose to run for us. It’s wonderful to see the familiar faces of runners who have supported us for some time, but equally inspiring to meet people who have chosen to support Chestnut Tree House for the first time this year.

“We need to raise £6,850 every day to cover the cost of all Chestnut Tree House’s care services, both at the hospice and in families’ own homes. The £80,000 raised by our Brighton Marathon and BM10k runners will cover our care costs for over 11 days, which is incredible. Ultimately, support like this helps us to continue helping life-limited children across Sussex and South East Hampshire.

“We’d like to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who ran for us, as well as our supporters and volunteers who helped on the day. Thanks too to the Brighton Mini Club for showing their support during the cavalcade, Symbiosis for offering complimentary massages, and South Downs Water for donating water to our runners.”

Chestnut Tree House will soon have places available for next year’s Brighton Marathon on Sunday 14 April 2019. To find out more visit www.chestnut-tree-house.org.uk/brightonmarathon.

Some of the people running for Chestnut Tree House, pre-race.

Chestnut Tree House opened its doors in 2003 and currently provides care and support to 300 children with life-shortening conditions and their families across Sussex and South East Hampshire – at the hospice and in families’ own homes. The cost of providing this vital service is over £3.5 million per year, yet the hospice receives less than 7% central government funding so relies heavily on the generosity and support of the local community and events like the Brighton Marathon to continue providing vital care to children and families.

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