The programme requires additional investment of £1.1bn over a 15-year
period from 2014, although NR expects the project to generate annual
savings of £200m by 2029, and £250m by 2044. NR's funding submission
for 2014-19, due to be handed to the Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR)
in September, includes provision for the additional investment required
during this period. More than 80% of the network will be controlled
from the new centres by 2029, with most of the transition taking place
between 2014 and 2024. Six of the centres are already operational or
will be completed before 2014.

nr-control-strategy.jpgThe new traffic management system will use proven software, with
automated route setting, and real time planning, prediction and
resolution of conflicts. There will be reconfigurable control areas to
handle traffic disruption, and a single operational information system,
which will provide real-time information to passengers and freight

The control system will be compatible with any signalling system, and
will therefore be able to operate with existing systems as well as

NR is currently in discussions with six shortlisted traffic management
suppliers, including Ansaldo STS, GE, Hitachi, Invensys, Signalling
Solutions (Alstom and Balfour Beatty), and Thales. An invitation to
tender is due to be issued in November and a final shortlist of three
suppliers will be announced by next January. NR will select one or two
winning bidders by the end of 2012.

The significant reduction in the number of manual signalboxes means the
number of signalling staff would fall from around 6000 to just 2000,
although NR insists this can be achieved through natural wastage. It is
now consulting staff and unions on the plans.

NR notes that the programme resumes a historical trend towards the
reduction in the number of signalboxes. British Rail closed around 100
installations per year, but the change in asset policies brought about
by privatisation reduced this figure to around 10 per year. The new
strategy would increase the rate of closures to around 50 per year.