NR says the first stage will cover the most-used types of locomotive and what it learns from this will be used to inform the fleet roll-out from 2022 onwards. The ultimate objective is to equip around 750 locomotives.

Siemens will install its Trainguard 200 ETCS on-board system on the locomotives. This will conform to ETCS Level 2, Baseline 3 system to align with NR’s proposals for deploying ETCS on the rail network.

“The design, testing and approvals stage for each class of vehicle starts now and work to retrofit the entire freight fleet will begin in 2022 and continue through to Control Period 7 (2024-2029),” NR says. Around 2400 drivers will require training, and Siemens and NR will support six rail freight operators during this time. The programme will create more than 150 skilled engineering jobs.

The installation of ETCS forms part of Britain’s digital railway programme. The government will provide £450m in funding for digital railway schemes, as part of its national productivity investment fund.