Porterbrook makes new digital trains a reality for Heathrow Express

Posted: 22 January 2019 | | No comments yet

This installation of ETCS will be the first time that digital signalling has been installed on an existing fleet of electric passenger trains.


Porterbrook and Bombardier Transportation have signed a contract agreeing to fit digital signalling equipment and complete specialist on-board conversions to the Class 387 trains that are set to serve the Heathrow Express rail link.

The 12 specially converted trains will form a dedicated Heathrow Express fleet, part of a management contract announced in March 2018, to aid Great Western Railway in delivering some of the operational aspects of the airport service.

Porterbrook’s £11 million investment in the class 387 ‘Electrostar’ trains includes the installation of digital railway in-cab ‘ETCS’ signalling, as well as on-board conversions including improved seating, additional luggage space, at seat power, on-board TV and fast Wi-Fi.

The work will be completed by December 2019, meeting the Secretary of State’s commitment to replace existing rolling stock on the route with reliable, digitally enabled, Electrostar trains. The track access agreement has also been extended to confirm the Heathrow Express service will run until at least 2028.

Mary Grant, CEO of Porterbrook, said: “I am delighted that Porterbrook and Bombardier can lead the way in the fitment of digital signalling to Heathrow Express Electrostar trains that connect London to the UK’s gateway to the world. This first-in-fleet fitment will enable us to accelerate ETCS fitment on other Electrostar fleets, as and when our customers require it.”

Installing digital signalling to the Class 387 trains for use on the Heathrow Express route will result in ‘type approval’ from the Office of Rail and Road, enabling ETCS to be fitted to all Electrostar fleets.

Les Freer, Director of Heathrow Express, said: “The introduction of a fleet of Class 387 trains specially converted for airport passengers is one of the main benefits of our new partnership with Great Western Railway. This helps us build on our 20 year history of excellent customer service as we continue to offer the same fast and frequent non-stop service between Heathrow Airport and London Paddington for years to come.”

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