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When it comes to railway projects, High Speed 2 (HS2), intended to form the backbone of Britain’s transport network, has attracted attention and controversy from the moment it was first proposed – yet almost-unnoticed, essential work to upgrade communications systems across predecessor network HS1 has been completed, with what is said to be minimal disruption at some of the UK’s busiest international rail stations.
In the project, HS1 contracted specialist Telent to upgrade all critical systems from legacy analogue to modern IP services at St Pancras, Stratford, Ebbsfleet and Ashford International.
The improvements are designed to protect the station and assets, grow the business through better management of station operators and provide the ability to meet future system demand. Around 176,000 hours were spent on the project overall, and thanks to early detailed planning, no unplanned operational impact was experienced. There was a 50-50 split between time spent on design and planning and on-site work.
“The stations on the HS1 route welcome thousands of passengers every day,” said HS1 head of programmes and sponsorship Owen Virrill. “Making sure our security and communications systems are of the highest quality and reliability is of maximum importance to us. Designing and delivering the renewals across all four stations with minimal interruption to our passengers and customers has been key to its overall success.”
Telent designed a new core station data network (SDN) and, using what it said was an industry-leading approach, drew on the latest practices and tools. This helped ensure the assessment and mitigation of any identified cyber threats and vulnerabilities across the estate. Telent also designed and installed CCTV, public address, public help points, electronic access control and IP telephony systems. The building management system which controls and monitors the station environment was updated as part of the project.
Station management system Mica was designed and installed to allow the station operation team to efficiently manage all refreshed systems from a central location during both normal operations and disruption.
As well as the train operating companies that were involved – which includes four at St Pancras International – Telent worked with security agencies in the international terminals at the stations, alongside local councils and heritage advisors, due to the historical significance of St Pancras. With passengers needing access 24 hours a day, the works had to be well planned and carried out with minimal disruption.
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Telent, working with main subcontractor Fourway Communications, applied what it called “robust” planning and testing practices to ensure all systems were successfully migrated and handed over to the maintainer while minimising the disruption to all stakeholders.
“This was a unique and complex project, as can be imagined on such a large-scale project at international stations including the iconic grade 1 listed St Pancras station,” said Telent’s programme manager of station comms, Dean Clarke. “There were a significant number of stakeholders to liaise with, and ensuring their individual needs and requirements were addressed as part the of project was crucial. We also had to deal with the complexities and disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re very proud to have renewed critical communications systems with minimal impact to station operations during an already difficult time, ensuring passengers continued to receive timely and accurate information,” he said. “This is key to an enhanced experience, and to ensure that passengers and staff stay safe and informed during their travels.”