The FTN/GSM-R Programme is the largest telecoms project ever to be undertaken on Britain's railways. The project is providing a new, high functionality, digital radio system that will allow train drivers to communicate directly with signallers across the entire network. This is GSM-R (Global System for Mobile communications
Railways). At the same time, the project is renewing the entire line-side fixed telecoms network that supports all of the railway's daily telecoms needs. This involves the installation of around 15,000 km of optical fibre and copper cables, installing around 3,000 new transmission sites, over 2,250 new radio sites, 7 new operational telephone exchanges and migration of circa 50,000nr operational circuits. This is FTN (Fixed Telecom Network).
Construction of the Railway Communications System (the collective name for FTN/GSM-R) will implement nationally standardised equipment, significantly improving reliability and replacing ageing infrastructure. It will provide a modern, hightly structured and robust fixed telecoms network designed to meet the operational needs of tomorrow's railway and cater for Network Rail's business communications requirements.
Drivers, signallers and trackside workers will be able to communicate directly and securely on a modern digital radio system over all Network Rail controlled infrastructure used for passenger operations, including tunnels and cuttings. This will allow any problems potentially affecting the line, e.g. trackside fire, line fault, safety incidents etc to be quickly communicated to all involved, giving greater advance warning and faster response tiems. This would class communications system offers international compatibility with the European high-speed rail network. It will provide a platform for the introduction of the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS), known to improve efficiency and significantly increase the rail traffic capacity.