Train drivers will not have to convert imperial measures into metric, Parliament has been told, amid concerns over Brussels banning miles and yards from railways.
It was revealed last week that train drivers in the UK were expected to calculate speeds and distances in both imperial and metric measurements until trackside mile markers are replaced by kilometre signs, under a new European metric signalling system.
However, the Commons Leader William Hague told MPs that drivers and signallers should concentrate solely on driving the trains, as their speedometers will automatically convert to imperial measurements.
Conservative backbencher David Nuttall criticised the sign replacement along the railways, saying that the UK was being “forced by Brussels bureaucrats” into doing so.
“Could we have a statement as to what this would cost and what the potential risks to staff and passengers will be?”
“I understand from the Department for Transport that this European traffic management system is meant to be a major improvement in safety on the railways,” said Hague.
“We already have one of the safest railways in Europe and this is expected to make the network even safer.
“Apparently, where it is installed it will use the metric system but when drivers operate in areas with a conventional system, their speedometers will automatically switch to imperial measurement.
“You will be relieved to hear that, and therefore in the UK the drivers of trains and signallers will not be required to convert units between imperial and metric. They will be able to concentrate on driving the trains.”
The move is part of the installation of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) on selected routes between now and 2030.
A risk analysis by the Rail Safety and Standards Board said that going back and forth between the two systems could be confusing for staff during the transition period.
The UK’s Department for Transport applied to Brussels for an opt-out from the metrication directive in 2012 but was declined.