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Electrification – Driving innovation and collaboration

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The railways of Great Britain are on the cusp of change. The next decade will see the introduction of a fleet of new high speed trains delivered by the Inter City Express programme, new signalling and control technologies revolutionising train control and traffic management, and a new telecommunications network.

In addition to these three major changes, the industry is embarking on the largest programme of electrification ever undertaken in the UK to provide faster, greener, cleaner and more reliable services for passengers and freight companies.

Each of these programmes will be inspiring to be involved in, however it is the opportunity and challenges they present the industry
that is perhaps most exciting. They will drive innovation and smart thinking further and faster in order to ensure that, at the end of the day, they deliver a world-class railway.

The ultimate challenge?

Railway electrification projects are, in many ways, the ultimate in change projects. They bring together all the railway disciplines to change the infrastructure so it can deliver significantly improved levels of service through new rolling stock, higher speeds and greater capacity.

In order to ensure that the industry is ready to meet the challenge of achieving greater value for money, right first time outputs and giving programme certainty, Atkins has spent the last year or so investing in its engineering and design expertise and enhancing tools and processes. This effort has put the company at the forefront of design production for Overhead Line Equipment (OLE) and Power Distribution.

A suite of OLE tools (called TADPOLE) has built on the experience of the last fifteen years and now enables much greater levels of productivity to be achieved with a higher degree of accuracy than would have been possible using traditional methods. These tools are aligned to fully meet the requirements of both implementation contractors and asset maintainers to give those key stakeholders what they need.

Meeting design requirements

Railway operators and infrastructure owners are required to design new and existing railways to deliver an infrastructure based on a specific operational timetable. This calls for accurate specification of the power supply arrangement, including the distribution system and locations of feeder and sub stations.

The railway infrastructure also has to be designed and operated within operational limits specified in National, European and International Standards. This will ensure that the designed railway will provide necessary electrification performance for the train operator and ensure a sustainable, safe environment for passengers and maintainers.

Additionally, there is now a requirement within Europe and the UK to provide on-train metering of energy. In partnership with Birmingham University, Atkins has developed its Multi-Train Simulator (MTS). This undertakes power systems analysis across the full range of power and EMC-related assessments required to deliver a safe system to specification.

The electrification market in the UK has never been so exciting with new technology being rolled out in products, system and installation methods. With a secure programme of investment ahead, the time is right for those organisations with a role to play in delivering the programme to collaborate and share best practice. This will ensure that the industry as a whole delivers the game changing programme that has been provided for CP5.

Report by Ben Dunlop, electrification director for Atkins


  1. Its also best that the Rural lines in Norfolk (Norwich-Sheringham/Cromer, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Peterborough & Ely), Suffolk (Ipswich-Felixstowe, Lowestoft, Peterborough, Cambridge, Ely & Great Yarmouth), the Marks Tey-Sudbury line and GOBLIN (Gospel Oak-Barking Line) to be electrified (25kv AC Overhead) in the future for replacing the Diesel Trains and introduce the Class 317’s on the East Anglia Rural lines.


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