The ‘Practical Electrification Challenge’ aims to give office-based professionals an understanding of electrification, in particular the practicalities of its installation. It is a Permanent Way Institution (PWI) initiative that is, in effect, a hands-on crash course in electrification construction. This year’s challenge took place in October at Network Rail’s electrification training school in Swindon.
It was organised by Garry Keenor of AtkinsRéalis, Simon Skinner of SPL Powerlines, who supplied the tools, and Noel Dolphin of Furrer+Frey, who supplied the material. Noel explained that the intention is to educate those who may take decisions about future electrification projects on the complexities and difficulties of the installation Overhead Line Equipment (OLE). The hope is that this will positively influence future electrification projects and result in better planning, safety, and reduced costs.
The PWI offered this three-day event free of charge to 25 participants who came from the Office of Road and Rail, Transport for Wales, the Rail Safety and Standards Board, and other rail businesses. Participants had diverse occupations which included: finance, researchers, civil engineers, and railway inspectors.
The first day was in the classroom. This included an overview of electrification and its benefits, real world installation, electrification design considerations, historic lessons learnt, and on-site assurance. There was also a powerful safety presentation from Bryant Latham who had survived a 25kV electric shock.
On the second and third days, participants erected a 130-metre wire run from structures spaced about 10 metres apart. To avoid the need to work at height from machines, the contact wire was erected at chest height. Participants were split into three groups to learn about:
- Installation of cantilevers.
- Measurement of heights and staggers.
- Switching and feeding.
- Installation of termination brackets.
- Registration of cantilevers and droppers.
- Installation of in-span insulation and neutral sections.
During two wet days, it took the trainees one and a half days to erect their wire run and half a day to dismantle it. Participants were perhaps glad to return to their dry offices, but no doubt welcomed their opportunity to get close-up, hands-on experience of OLE components. The PWI hopes to run two such events next year, each with 32 participants.