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UK Power Networks Services (UKPN Services) is an operating division of one of the UK’s leading electricity distribution network operators (DNOs), UK Power Networks, itself owned by the multi-national, Hong Kong-based Cheung Kong Group.

With a strong presence across a range of sectors throughout the UK, UKPN Services is responsible for looking after the power supplies to some of the country’s most high-profile locations, including London’s Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and City airports, and numerous hospitals and universities, commercial buildings and defence establishments.

In the rail sector, UKPN Services has successfully delivered a wide range of projects, from major infrastructure programmes to smaller asset replacement schemes. The company’s track record includes the High Speed 1 line, where UKPN Services undertook the initial design and development work, then funded the construction programme and now has a 50-year contract to run and maintain the assets installed. Current projects see UKPN Services at the heart of both Network Rail’s Thameslink, Great Western Electrification Programme and Kent Power Enhancements as well as London Underground’s sub surface lines modernisation scheme.

Thameslink Programme

The company’s work on the Thameslink programme typifies its approach to major projects. The route is one of a very few in the UK that requires a changeover from alternating current (AC) overhead traction supply in the north to direct current (DC) third rail traction supply in the south and therefore posed a series of technical and logistical challenges.

The core requirement of the Thameslink programme is to increase passenger flow into and out of central London by introducing more frequent and longer trains. To achieve this, UKPN Services designed and built a new DC substation close to Blackfriars station – Ludgate Cellars – the location strategically selected to ensure safe transition of trains from the AC overhead line supply to DC third rail supply.

UKPN Services was awarded a contract for the works in June 2008, the scope of which covered all elements of survey, design, supply, installation, testing and commissioning required to bring the new Ludgate Cellars substation into operational service. To facilitate the works, UKPN Services developed and co-ordinated a fully-integrated schedule, defining construction and test strategies that accommodated critical milestones within the Thameslink programme without disrupting the operational railway. The transformer/rectifiers were switched on in July 2009 to enable testing to commence. The Ludgate Cellar facility was fully commissioned two weeks ahead of schedule in November 2009.

Ongoing Success

As a result of the company’s continued success on the Thameslink project, it has worked on multiple phases of the scheme, including Key Output 1 (WP2 and WP3 – GRIP 3) and Key Output 2 (Williams Way GRIP 3-4 and HV DC Works GRIP 5-8). As the project illustrates, UKPN Services capabilities and expertise cover the spectrum of project requirements, allowing it to offer a completely integrated solution which spans from initial consultancy and design through each element of supply, engineering, construction, installation, testing, commissioning and, if required, on-going operation and maintenance. UKPN Services involvement in this significant programme is to end this year.

Commenting on the company’s work in the rail sector, Adrian Dixon, head of projects and business development, said: “It is our ability to offer clients a fully-integrated solution that really sets us apart. Offering full turn-key solutions, we focus not only on the delivery of our own core competencies to the highest possible standards of quality and safety, but also on the appointment and management of specialist sub-contractors to deliver other critical work packages.

“We are also able to draw on the skills and experience of our fully qualified and certified rail team, as well as colleagues from within the UKPN group who work across other industry sectors.

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At all times, though, we ensure that we design, develop and install schemes that are robust, safe and future-proof, ensuring that we continually provide value to our clients throughout the life of the asset.”

Early involvement

UKPN Services was also involved in the early evaluation stages for the Crossrail programme and delivered the conceptual design work for High Speed 2. Its experience from the High Speed 1 programme uniquely enabled it to verify the power distribution system designs against the results achieved on the UK’s first high speed line – which the company delivered on time, on budget and which has since operated with no major delays to the power network.

Amongst a number of mainline and metro projects, UKPN Services is currently working on Network Rail’s Power Distribution System programme in Kent, which is due for completion this year.

The work involves the renewal of switchgear and the upgrading of electrical infrastructure at 39 substations and 21 traction power huts – as well as increasing general resilience of the power distribution system. More than 50 kilometres of electricity cable will be designed and installed as part of the project, which once complete will allow an increase in train lengths to 12-car formations between London Charing Cross, Cannon Street and London Bridge to various stations in Kent.

As well as currently working in the east of the country, a consortium of UKPN Services and ABB is working to electrify the Great Western main line between Maidenhead and Cardiff. The Great Western Electrification Programme, planned to be completed by December 2017, will improve the efficiency of rolling stock, reduce the journey times and importantly lower the route’s CO2 emissions. The consortium is responsible for the turnkey delivery of the traction power system combining a mixture of 25-0-25kV feeder stations, auto transformers and all related control and protection equipment. Currently the consortium is undertaking the initial stage works to facilitate the running of test trains later in the year.

As it moves forward, the company is keen to apply the logic and lessons learned from earlier projects to schemes such as this. With basic data such as the route, size of trains and frequency required, it can design and develop concepts for evaluation, selecting the most appropriate equipment to ensure that a cost-effective solution is delivered to meet the exact needs of the client, throughout the whole life of the asset.

Adrian said: “We believe in giving the client the total picture for the power component, not just part of the picture, so that we can provide advice and guidance from the start of the project to the very end of its life. In addition to our offer of integrated solutions, whether that be with main line, metro or tram applications, we are also increasingly working as part of fully-integrated project teams, with our delivery teams now regularly co-located with their client colleagues to ensure fast and efficient working and issue resolution.

“This partnership approach is also evident in a current project that we are developing with Alstom, with whom we are evaluating a new inverter trial designed to capture and utilise regenerative energy from train braking. Through the trial, we plan to re-use the energy (that would otherwise be lost through heat) either to boost power to other trains or to feed back into the grid – effectively turning the motor into a generator.”


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