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“We have now placed some contracts to purchase some high-output plant for us to be able to build this system within that possession regime. That high-output plant will deal with all of those issues.

“The wire tension on the Great Western will be 14 kilonewtons – which, to an Englishman, is about a tonne and three- quarters – and that tension will be in the wire as we run it out. So, we won’t have any need to revisit the site once we’ve erected it; it’s built and we move on, in effect. That’s a huge challenge to us.”

He said planning the logistical side alone would be a massive task, explaining: “We’re going to be using an amalgam of suppliers and of component manufactur- ers; we’re going to be using different con- tractors who perhaps are not entirely elec- trifi cation familiar, certainly not with the UK system.

“Imagine, the high-output wiring train is going to go out every night, six nights a week, with just about two miles of wire on it – a mile of catenary and a mile of contact wire – as well as insulators, bits of tubing, switches, and so on. All of that has to be on the train in the right order, so that the London end components are available to the London end workers fi rst. It has to do that every day, on a different mile every night, six nights a week, 36 weeks a year.

“Now, behind that, we have components suppliers – perhaps six or seven of them – providing the insulators. We’ve got wire manufacturers involved; we have to get all of that stuff onto the tracks; how do we manage the logistics of that, as an indus- try?”

Dearman explained that he also has to fac- tor in the impact of Crossrail services from around 2019.

He said: “Our electrifi cation system is be- ing built with the capacity to power the suburban services out of Paddington to Newbury and Oxford, the main line ser- vices to Wales, and the Crossrail service. That will make the inner London area of the Great Western, at that time, the most power-consuming part of the traction net- work in the UK.”

Civil unrest

Of course, there is much more to an electri- fi cation scheme than just the wiring – the civils and construction aspect is often the biggest headache.

Dearman put it bluntly: “The Victorians

weren’t kind to us when they built the railways in the UK. They built tiny little holes for the railway to go through. The gauge is often not big enough for what we need to do: particularly tunnels and bridges.

“On the Great Western alone, there are 137 bridge structures which need work on them to enable electrifi ed overhead lines to go through. Of that 137, broadly speaking, a third are complete reconstruc- tions. We need to demolish the existing structure and put a new bridge there, to get space for the wires underneath. The civils element of the cost of a major elec- trifi cation scheme – in terms of bridges, tunnels, structures at stations – usually costs the same amount as the overhead line itself.

“That certainly is true of the Great Western. We’re looking at various ways of reducing that cost, by doing some clever things such as lowering the track to get more clearance, where that’s pos- sible; we’re looking at where bridges can be jacked up without reconstruction; rais- ing the deck; we’re even looking at what is fancily known as discontinuous electrifi ca- tion, which amounts to having a piece of dead wire under the bridge that the train just coasts past, and then back onto the live wire the other side.

“All of those solutions will be used to try to reduce the impact of that civils cost.”

Dearman continued: “Signalling is an- other major potential cost of electrifi cation schemes. If a track circuit and the signal- ling and control infrastructure next to the track are not immunised against the EMC effect of the 25kv, then the signalling has to be altered. And, depending on where you go in the country, that can range from a few changes to track circuit components, in some locations, to complete re-signal- ling in others. So, when we carry out an electrifi cation scheme, and the North West

Some key dates in Network Rail’s electrifi cation calendar

End of 2013 – Manchester to the WCML End of 2014 – Liverpool to the WCML, Huyton to Wigan End of 2015 – Preston to Blackpool End of 2016 – Manchester to Preston End of 2017 – GWML: Paddington to Bristol and Cardiff

The plans allow changes to the rolling stock used on the routes, including Class 350s on the Manchester to Glasgow route, Class 319s for local services between Manchester to Liverpool and in the Thames Valley, and the new Hitachi Super Express bi-mode trains for the GWML under the Intercity Express Programme.

is one such, very often we end up doing al- most a complete signalling renewal as well as the electrifi cation works themselves. It’s not simply a work of stringing wire above the track!”

Skills gap

On top of all of those problems, there are simply not enough trained workers to do everything required.

Dearman said: “We’ve been studying this for about the last two or three years, con- sidering what the gap is. There is a major shortfall right across the piece, at the engi- neer level, down to operatives on the tools. On the programme we’ve got now, we’re about 20-30% short, in terms of competent skilled people, but that ignores the fact that the existing electrifi ed network will con- tinue to absorb capacity on renewals, so in fact the actual gap is nearer 50%.

“We’re putting in place a plan to address that, by helping the industry and by pump- priming training and development for both linesmen and engineers.”

He said he was happy for Network Rail to help train people working for its contrac- tors, because ultimately they would gener- ally fi nd themselves working on Network Rail schemes anyway.

He added: “We need to address this togeth- er as an industry, and we’ve got plans to do our part.”

But despite these short-term challenges in implementing individual electrifi cation schemes, it is the long-term issues that keep Dearman awake at night.

He explained: “I just can’t shy away from this energy challenge. Energy is the big- gest issue we’re going to face in the railway industry over the next 20-25 years; I keep saying that. How do we manage the full-life cost of things like electrifi ed lines, where the lifespan is 50-60 years, but the busi- ness case analysis allows us to look only about fi ve in advance?

“There’s something wrong with the way we do business case analysis – it doesn’t match up with the long-term infrastruc- ture investments. That challenge is su- premely important to me.”

Peter Dearman


rail technology magazine Jun/Jul 11 | 85

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