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CIVIL ENGINEERING & CONSTRUCTION


The future’s bright


David Wilson, Blackfriars communication manager for Network Rail, updates RTM on the record-breaking solar panel installation at the station.


T


he largest bridge solar panel installation in the UK has now passed the halfway point, with construction having taken a break for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. In the autumn, contractors Balfour Beatty will continue construction to complete the breathtaking project.


RTM spoke to Network Rail’s David Wilson about work so far and what the solar spectacle would mean in terms of industry attitudes to renewable energy.


Olympic lull


He said: “Construction work at Blackfriars is ramping right down over the Olympics, so there’ll be a lull over the next few weeks, then we ramp back up after that and will install the fi nal panels and actually get them all commissioned and generating electricity over the autumn and winter.”


The break has been planned to ensure work does not affect people getting to and from venues during the event.


Wilson, speaking to RTM during the Olympics, explained: “It’s hugely busy in London at the moment; it’s a normal working week plus we’ve got tens of thousands of spectators moving around everywhere. We just want to make sure the railway runs as well as it possibly can do.”


The project is progressing “smoothly” so far, he said and added: “We’ve achieved a huge amount.”


Key milestones include running the fi rst 12-carriage trains through the station, new entrances on the south bank and step-free access for passengers.


“We’ve got more work to do on the solar panels, on the bridge itself, the structure of the bridge, some strengthening work.


The other


key thing we’ve got to do is get the scaffolding and hoardings down on either side of the bridge and install all the glazing along there, so you get that view as you stand on the platforms, waiting for your train, across the river Thames.


“There are some pretty big pieces of work to do over the autumn and winter, but all the passenger benefi ts are now delivered,” Wilson said.


Benchmarking the best


Such a massive project to install solar panels and generate energy to help power the station will undoubtedly impact on Network Rail’s future approach to work, and it may even prompt the rest of the industry to get on board with the environmental agenda.


Wilson said: “For us, this is a really important benchmark. We’ve never done anything with solar of this scale on the rail network, so we’re looking at Blackfriars as a benchmarking exercise. We can see how it performs, how much we’re generating; we know it’s going to make the station more environmentally friendly, we know it’s going to make it cheaper to run, but we’re interested in seeing exactly how that plays out.


“We can use it as a benchmark, as we look to increase the use of renewables on the rail network.”


The project would provide a “huge” amount of i 36 | rail technology magazine Aug/Sep 12 More stories like this at:


www.railtechnologymagazine.com/ civils-and-stations


Above: The bridge during construction. Top: A CGI vision of the fi nished product.


useful information that can be used to cascade such schemes throughout the industry, he added.


Towards microgeneration


Concerning Network Rail’s immediate plans to promote the use of solar panels, Wilson said there were a couple of other projects in the pipeline. He also pointed to the panels on the roof of the new King’s Cross western concourse, as well as the potential for microgeneration on the western route out of Paddington.


This would cover individual signal elements along the line, with panels generating the power to run these elements.


He said: “That’s something we’re looking at.”


“The thing about Blackfriars is it was already being rebuilt, that scheme was there,” Wilson concluded. “We’ve got Balfour Beatty on site so we may as well look, while we’re there, to make as many upgrades as we can to make the station as effi cient and as environmentally-friendly as possible.”


FOR MORE INFORMATION www.networkrail.co.uk/blackfriars


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