How intelligent power supply solutions help Network Rail’s signalling equipment operate reliably with reduced costs and carbon emissions.
Network Rail owns, operates and develops Britain’s railway infrastructure. The company has 14 routes across five Network Rail regions, including Eastern, North-West and Central, Southern, Wales and Western and Scotland’s Railway.
Specifically, Scotland’s Railway makes up over 17% of Britain’s rail network. Network Rail owns and maintains 4,715 bridges, manages 591 level crossings and has 4,326 signals and 359 stations in Scotland. As part of Network Rail’s decarbonisation programme, it has also electrified 325km of Scotland’s central railway network in seven major cities.
In 2020, Network Rail was the first rail company worldwide to commit to a decarbonisation programme and is working to transition from diesel to electric trains to achieve a net zero carbon railway by 2050 as part of the UK efforts to prevent climate change. Scotland’s Railway is on track for reducing the industry’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2045.
The fundamental role of Network Rail is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, which requires the careful management and delivery of thousands of projects every year as part of the Railway Upgrade Plan to grow and expand the nation’s railway network and respond to the tremendous growth in demand over the past 20 years. One of Network Rail’s most important aspects is ensuring a continuous supply of power to signalling systems; otherwise, the railway stops.
The UK rail industry is faced with increasing demand from passenger travel, the rail freight industry and the ongoing need for asset replacement of the network whilst ensuring safety, security and reliability. The Office of Rail and Road found that in 2021, nearly 60% of train cancellations were attributed to infrastructure and network management issues such as track and signalling. This figure hasn’t changed since 2019, so it’s clear that this issue needs to be addressed. To meet this challenge, rail operators require intelligent solutions to monitor, control and optimise the electrical assets on the rail network.
The signalling power supply comes onto the rail infrastructure from a Distribution Network Operator (DNO) network through a Principal Supply Point (PSP). A PSP for many train routes may also have an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to maintain the supply through transition to alternate power supplies. However, large-scale PSPs are often designed as a one-product-fits-all, and in many instances, can become excessively expensive. The need for a commercially effective, compact alternative with a smaller carbon footprint became increasingly apparent.
With this in mind, Network Rail partnered with Schneider Electric to trial its reliable Compact PSP (cPSP) in Derbyshire before successfully gaining the contract and installing at four locations in Scotland: Pitlochry, Blackford, Mosspark, and Insch. Schneider was a compelling choice due to its existing relationship with Network Rail and its trusted experience and expertise in the rail industry.
Schneider Electric installed its Compact PSP solution, which provides signalling equipment with the secure power required to operate reliably whilst offering the benefits of reduced size and the opportunity to access the system remotely. The technology built into the cPSP includes an electro-mechanical bypass of the Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) and internal system monitoring to Network Rail intelligent infrastructure, which is essential in meeting industry standards. It also includes an Insulation Monitoring Device (IMD) which monitors the insulation resistance of each outgoing feeder cable and notifies RADAR if a measurement falls below permitted limits.
A unique and crucial element of the Compact PSP is its small size, which gives engineers and Network Rail greater freedom in system architecture by facilitating the use of more cPSPs which allows greater use of short feeder runs. This allows supply points to be placed closer to the equipment, so electrical supply has less distance to travel, reducing losses and cable sizes. This makes it a more cost-effective solution. The size of the cPSP makes it ideal for placement in track-side areas where space is limited or for islands of signalling assets where a traditional PSP would not be suitable. The Compact PSP design can provide up to three outgoing signal power supplies from two incoming supplies – either two DNOs or one DNO and one alternative supply such as a generator. This eliminates the need for expensive civil engineering work and infrastructure to deliver a large PSP. Therefore, the cPSP significantly reduces costs and materials and adds to the ease of installation.
The solution is also virtually maintenance-free as its internal monitoring system enables remote status monitoring. The intelligent software can alert supervisors to detected faults before they develop into potential crises.
Schneider Electric’s Compact PSP solution provides a reliable and sustainable electrical power supply solution for Network Rail. It ensures a seamless performance of rail services by preventing train delays caused by signalling power problems, which is an ongoing pain point.
The solution can provide up to 80% in financial cost savings over its life cycle compared to the traditional PSP and be delivered at a fraction of the carbon footprint, saving 86%. The carbon footprint of the cPSP is only 10% of a full-sized PSP over its life span.
As the UK transitions to net zero by 2050, switching to greener solutions is crucial for meeting the rail industry’s climate goals.