Rail Industry Focus

01.07.14

Electrification opening up huge opportunities

Source: Rail Technology Magazine June/July 2014

Going into Control Period 5 (CP5) there has been a significant increase in investment funding for electrification on the UK’s rail network. Roger Dickinson, regional director of Infrastructure Projects, Southern, at Network Rail, discusses the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

A major area of investment within CP5 is in the growth and expansion of electrification across the UK’s rail network, but in order to deliver this programme effectively the supply chain capacity must be grown and employed efficiently.

This is according to Roger Dickinson, regional director of Network Rail Infrastructure Projects in the Southern region. Speaking at Infrarail 2014, he repeated the point that before CP4, there hadn’t been any significant new electrification for more than 20 years.

He said: “So, we need to go from the position of having a low base of skilled people and a low level of people in the business who can do the work to enable the electrification of the network. We understand that now, and can make this happen alongside our supply chain partners.”

During CP5, Network Rail is to deliver an additional 2,000 single track miles of new electrified line and is expected to increase the percentage of electrified railway on the network from 40% to 51% by 2019. No mean feat.

To achieve this goal, the programme has received significant cash flow with a total cumulative value in excess of £4bn, of which over £2bn is for the electrification element alone.

And, over the next five years, Network Rail will carry out work across a number of projects including the new electric spine – linking the East and West Midlands and Yorkshire with the south of England – to achieve its goals.

Other projects include EGIP, East Coast Main Line, TransPennine, Micklefield to Selby, North West Electrification, Walsall to Rugeley, South Wales Valley Lines, Great Western Electric Trains Programme (& Crossrail), Gospel Oak to Barking and electrification campaign renewals.

Collaborative frameworks

In order to deliver these programmes, it was agreed that a co-ordinated national approach with a prequalification and tender process would be conducted and packaged as frameworks to suit the individual regional requirements – optimising resources and materials along the way (the frameworks were covered in detail in the April/May 2014 edition of RTM).

“We need to resource the programme and keep it safe, and we need to do that considering a number of specific challenges that are part of our changing business,” said Dickinson. “We knew that we needed to engage with our partners and that’s what the frameworks have done. We at Network Rail cannot deliver this programme on our own. And we are doing this in order to deliver the outputs we require in the next five years.”

Six tender frameworks  have been set out with one in Southern, one in Wales and Western, one in Scotland and the north east and three in the Central region, that will be used to deliver the electrification programme over the next five years.

The suppliers to the framework are Carillion Powerlines, Costain and STEP UP Alliance, which is made up of Volkers, Murphy & Siemens, delivering the work in Scotland and the north east. In the central region ABC Electrification, an alliance comprised of Alstom, Babcock and Costain; Carillion Powerlines; and Balfour Beatty will take charge of the three frameworks there.

In Southern Amey Inabensa shall deliver the framework and Amey and ABC Electrification will deliver Wales and Western.

According to Network Rail, the benefits of this structure are that it greatly improves collaboration on safety, provides a defined work-bank of schemes to be delivered, supports investment in training and development of the resource pool, and improves innovation and reliability of technology.

Dickinson said: “There are objectives to creating this type of relationship. By having fewer suppliers doing more work, we can work much more collaboratively – making sure the conversations being had around safety continue to happen. Also because suppliers can plan five years of work, they can start to invest in people, infrastructure and technology – which gives us lots of value add.”

The nationally facilitated and coordinated strategy has received significant endorsement from the supply chain and industry groups, with Jeremy Candfield, director general of the Railway Industry Association, advocating the approach to the whole industry.

Safety is key

As well as working collaboratively with the supply chain, Network Rail has a clear consistent message with regards to electrification and safety: Everyone Home Safe Every Day.

“We have clear, consistent messages. There is no way we will shirk away from them. Network Rail will manage the supply chain and work with our partners to make sure that safety is our priority,” said Dickinson.

“It is not just something we say, it is something we do. At the same time it is a huge opportunity to give the supply chain what it has asked for many years: a greater security of the work line to give them a greater visibility looking forward of where its business is going and greater clarity around where  it should be investing.

“We have to achieve this by being economical with resources, keeping those resources safe and keeping passengers safe.”

Through the Rail Electrification Delivery Group (REDG), which grew out of the earlier award-winning Rail Electrification Development Programme (REDP), Network Rail is aiming to collaboratively identify and mitigate the risks associated with electrification by providing a single focus for national issues and effectively sharing best practice across the various programmes.

Since March 2013, REDG has helped support investment, innovation and resource development; established working groups to share best practice and jointly solve issues; and organised cross-industry learning events.

Dickinson had mentioned a need to grow capacity and employment effectively, and he is confident that through the frameworks the supply chain will be able to invest in upskilling its workforce. But Network Rail also has a large role to play.

“We have a lot of training capability with our academies and our various training centres, and we also have a facility where people can test technologies and ideas before we go live with it,” said Dickinson. “Although the industry is starting from nearly a standing position with regards to electrification, it is offering huge opportunities and potential.”

Opening the door for the future

RTM was told that one of the immediate benefits of electrification is to the environment and the carbon reduction benefits it brings. The programme will also give the network greater speed and is more reliable mode of transport.

In addition, electrification is opening up the door for future technology going forward.

“Many of the new IEP Hitachi trains are coming in with much better specifications in terms of acceleration and deceleration,” said Dickinson. “So we get the increase in capacity in being able to run faster trains on the networks with greater control. It is also moving the industry forward and that is the right thing to do.”

In addition to delivering these major electrification projects in CP5, the DfT requested in its High Level Output Specification that Network Rail should consider a further rolling programme of electrification for CP6 and beyond. Dickinson said: “We are talking about other schemes that we might be able to take on or bring forward in CP5 and we are talking with government about what more schemes we might do in CP6.

“If these went through we would be talking about between 60-70% of the network becoming electrified over the next 10 years. This would be a massive a step forward,” he concluded.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

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