Rail Industry Focus

01.07.12

Green innovation at Sloane Square

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Jun/Jul 2012

Energy use at Sloane Square station has been cut in half in an innovative, experimental, award-winning project by London Underground’s asset maintenance team – and the ideas are now being rolled out across the rest of the LU estate. RTM hears more from London Underground’s head of stations and structural maintenance, Chris Skuse, and project manager Lucy West, an M&E asset engineer.

London Underground is the biggest user of electricity in the capital – and is on a mission to cut its usage.

But with further efficiency gains tough to find on the traction side, attention has been focusing on the infrastructure instead, especially the stations.

Rather than trying things out piecemeal, however, the asset performance directorate decided to pick one station as a test bed, and turn it into a “mini science museum”, as Chris Skuse, London Underground’s head of stations and structural maintenance, puts it – seeing what technologies and concepts worked best, and worked well together. After the trial, the team could assess the results, and roll out the best ideas to the other twothirds of stations that London Underground is responsible for.

The concept was inspired by a similar project by SNCF in France.

Skuse said: “We decided that if we were going to create our own ‘mini-science museum’ station to test these ideas, we needed to pick one with all the different types of assets we could work on. We decided that Sloane Square was the one.”

Demography was another plus point for picking that station, he said, with its typical passenger more likely than most to prioritise green issues and take an interest in what was going on at the station.

New thinking

The staff said they loved the idea of being a special test bed for new ideas, Skuse said, and the project team led by Lucy West looked at virtually everything in the station that sucked up electricity: lighting, heating, signage, escalator use, communication systems, CCTV, and so on.

The team avoided installing anything so cutting edge or unique that it would be tough to easily reproduce at other station. As Skuse put it: “We didn’t want something from Tomorrow’s World that we wouldn’t be able to roll out to the rest of the railway for years.”

Explaining some of the successes of the trial, Skuse told RTM: “The lights we’ve used effectively save 60% of the power. We’ve been able to use LEDs on the signage that reduce the power use by at least 50%.”

With many Underground station lights in near 24-hour use – as the stations are still accessed by maintenance staff at night when Tube services don’t run – extending their life to reduce maintenance is another big advantage of the new lights used.

Combined with better light focusing, making efficient use of reflective surfaces and paint, the whole effect has been to dramatically cut energy use.

The heating and air conditioning systems have also been combined, Skuse said, so the heat reclaimed when cooling the station is now used to heat water in the toilets and mess rooms, saving 57% of the electricity previously used.

Success story

Overall, Skuse said: “We reckon we’ve saved something like 55% of the non-traction power in the station: that’s 2.5 tonnes of CO2 per week. And this is only one small station.

“As a result of that, we’re now rolling elements of this out to other stations. So, above all of the escalators I’m responsible for, we’re now going to be using low-loss lighting tubes – thin, T5 tubes – which we think could save us about £100,000 per annum.

“We’re also looking at what we can do with high-level lighting: those are the ones that require us to shut stations for periods of time to maintain them.

“All of this is about reducing energy, making assets last longer, and not interfering with customer flows, so people can get from A to B as quickly and with as few interruptions as possible.”

He also welcomed the collaborative approach taken by different directorates who worked together to make the project a success.

Others clearly recognised the work done: Lucy West won TfL’s Destination Green award for the project.

Seeing the change

The environmental agenda at LU is part of a broader TfL push on green issues: it has a target to reduce normalised emissions across public transport services by 20% per passenger km by 2017/18, compared with 2005/6. It is on track so far: the 2010/11 figures are 16% below that baseline, and 4% down on the year before. That is despite a rise in passenger numbers across public transport, including on the Tube.

It’s important that passengers are aware of the changes at Sloane Square, Skuse said, which is why they’ve installed highly-visible energy monitors at the station, showing what was being used last year, and how much less is being used now.

He said: “As London Underground, as the biggest user of electricity in London, we have a strong moral and corporate responsibility to try to reduce the amount we use, and the carbon we generate.

“We wanted people on the station to see that if you do something and make a change, it has a real effect. People are in control of the electricity they use – and that they can save.

“The Sloane Square project was ultimately about turning things from ideas into reality: coming up with solutions that would work across all of our stations.”

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

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