All things electrification

Source: RTM Jun/Jul 16

Mark Bullock editMark Bullock, managing director of Balfour Beatty Rail (BBR), discusses the company’s most recent involvement in helping electrify Britain’s railways up and down the country.

BBR provides a broad range of services across the rail infrastructure market and has played a significant role in major projects for many years. We are proud of our heritage and the important role we play in significant projects such as Thameslink and Crossrail, but our focus is the future, and we are using innovative technology and techniques to help transform Britain’s railways. 

One of our areas of expertise is electrification. It’s also one of Network Rail’s priorities, as electric trains are quieter, lighter, cheaper to run and maintain, and are better for the environment. 

Northern Hub electrification design 

Our design team was recently relocated to an impressive new engineering design centre at Alaska House in Liverpool. This significant investment was part of our plan to grow the capability we have in this field. 

We were delighted earlier this year when our Engineering and Technology Solutions business won a contract to design the overhead line equipment (OLE) for two phases of the north west electrification programme. 

Our scope includes foundations, structures and wiring. As well as design, we are providing civils and structural engineering assessments, feasibility studies and design safety reviews, and will also provide construction support and prepare the as-built drawings. Winning this work means we continue to be an integral part of electrification in the north west. 

We’ve always supported innovation and have developed our own software to support OLE design. Rail Electrification Designer (RED) is an expert 3D information modelling programme for OLE projects. RED produces efficient Building Information Modelling (BIM) Level 2 and 3 design deliverables, increasing quality and productivity. It was developed at our innovation centre in Derby, where our team is producing some really clever technology, including intelligent asset monitoring systems, which can detect failures before they occur. 

Interesting challenges at West Ham 

The breadth of our offer at Balfour Beatty is something that I am particularly pleased to shout about, whether that’s designing, manufacturing, constructing or consulting with stakeholders. From our specialist site in Glasgow, our Traction team designs and manufactures switchgear and power distribution substations. We recently completed a flagship substation project at West Ham, which presented some interesting challenges. It was a new build on a brownfield site and the area was heavily bombed during the Blitz, so an unexploded bomb survey had to be carried out before work could begin. 

The site is also on a floodplain, and the design had to comply with stringent local authority planning requirements. Added to all that, the site is adjacent to the live main line railway. As always, we worked closely with our stakeholders, and, despite the challenges, the team safely installed a 22-panel 22kv switchboard fed from the London Underground HV network; three transformer rectifiers which feed the 630/750v DC switchboard, which in turn supplies power to the operational railway; and two auxiliary transformers, which feed a 400v AC switchboard.

From London to Cardiff: Crossrail West Outer 

This year, as part of Network Rail’s project for a continuous electrified railway between London and Cardiff, we will complete the electrification of the Great Western Railway between Heathrow and Maidenhead. 

Over at the Crossrail West Outer (West Drayton to Maidenhead) section, we made the most of the Christmas and New Year 2015-16 blockade to deliver  81 masts and TTC booms; 30 portal booms; 44 SPS registrations; 45 piles driven to design depth; and over 13,000m of wiring. 

The team were up against really adverse weather, particularly the strong, gusting wind – making it especially difficult and dangerous, as much of the work depended on heavy lifting cranes. Our Specialist Plant team, which offers bespoke solutions including Kirow cranes and high-output electrification using our Wiring Train, supported this work, saving the customer time and money. 

Looking to the future 

We are rightly proud of the breadth and depth of expertise within BBR, not just in electrification but across the board. Britain has the fastest growing railway in Europe, and at BBR we are looking forward to continuing to work with our customers to deliver the railway the country and our passengers need.


Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

View all News

rail industry focus

Versatile coating system enhances Indestructible Paint rail industry role

12/08/2020Versatile coating system enhances Indestructible Paint rail industry role

A highly versatile and robust epoxy coating s... more >
Network Rail partners with Cycling UK for new initiative

03/08/2020Network Rail partners with Cycling UK for new initiative

Network Rail and Cycling UK have launched a p... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Year with brand-new infrastructrure to... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the TOC, gives RTM an update on the innovative scheme. Recognising that young people are more likely to take a risk trespassing on railway tracks, C... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

29/06/2020On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

Following an independent audit, Sulzer’s Nottingham Service Centre has been accepted as part of the rail industry supplier approval scheme (RISAS). The accreditation reinforces the high-quality standards that are maintained by Sulzer’s network of independent repair facilities across the UK and further afield in its global network. ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he wo... more >
Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

08/05/2019Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

In answering the pressing questions of how current and future generations of managers can provide solutions to high-profile infrastructure projec... more >
Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

12/03/2019Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

RTM sits down with Samantha Smith, sole female member of the TransPennine Route Upgrade Alliance Leadership Team, to find out more about encourag... more >
TfN Strategic Transport Plan: not just for transport's sake

22/01/2019TfN Strategic Transport Plan: not just for transport's sake

Peter Molyneux, Transport for the North’s (TfN’s) strategic roads director, has been leading on the development of the seven economic... more >