Posted 18th May 2009 | 11 Comments

Network Rail proposes major electrification programme

Relative carbon performance — rail beats most other modes

ELECTRIFICATION of the Great Western main line to Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea, and of the Midland main line to Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield — followed by electric coverage of many more routes  — is the central feature of a new long-term strategy proposed by Network Rail.

The £16 billion Crossrail project, which kicked off on 14 May, is seen as the likely springboard for a rolling programme of converting many routes from diesel to electric traction, starting with the Great Western route.

In an introduction to Network Rail’s consultation document, chief executive Iain Coucher says: “Our analysis shows the long-term benefits of electrifying key parts of the network in terms of both reducing its ongoing cost to the country and improving its environmental performance are significant.

“Governments in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff are looking to reduce both the operational cost of the railway and overall carbon emissions, as well as encouraging modal shift. Our analysis identifies the benefits a strategic approach to electrification would bring in each of these areas.”

In England and Wales, two options in particular – the Great Western and Midland Main Lines – are shown to have high benefit to cost ratios, says Mr Coucher, while in Scotland the main focus would be on electrification between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Falkirk, and an extension to Dunblane and Alloa.

In its draft electrification strategy — on which comments are invited before 14 July — Network Rail points out that only 40 per cent of the existing rail network is electrified and several main lines, much of the cross country network, many key freight links and diversionary routes remain unelectrified.

“As a consequence, a significant proportion of passengers and the majority of freight are carried by diesel operation which is more costly and produces more pollution than its electric equivalent.”

However, NR says that electrification has the potential to reduce ‘whole industry costs.’

“Compared to a diesel operation, an electric service will have lower rolling stock operating costs (fuel savings currently estimated as between 19 and 26 pence lower per vehicle mile and maintenance costs at approximately 20 pence less per vehicle mile for passenger vehicles), have higher levels of vehicle reliability and availability and lower leasing costs.

“The superior performance of electric vehicles can provide journey time savings. Whilst these may be modest for high speed long distance services, they can be more significant in urban areas where frequent stops make acceleration savings more significant and, if the savings are significant on a particular route, diagrams [number of trains in operation] could be saved.”

Following earlier reports that Network Rail is planning ‘factory trains’ to carry out the installation of electrification infrastructure, Mr Coucher added: “Our plans to develop an engineering method that can install power lines quickly, and efficiently, without disrupting services and at a cost that is affordable are already at an advanced stage."

Reducing carbon emissions

Electrification also has a significant role to play in reducing carbon emissions, according to NR. “Electric vehicles, on average, emit 20 per cent to 30 per cent less CO2 emissions than their diesel counterparts.”

Electric traction also has benefits in coping with future demand growth. “Electric trains have more seats than diesel loco hauled trains, making a greater
contribution to accommodating anticipated growth in demand,” says NR.

For freight trains, increased power can mean use of passing loops may be avoided, and electrification can offer “potential for freight operators to provide a superior product, potentially with lower operating costs. The ability of freight operators to do this potentially increases as more of the network is electrified.”

Network Rail also envisages that infill electrification would enable cost savings to be achieved on some routes for operators with existing electric locos, as well as potentially increasing the availability of diversionary routes for electric vehicles, reducing the need for passenger services bus substitutions, improving the freight product and easing the provision of access for maintenance work.

The infrastructure company says that its appraisal of options has shown “further
electrification represents good value for money.”

“Two options – the Great Western Main Line and the Midland Main Line – have high benefit to cost ratios. Indeed they potentially involve a net industry cost saving rather than net cost over the appraisal period of 60 years.

“There would be a requirement for upfront investment by Network Rail but this would be offset by lifetime cost savings, largely in the costs of train operation.

“Electrification of the London to Maidenhead section of the Great Western Main Line as part of the Crossrail project will present an opportunity to ramp up production and to start using the recommended efficient delivery techniques,

“These options, along with a strategic infill scheme – Gospel Oak to Woodgrange Park and the Thameshaven branch – with the best business case are presented as the potential Core Strategy for England and Wales and will be discussed further with the Department for Transport.”

In Scotland, the strategy would start with electrification from Edinburgh to Glasgow via Falkirk and be extended to Dunblane and Alloa, and to allow Glasgow to Falkirk and Motherwell to Cumbernauld services to run under electric
traction.

Looking to how an electrification programme could go ahead, Network Rail recommends that funding for early implementation of strategic infill electrification schemes should be sought from a variety of sources.

“Active provision will be made to ensure that current investment programmes will be consistent with a programme of electrification. This would include all works for both physical clearance and electrical immunization,” adds the company.

ATOC calls for early decision

The Association of Train Operating Companies called for an early Government decision.

“Now that Network Rail has published its strategy, the Government should honour the commitment it made in January to make a decision, by giving the green light to electrifying the Great Western and Midland Main Lines,” said Michael Roberts, ATOC’s chief executive.

He added: “As these are long term projects, we must start planning now so that electrification can unlock the major modernisation of important long distance routes

 “It is also important to press ahead in the shorter term with smaller infill schemes which can plug some of the gaps in the electrified network. This will prepare the way for more substantial investment in main line electrification after 2014 by allowing electric fleets to be used more effectively.”

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Chris Cox, Birmingham

    My only critisims of the proposed approach is that again the government is looking to invest in infrastructure mainly based around links to London. Understandably this delivers the best cost/benefits under analysis as London is the biggest economic powerhouse but it does nothing to address the long term overheating of the London centric South East economy and only helps to reinfoce the trend.

    If the majority of beneifts are to quickly accellerating communter trains how about concentrating investment on the local routes to our other core cities. The links between Liverpool and Manchester are an important first step but targeting investment in electrification of the North West and the West Midlands regional networks would provided concentrated benefits and help reduce the North/South economic imbalance.

  • Chris Cox, Birmingham

    My only critisims of the proposed approach is that again the government is looking to invest in infrastructure mainly based around links to London. Understandably this delivers the best cost/benefits under analysis as London is the biggest economic powerhouse but it does nothing to address the long term overheating of the London centric South East economy and only helps to reinfoce the trend.

    If the majority of beneifts are to quickly accellerating communter trains how about concentrating investment on the local routes to our other core cities. The links between Liverpool and Manchester are an important first step but targeting investment in electrification of the North West and the West Midlands regional networks would provided concentrated benefits and help reduce the North/South economic imbalance.

  • Geoff Czajkowski, Limerick, Ireland

    A generalisation comment
    There has been much talk and for many years over escalating maintenance, preventative or reactionary, yet no one has to date has implemented a low-cost solution to; in this case, to the overhead; specifically “height & stagger measurements”, or to be precise, monitor the relative movement month to month, then extrapolate when the danger area is being encroached.
    Now, we have special measuring trains that periodically traverse the tracks, some at hi-speed, their data is then sifted through and perhaps compared with previous runs, then hopefully if an offending length is found to be suspect, the information might percolate down to the relevant parties for attention, in time, that’s one way.
    The system mostly used in the UK is the crucifix and their team of four to six men who go forth during the night. This unfortunately is slow and very costly.
    The ultimate solution
    Before I go in to the solution, I want to make clear the objectives and to clearly differentiate between “ABSOLUTE & RELATIVE” measurements. There are a few measuring systems on the market capable of measuring the height & stagger, some based on laser/video/sound etc. They all claim certain accuracies, certain speeds and special software, but the common denominator in these systems is their hi-cost; especially the laser based systems.
    The example that I chose is to illustrate clearly my point I wish to make. If we consider a curved tight track (danger area) with a maximum allowed stagger of say 350mm and a measuring system with say an error of 5, and the instrument recorded say 320mm, now whether that is absolute or not to a high degree is irrelevant. However, what is important is the preceding stagger measurements and what was measured a month before, relative (at the same spot).
    The point being, a system capable of measuring 10mm error, costing £x thou without the ability to instantly compare previous runs is simply wasting money.
    Therefore, I would advocate fitting an inexpensive OVH Wizard to one passenger train a simple yet accurate system at a fraction of the laser cost and just keep it measuring continuously (no labour). Harvesting the data periodically.
    Where the huge saving is, I will explain. If this idea was adopted, then resources could be brought to where it is needed most, that is the monitoring and only auto-extrapolating of all the critical data.
    Gains, are fairly clear, you would see well in advance danger spots looming up over time and take remedial instead of reactionary maintenance procedures.
    Food for thought, a couple of months "labour only" of the crucifix cost, would pay for one complete system that would run for years. Fact.
    Geoff Czajkowski, Limerick Ireland

  • Geoff Czajkowski, Limerick, Ireland

    Portable height & stagger systems fitted to "ALL TRAINS" specifically PENDOLINO'S will be the "break-through" in low cost preventative maintenance

    Such as "OVH Wizard 1812"
    I designed it, but........I AM NOT BIASED, just focused.

  • Jonathan Moore, Cowes, Isle of Wight

    Personally I would prioritise electrification of the Edinburgh-Glasgow-Aberdeen triangle. At present East Coast Main Line services are diesel hauled even though they run under the wire all the way from Edinburgh to Kings' Cross, i.e. over three quarters of the route or so. The next step would be to electrify the Perth-Inverness route so that all Anglo-Scottish East Coast Main Line services could be electrically operated, preferably with tilting trains given the sinuous tracks north of Edinburgh. Looking ahead to the more distant future, these electrification schemes would link Aberdeen, the Highlands, Dundee, Fife and Stirling to the proposed high speed line to London, with considerable journey time reductions.

  • Glenn Aylett, Whitehaven, Cumbria

    My candidates, apart from the GWML and MML, would be infill routes such as Blackpool North- Preston- Manchester Piccadilly, Carlisle- Newcastle and York- Liverpool.

  • Geoff R, Westhoughton, UK

    Again they're all talking about it like they have been since 1997. Spin and lies, that is all this is. BR had mass electrification programmes since the 1970s, the one big project that got done was the East coast main line. Then came privatisation with all the upheaval that brings and all the improvement plans get washed down the plughole!! The railways are now no more than a cash cow for a few bloated fat cats (Branson, Souter, Lockhead, Mottram, etc....). Politicians are good at talking the talk, spinning it out and procrastinating. But they just cant walk the walk can they? They're all mouth and pockets. Only believe electrification will happen when you see the overhead line equipment being erected.

  • Andrew Gwilt, Wickford, England

    Electrifications are the best way to keep Carbon Emitions right down and to stop Diesel Trains from causing so much pollution and Electric Trains are Eco-friendly because they run on AC 25kv Overhead Wires & DC 750v 3rd Rail. Dual Voltage Electric Trains can run on both AC 25kv Overhead Wires and DC 750v 3rd Rail because they have AC Pantographs to glide on live overhead wires and DC Shoebox conductors to glide on live conductor rails such as Class 377/2, Class 377/5 and Class 350/1 that goes through London and Class 395 that runs on HS1 as well on DC 3rd Rail across Southeast London and mostly Kent.

  • andrew blurton, STAFFORD, UK

    IS IT TIME WE SHOULD START BE RUNNING TRAINS LIKE A NEW FLEET OF PENDOLINO'S FROM CORNWALL & SWANSEA TO ABERDEEN & INVERNESS & NOT USED DIESEL TRAIN'S FOR A 600 MILE JOURNEY TO SCOTLAND OR DEVON,WALES & CORNWALL IN THE NEAR FUTURE!!!

  • Tony Fawthrop, Stockport,Greater Manchester, Cheshire

    First priority should be given to electrifying the line from Newcastle upon Tyne to Liverpool via York, Leeds and Manchester. The difficult parts around all five of those cities has already electrified as has the line from Newcastle to south of York. Apart from perhaps the Pennine tunnel the parts left to do are the easy parts so that the cost compared to the benefits must be lower than any other scheme. Traffic is dense on the whole route and if the lines through Manchester Victoria and on to Preston and Blackpool was included the benefits would be greater than any other line in the country.

  • Sandyman, Dublin, Ireland

    Surely the whole of the Great Western system as far as Exeter should be electrified rather than having to change motive power at Bristol or Reading, or is this to be the raison d'etre for the dreaded IEP?

Have Your Say

Please read Guidance Notes for Contributors

Submitted comments are subject to approval prior to public posting. Railnews reserve the right to reject, alter or censor any submissions. Railnews also reserve the right to reproduce submissions in any format.

Railnews may, from time to time, send out marketing emails to subscribers and website users. If you would prefer not to receive these emails, please tick this box.