The Whifflet line. A Cinderella railway dependant on DMU rolling stock despite being surrounded by electrified railways.

The advantages of electrification – a cleaner, faster, quieter and more reliable service for passengers – had somehow passed by this line that runs between Rutherglen to Coatbridge. The route’s electrification had been specified in the Scottish Ministers’ High Level Output Strategy for delivery by 2018, but became an accelerated programme under an alliance between Network Rail and Scotrail. It was delivered by Carillion as a standalone project in 2014.

The RACE (Rutherglen to Coatbridge Electrification) Project involved the design and installation of 26 single track kilometres of 25kV Overhead Line Equipment (OLE) to cater for electric haulage of the existing passenger services, the opportunity to divert passenger and empty stock together with providing the freight operators with the ability to convert from diesel to electric operation.

Series 2

The project used Series 2 OLE, a new system that is designed to reduce both cost and installation time. Traditionally, cantilevers are assembled on site from their constituent parts. However, with series 2, the cantilever is manufactured as one complete component in a factory. This provides numerous advantages in terms of logistics, construction efficiency, quality and consistency of assembly and there is no requirement for manufacturing facilities and expertise on-site.

As this was a Series 2 OLE design, much of the equipment came from Bonomi in Italy, imported through Pace Networks. Agreement was reached with Network Rail to purchase early – as soon as the detailed design was signed off – allowing for bulk stocking and storage of the equipment. This was then taken out and installed on a just-in-time basis.

Given the high vandalism and theft risk in the area, equipment was never left out on the track side. For the same reason, the existing power and signalling cables were buried in the ground. A new buried duct route was installed, but it was very difficult to locate and identify the existing buried cables. This, along with the need to avoid existing obstructions using unplanned diversions and alterations, made the installation of the new duct a tricky civils project in its own right.

The mast foundations were predominantly conventional 610mm pile arrangements and there were occasions where the ground conditions resulted in use of mass concrete footings. Piling was the preferred option as testing is not required prior to mast erection.

Recovery and reuse

The RACE project involved installing one new Track Section Cabinet (TSC) at Langloan and extending the existing TSC at Eglinton Street in Glasgow. TSCs are used to provide remote sectioning capability within the electrified network, to facilitate isolations of apparatus and to assist in managing electrically perturbed circumstances. The project identified that there were two TSCs due to be decommissioned in the Glasgow area and they were duly recovered and reused on this project.

Immunisation issues could have caused serious delays unless carefully managed. To save the time that would otherwise have been spent on intrusive and lengthy cable surveys, it was decided that the most effective solution would be to install a classic booster transformer 25kV system with an aerial earth and also a return screening conductor. This ensured that all the immunisation interfaces could be managed robustly.

The booster transformers are oil filled and the project team learned that there were a number being made redundant in Rugby. Twelve of these were obtained for use on RACE, ticking several sustainability boxes as the assets were reused and not scrapped.

The RACE route can be used as a diversionary route for Virgin Pendolinos. For compatibility purposes, there was a need to install a harmonic damper to smooth interferences in the OLE supply patterns that are principally caused by these trains. Once again, there happened to be one being made redundant in Bourn End and this too was acquired.

The 650V signalling power on this route was upgraded to Class 2. This uses twin-core copper cables rather than three-core, reducing the amount of copper in use with consequential cost benefits.

Keeping it local

The majority of the management and labour that delivered RACE live permanently in the central belt of Scotland. The designers, Hyder Consulting and Siemens, supported the design from their offices in Glasgow, keeping the need for costly people-movements to a minimum. Similarly, local plant hire and material suppliers were used wherever possible.

With substantial amounts of electrification taking place all around the UK, much has been written about the skills shortage. For this project, Carillion addressed the issue by employing and training new entrants to the industry using the recently developed OLEC training qualifications.

This new portion of electrified line is controlled from the existing control room at Cathcart and so communications links were required to interface with the SCADA systems and control displays. By September 2014, the hardware was ready for commissioning – an exercise that involved signalling input and the preparation of a detailed commissioning document which addressed questions of cutting into existing electrified railways at Coatbridge and on the West Coast main line.

Commissioning was successfully completed on the 28 September 2014, the wires were energised and driver training commenced so that all was ready for the new train patterns in the December timetable.