Discussion of the state of electrification in the UK usually revolves around a few major projects. Great Western, North West, Welsh Valleys, Scotland’s central belt, Midland main line – all have been in the news, many for the wrong reasons.

But there is still a stream of normal, everyday electrification work that goes ahead quite successfully, day in and day out, that doesn’t hit the headlines. Much of this is to improve the third-rail DC network.

Running through Control Period 5 (CP5), from 2014 to 2019, Siemens Rail Electrification has worked on a number of major improvement and expansion projects for Network Rail across the south of England, working in close partnership to deliver programmes that are part of the Infrastructure Projects Southern (IPS) framework.

Spanning power delivery, power distribution, signalling and mechanical and electrical works, the framework was introduced in 2014 to improve collaboration between Network Rail and its suppliers, as well as bringing a sharper focus on the importance of safety in the rail industry.

For Siemens, this provided an opportunity for the company to employ its resources at each stage of a project, from design through to installation and commissioning. Within IPS, the company has been involved in a wide range of projects – including high voltage (HV) and direct current (DC) switchgear renewals; track paralleling hut (TPH) to substation conversions and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and signalling works, as well as the installation of negative short-circuiting devices and earth farms.

Commenting on the work, James Goulding, business development manager at Siemens Rail Electrification, said: “During CP5, and working extremely closely with Network Rail, we have undertaken 45 contracts and successfully delivered work at over 65 sites across the IPS region. In terms of rectifier transformers, we have so far installed a rated power of 41 megawatts and introduced over 70 of both HV and DC switchgear panels – either as new equipment or as upgrades to existing switchgear. Finally, we have established power supply to electrical auxiliary equipment through the installation of 26 new auxiliary transformers.”

Major projects

Two of the key programmes the company has been involved in include the Sussex Power Supply Upgrade (PSU) and the Brighton main line programmes.

Operating on a DC electrification system through the South East route, the Sussex PSU project consisted mainly of a 33kV distribution system. Upgrading the route to meet increasing power demands and to accommodate the introduction of new rolling stock for the revised timetable, Siemens worked closely with Network Rail to achieve infrastructure readiness for the higher-intensity timetable by reducing the risk of component failure.

To achieve this, the company built four new traction substations on the West Sussex Coastway route and replaced legacy equipment at a number of substations and TPHs with modern equipment – in some cases also installing additional equipment. Across 14 sites, Siemens has worked from the design stage right through to the testing and commissioning of 13 substations and the conversion of one TPH to a substation.

One of the most significant projects the company has carried out during CP5 has been the design and implementation phase associated with the installation of negative short-circuiting device (NSCD) units across the Brighton main line. These installations have delivered key safety improvements, with the conductor rail now able to be isolated for maintenance works without the need for members of staff to access the infrastructure. The risks associated with two of the most severe types of accidents in the railway industry – contact with live electrical equipment and train ‘hits’ – have therefore been significantly reduced.

In addition to providing a safer, more secure workplace, Siemens’ work has also improved maintenance efficiency. With each shift proving to be around 20 per cent more productive and with plant being used to carry out significant maintenance improvements (including the ability to remotely isolate the conductor rail), the available possession time has substantially increased.

Switchgear options

For projects across IPS, the core products supplied by Siemens have been the company’s traction power supply equipment, with the gas-insulated 8DA10 switchgear key to meeting the increasing power demands on many of the southern electrified routes. This compact, low maintenance, medium voltage switchgear has provided the perfect combination of benefits to meet Network Rail’s objectives.

As a leader in the design and manufacture of switchgear for high and medium voltage applications, a variety of Siemens’ air- and gas-insulated switchgear panels are now being used in traction power supply systems across the IPS region. The company’s portfolio includes the 8DA MV switchgear series, which with more than 1,200 panels successfully in operation across the Network Rail infrastructure, is proving to be one of the most environmentally friendly gas-insulated switchgears available. The 8BT2 air-insulated 33kV switchgear provides the option to remove the gas insulation entirely.

Successfully operating in seven sites (four substations and three TPHs) across the Thameslink region, as part of over 700 Siemens DC switchgear panels in service for Network Rail, Siemens’ Sitras DSG switchgear system is type-tested in accordance with the latest British and international standards. Economical and flexible, the system was developed to be virtually unaffected by environmental conditions, thereby ensuring a low life cycle cost. Developed to suit the limited space available within substations, the 600mm-wide Sitras DSG switchgear also includes a DC high-speed circuit breaker panel, with a rated current of up to 8kA.

James Goulding said: “We remain committed to developing and bringing to market new traction power products that offer our customers additional efficiencies, as well as safety and performance improvements. In particular, as we move into CP6, we continue to invest in solutions to meet the challenges of Network Rail’s safer isolations programme – serving both the AC overhead line network, and DC third rail network.”

Capabilities

System design and railway electrification are among Siemens’ key areas of competence, with the company able to combine its engineering expertise with advanced software to provide high quality, tailored electrification solutions for clients. Using programmes such as Siemens’ Sidytrac for power modelling, it can calculate the power supply network using train-run simulations. This data can then be used to make informed decisions to optimally meet the specific requirements of each project.

At the design stage for IPS projects, Siemens drew on its experience and expertise of planning and assessing existing installations, including questions of protection, electrical safety stipulations and the aspects of perturbation between different systems. As part of its in-house capabilities, the experienced Siemens delivery team is able to provide reliable and cost-efficient project management on projects of varying scope and complexity.

James Goulding continued: “Using our PM@Siemens process, we provide a service that helps secure quick acceptance of the project deliverables by the customer. We believe that setting out clearly defined and transparent requirements, that are developed with the stakeholders and take into account all needs and expectations, is fundamental to attaining the project goals and achieving acceptance. Through close collaboration with our engineering team, we can smoothly transition from the design phase to construction and then to testing and commissioning.

“Over the course of CP5, we have grown to become a leading solutions provider in the rail electrification sector. Our work with Network Rail’s Infrastructure Projects Southern region has been a shining example of this, with great products and really strong, collaborative working relationships combining to deliver outstanding results.”


Read more: Getting electrification right