New Contract Sparks Revolution in Electrical Control

Network Rails electrical control systems are to be overhauled and brought together under a new contract, changing the way the railway manages its power.

As the largest single consumer of electricity in the UK, Network Rail is responsible for a large power network, not just for powering trains, but also controlling other aspects of the railway including signalling and telecoms.

The new electrical control contract, awarded to telent (lower-case ‘t’, subs) will see 16 separate electrical control systems, some of which date from the 1950s, replaced by a new national SCADA system – Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition.

This will also allow Network Rail to move staff from the current 13 electrical control rooms into eight of the proposed 12 new rail operating centres, where they will work alongside signallers and train controllers.

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Chris Rowley, head of operations development at Network Rail, said: The move to one national system for electrical control represents one of the biggest changes to the way we operate the electrified network.

It will provide a firm foundation on which to expand our electrified network, increasing reliability and improving the efficiency of how we use our power.

The oldest control rooms still in use utilise electro-mechanical control panels which are increasingly difficult to maintain. The new control system will be VDU-based and will allow for enhanced monitoring of electricity usage and automatic responses to circuit-breaker trippings.

This will increase the efficiency with which Network Rail uses its power and improve the response to operating incidents.

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