Power trips: Helping trains run on time

28 October 2019

By Mark Gough, HM Inspector of Railways.

Mark Gough, HM Inspector of RailwaysA railway needs power to operate. So ensuring a steady, reliable supply is absolutely crucial to the day-to-day running of the network, and that is why we were so pleased recently to be able to authorise the Inter City Express (IEP) Doncaster Depot Power Supply into use. The new power supply will provide 30.5 million watts of power at 25,000 volts that’s enough to boil over 25,500 kettles.

It’s also a first because a Static Frequency Converter (SFC) has never been used to power the UK rail network before. But what’s really exciting about it – unless you’re an engineer - is not the new tech,   but the simple fact that the new tech will mean that the East Coast Mainline is able to handle more trains and have greater resilience when problems occur.

So more trains and improved punctuality – that’s win/win for passengers.

Passengers’ benefits

The new power also means that the IEP Doncaster Depot is able to carry on working regardless of any difficulties affecting the power supply on the rail network and that means the trains can be serviced more efficiently and provide a cleaner, more enjoyable ride – that’s win/win for passengers.

A SFC can take its supply from more local distribution networks than conventional supplies meaning this supply in the heart of Doncaster was placed exactly where it was needed to support new services. A technology that is more flexible, efficient and resilient to power your railway.

There would be even greater advantages if two or more SFCs were integrated on to the network, as they would ensure even more consistency of supply and eliminate neutral sections along the route which are a cause of train delays – something for the future, perhaps.