Contract signatories from ABB, UKPN Services and Network Rail pose with the new HOPS factory train

Great Western kicks off rail electrification programme

Progress is under way on electrifying Britain’s Great Western railway lines in the first major electrification project delivered by Network Rail in over 30 years.

The work is a key element in a national programme that will be rolled out over the coming years, using high-output ‘factory trains’ to streamline the process and minimise disruption.

Network Rail has awarded a £100m contract to a consortium of ABB and UK Power Networks Services to provide power supply equipment for the Great Western Electrification Programme.

Following the contract signing, the equal-share consortium is setting up an integrated project delivery team with staff based in Swindon, London and Stone.

The consortium will be responsible for the turnkey delivery of more than 30 high-voltage auto-transformer traction power substations (25-0-25 kV) installed between Maidenhead and Cardiff.

The heart of the GWEP substations will be provided by ABB’s SMOS (structure mounted outdoor switchgear) Light modular concept, which can cut the time required for construction, testing and commissioning of traction power distribution switchgear by about 30 per cent.

Bryce Denboer, ABB’s rail sector manager for power products and systems, explained: “This modular system is new to Network Rail, though an earlier iteration was used on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link [now called HS1], and it has also been used for South Africa’s Gautrain. Most of the work is done in the factory.”

ABB’s protection and control equipment will also be assembled and tested before delivery in a containerised enclosure that will be installed alongside the switchgear.

The contract was signed in Swindon, where Network Rail has its High-Output Operation Base for the GWEP. Here, all the materials needed for the overhead line works are stored and loaded each day onto a construction train ready for that night’s work. The train, a High-Output Plant System (HOPS), is assembled from modules built for the task in hand. The first units, for piling, went into service on 15 March.

Network Rail recently signed five regional framework contracts with four contractors at the launch of a £2bn national electrification programme. The NEP will be delivered in collaboration with the supply chain to avoid competition for resources between projects.

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