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Powering a More Resilient Rail Network

A relatively simple fault to worn out switchgear or an ageing substation can result in chaos for the travelling public. It’s a sobering thought to consider how much economic activity depends on the reliability of power distribution equipment across the rail network and the ability to complete maintenance and repairs efficiently.

Upgrading and modernizing the electricity distribution infrastructure is absolutely fundamental to building a more resilient rail network – one that experiences fewer delays and service disruptions. Organising this work efficiently calls for many specialisms and areas of expertise to be coordinated.

Improved methods make some aspects of the task easier. For example, switchgear replacement is simplified these days by craning in a complete modular unit onto a new concrete base. But there is plenty still to be done to connect the new plant to the supply and distribution cabling and to fully commission and test the equipment before it goes live. There’s also the old equipment to decommission and dismantle.

Risk Management

For this type of operation to proceed smoothly – without the risk of overrunning possessions or delays in restoring the power supply – nothing can be left to chance. Effective management of project risks is essential.

Possessions also need to be organised to carry out civils and preparatory works ahead of time.  Preparation works on recent switchgear replacements performed by Osborne have, for example, involved the installation of a trackway or haul road. Without robust risk management any delays can easily cascade and multiply.

Pulling appropriate expertise together from the start of the project helps to avoid technical hitches and delays later on. As well as switchgear replacements there are Transformer Rectifier Units (TRU) to renew, and a need to install Negative Short Circuit Devices (NSCD) so that third rail systems can be isolated safely for maintenance.

That adds up to a lot of projects that could each call for careful management of access, third party interfaces, possessions, land access and purchase, and the logistics of plant and material movements. There will also be environmental risk assessments and special measures in SSSI locations. If that wasn’t enough, there’s an ongoing need to deal with social distancing and protecting everyone from Covid-19 and other health risks.

Osborne has put together an experienced multi-disciplined team to deliver electrification and plant maintenance services across the Wessex route and Southern Region. We are actively engaged in HV and DC switchgear renewals and NSCD installations across the network. This is all vital work to help make the rail infrastructure more resilient.

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