Scottish wiring success

Wiring the railway is always high on the agenda and Scottish electrification projects are no exception. With the number of major upgrade and improvement works happening in the region, Scotland is a not insignificant part of the National Electrification Programme.

Electrification plays a major role in the Edinburgh Glasgow Rail Improvement Programme (EGIP), and the £80 million Cumbernauld works, completed in May 2014, were the first key element of this. 

Undertaken by Carillion Rail, Cumbernauld was a time-critical part of EGIP. So that visitors to the Commonwealth Games could benefit from the comfort and reliability of new electric transport, the electrification of the 16-mile (26km) twin-track route from Springburn to Cumbernauld had to be ready in time. The route required nearly 1,000 overhead line masts and 53 wire runs, along with a host of civil works, including platform extensions and gauging.

Aside from the end benefit of increasing services on the line by three trains per hour and the associated boost to passengers, the project represented a key milestone for electrification projects overall. It is the pioneering use of Series Two electrification equipment, which means it has the capacity to allow speeds up to 100mph on the line and features fewer component parts. In turn, this means it requires less maintenance and is less obtrusive in the landscape.

This wasn’t the only ground-breaking part of the project either - the installation of Fixed Earthing Devices allows for remote operation and control of earthing requirements, improving safety, efficiency and ongoing maintenance on the line. The technology means the need for engineers clad in high-visibility jackets on the track is reduced because they can carry out isolation and earthing procedures remotely.

An often-overlooked aspect of electrification projects is sustainability. One of the main reasons to go electric is the reduction in environmental impact, but that can only be fully realised if the right considerations are made during the project.

Aside from Cumbernauld, Carillion was also the lead contractor on the Rutherglen to Coatbridge electrification (RACE), connecting the West Coast Main Line at Rutherglen with the Scottish Central route in the Coatbridge and Whifflet areas. Another double-track railway, consisting of 26 single-track miles, this project was initially not intended for completion until March 2019, but was
brought forward so it could be completed in September 2014.

It was a project that combined the complexity of Cumbernauld with additional sustainability benefits that go beyond the environmental boon of electric traction. Track section cabinets (that provide remote sectioning capability on a wired network), booster transformers and a harmonic damper (used to smooth interferences in overhead line equipment (OLE) supply patterns) were recovered from other worksites where they were not needed, and used on the RACE project. Re-using items from redundant projects for a new purpose provided a clever way of improving the sustainability of the project beyond the norm.

There is plenty of electrification work still going on in Scotland and much that can be learned from the successes of these two schemes to improve projects further afield.

  • This feature was published in the Scottish supplement of RAIL 783 (September 16 - 29 2015)

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