The rail industry in the UK is gradually evolving as new technologies become available and an increased demand is putting pressure on the associated energy infrastructure. The UK government has announced it will spend £48 billion on rail in 2019 to 2024, which is in addition to recent record rail funding as the government delivered the biggest rail modernisation programme for more than a century.

Increasing energy demands

As new rolling stock enter service across the UK’s rail networks, the trend for bigger, faster and more energy-hungry trains with additional customer conveniences like air conditioning, longer trains and more frequent services is placing pressure on existing infrastructure to keep up with the demand. 

Energy infrastructure needs to be able to keep up with this demand, however, this can be very costly and time consuming, especially when new grid supply points are required which may take up to six years to commission.

The Digital Railway initiative will eventually contribute to energy demand issues by significantly increasing the capacity of railways for passenger and freight journeys. It is predicted there will be a billion extra passenger journeys by 2030 and at the same time, the network needs more space for freight trains, which shift £30 billion of goods every year.

Implementing new energy technologies

Technologies to help reduce the energy demand on the network, such as regenerative braking, and addressing the risk of energy losses through the network are currently underway, however, now is the time to investigate solutions like energy storage and renewable generation to improve efficiencies and reduce carbon, and be prepared for the impact of the Digital Railway.

Changes to energy use in the rail sector is not limited to traction power. Renewable generation like solar PV is becoming more common at stations and maintenance depots, and with the uptake of electric vehicles continuing to increase, customers and staff will expect charging infrastructure to be available in station car parks.

As consumption increases at stations themselves due to customer demand, efficiency strategies will need to be developed to offset these increases, reduce costs and enable sustainable power consumption.

These are our areas of focus as we work with Network Rail, London Underground, Docklands Light Railway and High Speed 1 to deliver traction power and innovative energy solutions.