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Can This New Approach Make Electrification More Cost Effective?

3 min

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After SPOTLIGHT visited Scotland, Quadrant Transport looks at how important it is to manage the fleet and infrastructure in Scottish rail and the significance of a rolling programme of electrification.

Paul Hooper, Technical Director at Atkins, started the event by highlighting the importance of ensuring the rolling programme of electrification in Scotland runs as cost-efficiently as possible. 

For this to be achievable, Paul emphasised the importance of focussing on three key areas. Those being technical innovations, contracting strategies and the delivery programme.

On the delivery programme, Quadrant transport heard: “We need to understand the environment in which the rolling programme will take place. Fundamentally, we must remember who our customers are, the passengers and the freight operators. Electrification is still very expensive, so we need to focus on costs. 

As Scotland look towards 2035, there is now a longer programme of electrification. This means long term value for money is more important than short term capital cost savings. 

There is a risk that budgets can be spent early on in a large project, leaving work incomplete. Paul is determined to ensure this isn’t the case in Scotland.

Continuing, he explained: “What is right for the industry is also right for the suppliers in the long term. So, short term profits that kill the golden goose are not in our best interests. We need to be looking at that long term process.”

Innovation is unlocking potential more than ever 

Maximising the use of battery-electric multiple units and hybrid trains gives the industry opportunities they have not had with electrification projects in the past.

Paul added: “It will enable us to decouple some of the critical milestones where we have bi-mode fleets and not set artificial commissioning dates for the introduction of new services that can put unnecessary pressure on the infrastructure to complete on time.” 

There have been numerous calls for a robust programme for electrification construction developed in a bottom-up process. It includes all the assurance activities, training and operation.

 I think that for a rolling programme wherever possible with adequate planning with the operators we need to be adopting a much more manufacturing approach 

Moving onto the importance of good contracting strategies the audience heard: “Clients at all levels need to recognise that suppliers need to make profits to satisfy shareholders. 

No need to take risks during live projects 

Discussing the technical aspects associated with rolling programmes of electrification, Atkins said: “One of the things we must learn from CP5 electrification projects is not to use live electrification projects for research and development.”

This is because it is full of uncertainty and moves away from that monotonous engineering type of approach, which is needed for a more cost-effective programme of electrification.  

Instead, new technology should be introduced into programmes once it is a proven success from either separate programmes or research and development. It should also be introduced at the appropriate stage of the life cycle. 

Not doing this might result in suddenly having to change your procurement requirements or redesign something that has been done. “Instead, wait for the next geographical stage in the programme and focus on your efforts on the introduction of that stage” added, Paul.

Climate change progress should be clearly set out

In the Q&A session of the event, Alex Hynes, Managing Director at Scotland’s Railway was asked about Scotland’s targets between now and 2035. 

Alex said: “Clearly the decarbonisation needs to be aligned with the rolling stock life expiry dates, but one thing that Scottish government must do each year is set out climate change progress.”

Careful consideration is needed to ensure decarbonisation isn’t backloaded. Instead, it is essential to ensure a smooth programme of electrification is implemented to drive down costs. 

Rounding up the event, Alex told Quadrant Transport: “In the last control period we delivered electrification in Scotland for about £2.4million per single track km and we are aspiring to deliver sub £2 million on a programme of this scale.” 

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