Midlands Power Group - Challenge Of Electrical Integration In Electrified Railways

Opening Slide
On Wednesday 29th January 2020, the Midlands Power Group were delighted to host a talk by Dr Roger White, Director of Rail Electrification Consultancy, on the challenges of achieving electrical integration on modern railway networks.  The talk considered the Why, What, How and When questions that must be addressed whenever modern electric railways are designed and constructed.
An audience of over 65 attendees at IET Austin Court enjoyed an informative and well illustrated talk on the undesirable effects of failure to adequately plan, design, coordinate and control the multitude of electrical systems and infrastructure on the railways.  Roger summarised the consequences as Danger, Damage, Disruption and Downtime (the four D's) with the worst instances becoming "Black Swan" events with potentially fatal outcomes.

Roger initially focused on the challenges of the divided rail industry with a multitude of stakeholders, owner/operators and interested parties. Even within the industry, the specialist disciplines of signalling, telecommunications, rolling stock, permanent way and energy supply all have their own areas of focus and potential exists for detail to be lost at the interfaces. Procurement decisions can often be made based on the highest value components (civils) as opposed to the highest risk aspects (electrical).

The talk then proceeded to discuss the drivers for integration including British and international standards, compatibility, risk assessment and system design; the legislative and industry framework in which rail projects are developed and the raft of specifications and standards which define how safety will be achieved; and the critical interfaces and precautions that must be included to ensure the "Black Swan" can be avoided.

Roger also provided an interesting insight into the roles and responsibilities of some of the key players in achieving electrical integration including the Infrastructure Manager, the System Planner, the Designer, the Project Technical Assurance Engineer and the Project Manager.  The importance of ensuring everyone involved is adequately trained and has the right competencies covering railway standards, technical knowledge and comprehension of system interfaces.was stressed throughout the talk.  In particular, Roger highlighted the need to avoid 'risk takers' in the process as this can lead to poor contractual behaviour, failure to recognise the criticality of interfaces and ultimately the potential for the four D's to come into play.

The talk closed with a view on how Behavioural Psychology can lead to System Failures.  These were illustrated with a number of case studies from both the UK and internationally.

Roger's lecture lasted just over an hour and was followed by a very lively Q&A session with the audience.

The Midlands Power Group would like to thank Roger for delivering an engaging, interesting and well illustrated talk.  Thanks also go to Martin Woodcock, Vice Chair of MPG, for making all the arrangements for the talk.

Roger has kindly provided a copy of his slides from the talk and these are available at https://communities.theiet.org/communities/files/154/18253
Posted by David Swanson on Feb 2, 2020 7:07 PM Europe/London


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