ABB helps electrify rail in Lithuania as part of major new contract

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Lithuanian Railways has awarded ABB with a new contract for a 25 kV power solution to electrify a 100% carbon neutral rail line connecting Vilnius and Klaipeda. Electric trains will be powered by electricity generated from renewable energy sources.

The landmark project represents the first deployment of ABB’s traction switchgear technology in Lithuania and ABB’s largest ever 25 kV rail electrification order in the European Union to date.

The Vilnius-Klaipeda rail contract, which is being partly-funded by the EU Cohesion Fund, forms part of a strategic focus to electrify 39% of Lithuania’s total rail network by 2030 – a figure which currently stands at 8%. This will ensure greater interoperability with the wider EU rail network where overall electrification is estimated at 56%. 

The contract covers 730km (in overall length) of railway track and will complete the electrification of the busy corridor between the capital Vilnius and the seaport of Klaipėda. On completion, it is estimated that the rail line will be used by over three quarters of all cargo and two thirds of rail passengers in Lithuania and that the increased competitiveness of the railway operation, reduced costs and the economic benefits of reduced pollution could amount to as much as €1bn in overall cost savings for Lithuania.

As part of the project, which is being delivered via a joint venture partnership between Elecnor and Inabensa, ABB will design and supply 25kV equipment packages for eight 230/25 kilovolt (kV) traction substations, eight autotransformer stations and three sectioning posts.

For reliable and safe power supply, ABB will install its railway ZX1.5-R medium voltage gas insulated switchgear (GIS) which has been specifically designed for railway applications. According to ABB, the modular technology uses 70% less space than other conventional products. It is also easy to install with no gas handling on site and features a “sealed for life” installation panel for minimum maintenance, leading to reductions in total investment and operational costs.

ABB will also custom-build six variations of its Structure Mounted Outdoor Switchgear (SMOS) which integrates all the elements needed to safely protect and operate the supply sections of overhead line. Designed to meet the unique requirements of outdoor rail applications, ABB’s robust, modular SMOS range is built to withstand arduous conditions while being easy scaled to facilitate narrow, restrictive environments.

SMOS are assembled and pretested in the ABB factory. In addition, they are easy to transport within a standard gauge. This significantly reduces site works and commissioning time by allowing the handling of multiple sites in parallel.

Providing the switching element is ABB’s FSKII+ outdoor vacuum-insulated trackside circuit breaker, offering robust, reliable, and virtually maintenance- free application for single (1 x 25 kV) and two-phase (2 x 25 kV) 50 Hz railway traction power supply applications. All products comply with IEC/EN railway standards.

“Extending railway electrification across Europe and beyond is key to creating a green transport network,” said Antonio Colla, global railway marketing & sales manager at ABB. “Our technology will ensure a reliable, safe and efficient service while delivering sustainable mobility for the millions of passengers and freight who use this line every day. It supports our customers’ green ambitions and demonstrates what can be achieved through innovation and collaborative working. Lithuania is now well on track to electrify over a third of its rail network by 2030.”

The Lithuania project is indicative of ABB’s continued involvement in major rail infrastructure projects across the globe. Most recently, the business was awarded a landmark contract from Stadler Valencia worth US$170 million to enhance Europe’s railway network. This follows recent high-profile installations with Swiss Federal Railways and Metro Trains Melbourne.