Network Rail completes first-of-its-kind zero emission OLE renewal project

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Network Rail, the owner and operator of the UK’s railway infrastructure, has completed a set of engineering works which, for the first time in its Eastern region, have been carried out with the worksite producing zero carbon emissions.

Teams worked over four nights to complete overhead line equipment renewals through the Cambridgeshire station, but traditional, carbon-intensive, diesel-powered generators and rail equipment were not used during the work.

Instead, Network Rail has piloted a zero-emission worksite, with engineers using hybrid rail engineering vehicles operating solely in battery mode, welfare facilities powered by batteries, and battery and solar powered tower lighting throughout the site.

Engineers have been working on renewing the overhead line equipment at the station and the immediate surrounding area. The work has been designed to make the equipment more resilient, which means that passengers can experience smoother, more reliable journeys.

On site was an 80Kw battery pack which powered the welfare facilities and charged the rail vehicles after they had been used for the work. Engineers also used battery-powered tools, and materials such as plastics, paper and other consumables were all recyclable.

This way of working meant that zero carbon emissions were emitted on the site and is a first for Network Rail in its Eastern region. The organization is looking at ways to roll this out across future engineering worksites after a positive pilot.

Zero emission worksites will aid Network Rail on its way to reaching its target of being net zero by 2050.

Hamish Critchell-Ward, environment manager at Network Rail, said: “We’re passionate about finding better, more environmentally friendly ways of carrying out essential maintenance and this is a great example of that. It has been great to work with industry partners on this project. Their support has been invaluable in helping this pilot be as successful as it has been. As we move forward and develop, Network Rail will continue to work closely with its supply chain to deliver environmental benefits during its work.

“This is just the beginning for us and we’re confident that this way of working will expand further into future engineering work,” Critchell-Ward added.

Owen Laws, electrification and sustainable development project manager at Network Rail, continued, “This project has been months in the planning and preparation, and I’m delighted that it has finally come to fruition and been so successful. We want this to be a rolling program of work throughout Network Rail and I’m looking forward to helping other teams deliver engineering work projects in a more sustainable way.”