13 Jan 2021

British Steel rail helps provide sustainable solution for £1 billion project

Our conductor rail is set to help revolutionise rail services for passengers to and from London Waterloo as South Western Railway (SWR) invests £1 billion into an innovative engineering project. Their investment will see a new state-of-the-art depot in Feltham, London and a 90-strong fleet of brand-new high-tech trains that are expected to deliver a more reliable, modern and faster service for passengers.

The full fleet of Arterio trains, which comprises 750 carriages, are to be phased in over the coming years and are expected to enter passenger service in 2021.

British Steel UK Supply Chain Account Manager, Rail Darren Cole said: “Part of the investment – £60 million – is being spent on establishing the depot in Feltham. The area was a derelict site but 11 acres of it are now being transformed into an impressive facility with specialist equipment to maintain and clean the trains.

“We’ve worked closely with VolkerRail to supply 3,500 metres of our 75kg conductor rail to the site. This is a massive investment that will deliver a step-change in passenger experience and it’s great that our rail is playing a key part in this transformation.”

Conductor rails provide current to power rail vehicles – a sliding shoe on the train picks up the current. They’re an alternative to overhead power lines and so are particularly useful where there are height restrictions above the track. Darren said: “The prime requirement for conductor rails is excellent electrical conductivity, so good performance goes right back to our steelmaking process where we carefully control the steel specification to meet these requirements.

“For a smooth sliding contact, the rail must have good dimensional control and excellent surface quality. This contributes to long rail and shoe life, so helps manage costs over the long term. Our stringent production processes mean we’re able to supply the high-quality rail needed for this project.”

Electrical trains bring a range of environmental benefits too. Not only are they quieter and more powerful than their diesel alternatives, electric railways offer significantly better energy efficiency and lower operating costs.

“Electrical trains don’t put out the emissions experienced with diesel trains so can be particularly welcome in urban environments,” said Darren. “And at the end of their working lives, the conductor rails are easily reclaimed and are fully recyclable. This is a real positive as it contributes to the circular economy and provides a sustainable solution for the rail industry.”

John Pearson, VolkerRail General Manager, said: “VolkerRail’s continued relationship with VolkerFitzpatrick, the project’s principle contractor on behalf of First MTR South Western Trains Limited, has allowed us to supply and install all permanent way, 3rd rail and signalling works. British Steel is a valued supplier, and their efforts to provide the 3,500 metres of conductor rail on this contract have helped us achieve this project’s milestones.”