Electrification on the Transpennine Route Upgrade

What is electrification?

Electrification is the process of improving the infrastructure of the railway to allow for electric trains to run on the track, rather than trains that use fuel. It’s a process that takes time and a lot of planning, and as part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade, the railway between Manchester and York, via Leeds and Huddersfield, is due to be electrified.

Why are we doing it?

Electric trains are better for the environment than diesel trains, and they’re quieter for both those on board the train and those living close to the railway. We’re making it possible for electric trains to travel on more areas of the rail network by electrifying railway lines that only diesel trains can run on at the moment.

Track electrification taking place at Leeds City Station

What’s involved in electrification?

In order to electrify the railway, we need to install overhead line equipment (OLE) to run the wires that will carry the electricity that powers the electric trains, and before we do that, we need to install OLE foundations. This is done through a process called piling.

Piling involves driving the piles deep into the ground. This is usually done at night-time on weekdays and weekends. We’re aware of the inconvenience that piling can cause our lineside neighbours and do everything we can to minimise disruption.

Once this is complete and the foundations are installed, we begin to erect trackside posts and overhead wires.

For safety reasons, work of this type must be carried out while trains are not running. Under our licence conditions we are contractually obliged to work at times that cause the least disruption to train services.

Depending on ground conditions, an average pile takes between 20 and 60 minutes and is often complete on a single occasion. Once complete, work will then progress to another location.

Piling work being carried out between York and Church Fenton
Piling work being carried out between York and Church Fenton

Electromagnetic Fields

A number of our lineside neighbours have asked us for more information about electromagnetic fields, and whether they have a negative effect.

The OLE which is being installed will carry 25,000 volts of electricity to power the trains running on the line. Our engineers carry out thorough risk assessments on this risk and monitor these levels to ensure residents’ safety. This includes the council’s 1999 recommendation for ‘limits for long term exposure for the public to the risk of excessive electromagnetic fields (EMF).’ The alert level for this is set at 100μT (100 microteslas).

It has been determined that, using the maximum load current of 317.05 amps that will flow in the OLE, the distance that the public needs to maintain (so not to exceed the 100μT EMF exposure levels) is a distance of at least 0.7 metres from the track.

It should be noted that the 100μT alert level is not a dangerous level, just that levels above this need to be investigated further. For reference when using a domestic vacuum cleaner, you will be exposed to fields of up to 40μT.

More detailed information is available at www.emfs.info


More information about electrification

You can find out more about the electrification of the railway, and how the matters of safety and OLE maintenance are managed, on the Network Rail website.