Feature, Transport

Northern eyes audacious energy reduction target

A Northern train pulling into Alderley Edge station. the rail company has the oldest trains and stations in the country.
Euan Hilton, utilities contracts and data manager at Northern, is working on reducing energy consumption across the network by five percent . 

Northern operates more stations than any other train operating company in the UK, making the commitment in their new franchise agreement to reduce energy consumption across the network by five percent, every year, a particularly audacious one. The task is even more of a challenge because Northern, which has the oldest train fleet in the country and the oldest station stock, is often at the mercy of events. 

The instillation of LED across the Northern network, in train sheds and at stations, is a major part of Northern’s strategy to slash the yearly five percent.

We caught up with Euan Hilton, utilities contracts and data manager at Northern, during this year’s LuxLive, to see how the operation is going.


How is Northern, one of the biggest rail franchises in the country, currently approaching lighting?

A new franchise began in April 2016 and part of the agreement included a Government target stating that we must reduce energy usage by 3.2 percent every year, a target that will stay in place until the franchise ends.

This doesn’t sound like a lot, but when we are improving stations, putting in lifts and adding new departure screens for example, we need look for the best products, so this can lead to individual energy increases.

So, we are looking at changing the complete lighting stock, right across our business to be LED.

LED is actually referenced in the franchise contract?

Yes, it is. Possibly we should have used the term energy efficient lighting instead, because sometimes LED might not be the perfect technology for what is required.

Some years ago, we did an LED project in one of our train maintenance sheds, for example, and LED was nowhere close to giving us what we wanted. We ended up looking at induction lighting.

So, why was LED lighting not good enough on that particular occasion?

I don’t think the product was right. The energy consumption, lumens per what etc, all the things we now look at and take for granted, was not comparable and we were getting shadow and glare issues meaning people couldn’t see properly to do the task in hand.

We will be going back and installing LED products in the future, but we will do so with better products at our disposal.

How close is Northern to hitting the 3.2 percent energy saving requirement for the current year?

The instillation of LED across the franchise is not compete yet, but where it has been finished, we are making savings. The first year is going to be the hardest, it’s about making sure we mobilise quickly enough to get the new technology out and into the field.

How do things look as things stand though, over half way through the first year of the franchise?

It’s going to be a big challenge to hit the target, but I believe that if we get it right then we will do it.

If you do hit the target how will that place Northern in comparison to other rail franchises in the country when it comes to saving energy?

The Northern franchise is the first of a new type of agreement. We are the first not to report to the Department of Transport and instead we report to Rail North, which is the transport authority for the North of England.

Northern is already one of the best at energy saving, because we have the ISO14,001 2015 standard in place and we are the first train operating company to get that.

Can you tell me a little bit about the importance of the ISO14,001 2015 standard to Northern?

This is the environmental management system, it demonstrates our commitment to controlling the impact of our activities on our environment. We also have ISO 50,001, which is the energy management standard.

We are already leading in these areas, despite having the oldest train fleet and the oldest station stock. We are always on the back foot, but we are always trying to push forward despite this.