News, Transport

Give us a 48V lighting network, says rail industry

Wasmuth says 48V was good compromise as it was safe, yet was ‘pretty good’ when it came to voltage drop over long runs of cabling.

Leading rail engineers have challenged manufacturers to come up a lighting network that runs on 48V rather than 240V.

Such a system would be safer, require a less onerous testing and inspection regime and save on equipment such as mains cables, drivers, transformers and inverters.

Senior engineers from Network Rail and Transport for London, speaking at today’s Lighting for Rail conference in London, agreed that such a system would eliminate many issues specific to the industry.

A 48V system wouldn’t need any inverters , transformers or drivers., so think of all l the losses you would save, says Wasmuth

‘If you going to rewire a modest-sized station, what the 48V system would give you in theory is, first, reduced time between inspections,’ said Peter Wasmouth, M&E engineer for Network Rail. ‘Currently we’re mandated on a 240V system with either a three-year or a five-year inspection. And in theory you could come up with your own inspection regime, which could tie in with something like your cleaning schedule. So you would cut down on costs.

‘You don’t actually have to have an earthing system either. So in theory you wouldn’t need the third wire. Then there would be an increase in safety as no-one would get electrocuted as you’re under 50V.

‘The system wouldn’t need any inverters [connected] to the batteries. Think of all the losses you would save. There’s also the material savings such as ducting.

‘With smaller stations, if you put in 1mm [cabling] and a few solar panels on the roof, you could have an autonomous station. Take Castle Carey [station in Somerset, the nearest one to the Glastonbury music festival]. Every year we have every hippy in the country going through there and wouldn’t it be great if we could have wind turbines and solar panels on the roof of the canopy? They’d love something like that. But we don’t have the funding for it and no manufacturer wants to spend the money.’

Wasmuth said 48V was good compromise as it was safe, yet was ‘pretty good’ when it came to voltage drop over long runs of cabling.

Other leading technical figures in the rail industry – including Paul Meenan, electrical and mechanical engineer at Transport for London and Russell Sweeting-White, senior building services engineer at Network Rail – agreed that a 48V network had compelling advantages over a mains one and that options for trails on the network should be explored. 

  • LIghting on the rail network will be one of the tracks at the LuxLive 2017 exhibitiona dn conference at ExCeL London on Wednesday 16 November and Thursday 17 November 2017. Entry is free if you register HERE.