Comment, IoT/Smart Lighting, Lighting Controls, Transport

What I believe: Robert Goode, West Midlands Trains

'We’re preparing business cases to introduce LED to more stations' says West Midlands Trains' Robert Goode

The head of property at West Midlands Trains tells Lux how controls are making stations safer and smarter

Lighting is a significant part of our estate.

West Midlands Trains has 150 stations as well as six maintenance depots, and my role is to ensure the facilities are maintained. Lighting has a big effect on our customers and budget, so it’s something we do need to focus on and get right.

Redditch Station is the most advanced controls system we have.

At Redditch Station we raised illuminance levels from around 40-50 lx on the station before, up to 100 lx now, and still achieved savings of 75 per cent on energy, because the luminaires are controlled. We’re using luminaires and wireless controls from Thorlux. The sensors are built into the luminaires, which each communicate wirelessly between each other and with a gateway that sends the information to the cloud.

The system works by providing 100 lx when a train arrives at the platform or there are passengers on the platform, and there isn’t sufficient natural light. When the platform’s empty again and the luminaire hasn’t detected a presence, after five minutes the lights dim down to around 20 lx. In other areas of the station, luminaires turn off after they have been dimmed for a pre-set amount of time.

We no longer need to do a block lamp change every two years, but we will continue to clean the lenses every five years. That’s a significant reduction in maintenance requirements. And now, the system will tell us when a luminaire has failed, and what the failure is. That speeds up our response as we know what part has failed before we attend, so we can complete any repair in one visit as opposed to two.

We’re looking at other sites that can benefit from new lighting.

We’re preparing business cases to introduce LED lighting within the rest of the estate, and in new stations. I’m very keen to ensure we get the right standard of lighting controls into the lighting specifications. There’s always that balance between capital cost and long-term performance, so I will be looking to influence the decisions to ensure energy savings aren’t de-scoped and we realise the full benefits.

The biggest challenge we have with lighting is maintenance.

We operate in a safety critical environment, and we have to ensure our lighting is operating effectively all the time. One major challenge is maintaining lighting that is within 1.25 metres of the running line. Any maintenance that interferes within this zone requires protection measures, which can mean trains are prevented from operating in that section of track. This is expensive to implement, so having reliable LED lighting significantly reduces the cost and disruption.

We want reassurance that suppliers are competent.

We look for examples of where suppliers have done this kind of work before, what standards they work to, where the products are made, how they test their products… There’s a lot of work done researching the quality of the product and ensuring it’s going to meet our reliability requirements.

Soon, the internet of things will be the norm.

There’s a lot of talk about the internet of things (IoT), and I think low-power wide area networks (LPWANs) like Sigfox and LoRa really are game-changers in how everything connects. In the next few years you won’t be able to imagine a time when things didn’t work this way.

Lighting suppliers need to listen to their customers.

When you start using a product as a customer, there are always other elements and features you want. Manufacturers need to listen to feedback and make those changes. A big thing for us is longer warranties. LED outlasts traditional technologies, so we want that back up for the whole product from the driver to the LED board to the casing. If they’ll back up their claims on their product with a warranty, then it gives us more confidence in their product.



  • Lighting on the rail network is one of the topics to be covered at the Lighting for Transport and Infrastructure Conference which is co-located with the LuxLive 2018 exhibition at ExCeL London on Wednesday 14 November and Thursday 15 November 2018. The event is free to those will a lighting estate to manage. Register here.