Prodrive Composites

UK: A prototype composite Innovative Mast for Green Electrification is being developed with the aim of reducing the energy required to install overhead electrification, reduce costs and provide smart data to support maintenance planning.

The IMAGE project is being undertaken by electrification engineering firm Furrer+Frey, Prodrive Composites, rail technology company TruckTrain and researchers at Cranfield, Southampton and Newcastle universities, backed by funding from the Department for Transport and Innovate UK’s First of a Kind competition.

A proof-of-concept mast is to be demonstrated next year.

Furrer+Frey said railway electrification already has a short carbon payback thanks to the savings from switching from diesel to electric traction and by helping attract people and freight off the roads. IMAGE could bring further improvements by requiring less energy for production, transport, installation and construction than a typical galvanised steel mast erected on steel pile foundations.

‘The composite ingredient for the masts is significantly lighter and stronger than steel by weight’, said Matt Bradney, Director of Business Development at Prodrive. ‘We are aiming for a composite that has minimal, or even negative, embedded carbon. We hope this project will fuel further experimentation with composites in the rail industry to drive sustainable innovation forward.’

The mast will also include built-in data sensors to help infrastructure managers better target maintenance without needing staff to go to the lineside for manual checks.

‘By creating a mast that is quicker, easier and cheaper to install, we hope to help extend the benefits of rail electrification to places it is currently considered too expensive’, said Phil Mortimer of TruckTrain. ‘We could also be on to a winner for British industry with interest in this concept from the USA and for its use in other rail, light rail and tram applications.’

‘To decarbonise transport, it is vital that we make a swift transition away from fossil-fuels and roll out electrified trains. But it is also important that the infrastructure involved in this process is as green as possible’, added Noel Dolphin, Head of UK Projects for Furrer+Frey.