Furrer+Frey's Noel Dolphin

UK: Funding has been awarded for a project to test the use of a moveable overhead conductor rail at freight terminals where loading and unloading requirements mean conventional overhead electrification cannot be used. This could eliminate the need to use diesel shunting locomotives and remove a barrier to end-to-end electrification, aiding the decarbonisation of rail freight services.

The Decarbonisation & Electrification of Freight Terminals project is being led by Furrer+Frey’s UK business, with support from Tarmac and Rail Forum Midlands. It is also backed by wagon leasing companies VTG and ERMEWA and freight operators DB Cargo, Freightliner and GB Railfreight.

Funding worth £345 404 has been awarded under the Department for Transport and Innovate UK’s First of a Kind innovation competition.

A prototype installation is to be tested at Tarmac’s cement plant at Dunbar. This will enable freight trains to be moved into position by electric locos, before the overhead conductor is retracted to enable safe loading and unloading. The project will last for nine months and is due to finish in March 2022.

Furrer+Frey GB has previously installed similar retractable conductors at depots including Eurostar’s Temple Mills site. ‘The system is tried-and-tested at passenger train depots, but no working system has been developed to deal with the challenges of UK freight’, said the company’s Head of UK Projects Noel Dolphin on July 19.

‘We hope that DEFT will eliminate one of the last remaining barriers to full electrification, ensuring diesel can be completely squeezed out of freight operations, paving the way to net-zero.’