Low-carbon engineering works have been rolled out at a site in Royston, northern Hertfordshire, by Network Rail. IEMA's Digital Journalist Tom Pashby reports.

Railways in Great Britain are owned and maintained by Network Rail, which is an arm’s length public body overseen by the Department for Transport and is due to become Great British Railways in 2024.

According to engineers at the company, there are around 50 to 75 sites where engineering works are taking place at any one time in the Eastern Region alone, which encompasses counties such as Norfolk and Suffolk.

The site in Royston is the first site in Network Rail’s eastern region which emitted net zero emissions, due significantly to batteries replacing diesel generators and hybrid electric MEWPs (Mobile Elevating Work Platforms) running on their batteries.

Hamish Critchell-Ward, Environment and Sustainability Consultant at Network Rail

On each site, there are often several dozen employees who will need access to welfare units, which are shipping containers, vans or portacabins with facilities for eating, resting, washing, and toilets. At the Royston site, these were all powered with renewably sourced electricity via portable batteries.

Owen Laws, Project Manager [Electrification & Sustainability Development] at Network Rail

Sites can’t be powered by a local connection to the grid because it would take an unpractical length of time to get permission for the connection, given the level of power required in often remote locations.

To have a fully zero emission power supply, Network Rail needs to either ship in batteries, as was the case in Royston, or on-site renewables generation. Solar photovoltaics embedded with the lights at the site provided some of the power.

Louise Cox, head of safety health and environment [East Coast] at Network Rail

Network Rail provides a good example of a large organisation that sits between suppliers and users which is not fully able to make a simple and quick switch to net zero.

Instead, it has to work with suppliers and users to cooperatively transform a signification section of the economy into sustainability.


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