Let there be light
Michael McDonnell explains how new advances in lighting technology are helping to improve the safety of rail professionals and travellers, reduce costs and save energy
When it comes to security, we all know the rail network can be a soft target for terrorists, particularly since the London bombings in 2005. It is essential, therefore, that rail companies ensure they have the best security measures in place in order to guarantee the safety of travellers, staff members and the general public.
Miles of railway tracks cross every country across the world, many going through rural and deserted areas where safety and security can easily be compromised if tracks are not well monitored. Effective, good quality lighting is essential in order to improve observation. It enables rail staff to view tracks clearly and ensures scenes are visible on CCTV, which can also help to catch and deter criminals.
An effective lighting scheme involves careful targeting of lighting so that it has the right lumen level to improve safety. There are many rules when looking at how lighting works in terms of safety. There should be no glare, no light trespass, no direct up light, no harsh shadows and no steep transitions from light to dark.
Many rail companies are continually trying to improve lighting provision. They are investing in new lighting systems that comply with current safety rules and replacing old systems, many of which have been in place for up to 45 years. Rail companies also have to comply with new government legislation, such as the Climate Change Act and the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency scheme. This means they have had to lower their carbon emissions and the associated costs, while ensuring the safety and security of staff and travellers is maintained. The CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, in particular, means that large rail companies have to lower their CO 2 emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050, based on 1990 levels.
With lighting one of the highest users of electrical energy, and therefore one of the largest emitters of carbon emissions, it is one of the key areas many rail companies are looking at when it comes to saving energy.
Ofcourse, it would be easy for rail companies just to ‘switch off’ lighting systems in order to save energy. However, the security pressures to advance railway lighting and the government’s master plans to improve the rail network mean this is not an option. Other ways of reducing carbon emissions and energy costs have to be found, whilst ensuring safety is maintained.
Many rail companies are therefore turning to new lighting technologies, with the main emphasis currently on LE Ds. Previously used only for applications that did not need a high lux level, new advances mean that LEDs are now suitable for general use. The cost for installing a whole new LED system can be huge though and the savings in particular areas might not always be great.
The development of wireless control and monitoring systems, however, has meant that existing outdoor lights can now be dimmed to provide savings without having to install LEDs. This is done by adding a small antenna to the lamp head, plugged into the electronic ballast. Where LED lighting is in place, this lighting solution can also be installed alongside to provide maximum savings.
Lights can be dimmed to match the exact lighting requirements needed for particular areas, managing lighting effectively according to its location. This ensures there is no glare, no light trespass, no direct up light, no harsh shadows and no steep transitions from light to dark, making sure the security lighting rules are met. Using the philosophy: ‘the correct light at the correct time’, wireless street lighting systems allow total control rather than over-lighting areas and wasting energy whilst potentially causing a security risk.
As well as ensuring the correct quality of light is achieved for security on railway lines, wireless monitoring and control systems are also ideal for outside railway stations, both on the trackside and roadside. These systems can be controlled so that lights are dimmed at times when trains are not as likely to be going in and out of the station, but can be brought back to full light when people start gathering at the station for an oncoming train. As well as helping to reduce energy, this ensures security through CCTV, while maintaining safety through the use of good quality lighting for the benefit of passengers waiting at stations.
The use of wireless control and monitoring systems is a big step forward, both in terms of ensuring the lighting is of the best quality to maximise security and reducing carbon emissions and keeping maintenance costs down. Railway lighting managers can control lights individually, in groups, or as a whole throughout the infrastructure, from their computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone.