Railway infrastructure is changing to decarbonise and the PWI is here to help electrification engineers share and gain knowledge to meet the challenge

The U.K. government has committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Transport must decarbonise for the betterment of society and our planet. Rail is already one of the cleanest forms of transport, but the only practical way for large parts of the network to fully meet the decarbonisation challenge and operational demand is overhead line electrification.

In recent years, the PWI’s membership has grown and welcomed a wider range of rail infrastructure engineers. That has allowed the Institution to enhance the scope of knowledge and information sharing that it can offer all PWI members. Supporting and making the case for electrification has been a key aim of the PWI. As members of the PWI, electrification engineers join a community of rail infrastructure engineers, gain access to continuing professional development (CPD) resources, formal training, and can pursue professional registration.

Knowledge sharing
The PWI is a community of rail infrastructure engineers committed to sharing knowledge to develop and maintain their skills of its members and supporting them to progress in their careers. To do so, the PWI provides CPD opportunities and resources to its members including the PWI Journal, lunch and learn webinars, technical seminars, Section meetings, and technical training. Electrification has become a prominent feature in the PWI’s library of resources which increases the PWI community’s knowledge and understanding.

Every quarter the PWI Journal explores the most relevant industry topics from electrification to high-speed rail to sustainability to safety, through a range of technical articles written by industry experts, academics, and engineers. Recent articles around electrification have included ‘Data driven overhead line equipment (OLE) construction assurance for electrification projects’, ‘Earthing and bonding on ac electrified railways’, and ‘Larkfield to East Kilbride electrification project – alignment through design.’

Another way for electrification engineers to not only stay on top of the latest industry developments but also connect with other rail professionals is to attend their local PWI Section meetings. Held in-person or online PWI Section meetings include a presentation from speakers and a Q&A session. The PWI also hosts Lunch & Learn webinars every two weeks on a Tuesday.

In October 2021, the PWI’s ‘Cost Effective Minimum Clearances’ online conference explored the methods available to the rail industry to reduce the cost burden of electrification for civil engineering interventions, if applied effectively. Following the conference, the PWI held its ‘Electrification: Delivering the business case’ seminar in April 2022, which delved into other topics around electrification.

At the seminar rail industry experts and leaders including Bill Reeve (Director of Rail, Transport Scotland), Warren Bain (Technical Director (OLE), PBH Rail), and Anne Watters (Engineering Manager, Amey) spoke about the importance of cross-sector collaboration, successful electrification projects, rail’s green credentials, and cost effectiveness.

As well as hearing from speakers, PWI seminars and Section meetings provide electrification engineers with the opportunity to network, connect, and share knowledge with other rail infrastructure engineers. The PWI intends to hold an annual electrification technical seminar going forward. All the presentations recorded at PWI Section meetings, Lunch & Learns and articles in the Journal are accessible through the PWI website.

The PWI has a proud history of delivering high-quality technical training courses led by experienced engineers who have spent their careers designing, constructing, operating and maintaining systems around the world. The PWI Track Engineering Diploma and S&C Refurbishment Course are accredited and acknowledged as providing delegates with the theoretical and practical knowledge they require as professional rail infrastructure engineers.

For electrification engineers, the PWI launched its Electrification Engineering (Overhead Line) Diploma in 2021. The Diploma is designed for both newly qualified and experienced engineers and
gives delegates an understanding of the theoretical principles of electrification engineering in the UK, and the practical skills they need to carry out their work. It comprises the following three modules:

  • Module 1: Systems and maintenance – introduces delegates to the various aspects of the UK rail system and imparts a knowledge of OLE system types and the interfaces with the pantograph. Delegates will gain an understanding of the essential interfaces with other rail infrastructure including earthworks, structures and clearances. The module also explores inspection, maintenance, servicing and repair processes.
  • Module 2: Design – focuses upon electrification design for projects and enhancements. Delegates will gain an understanding of design categories and processes by investigating case studies, and develop their skills in designing electrical, mechanical and civil engineering aspects including construction design and bonding design.
  • Module 3: Advanced asset engineering, construction and renewals – focuses on strategy and delivery, exploring advanced asset management techniques and applications. Delegates will gain a deep understanding of UK OLE construction and renewal processes including commissioning, OLE system testing and hand back to service. While also considering the ethical and sustainability aspects of OLE work and future proofing for climate change.

In total the PWI Electrification Engineering Diploma (Overhead Line) involves 100 hours of taught study, and each module is mapped to HE Level 6. Upon successful completion of all three modules, candidates will be awarded the PWI Diploma in Electrification Engineering (Overhead Line). Further modules exploring third/fourth rail, side contact systems, and power and distribution are under development.

The PWI Electrification Engineering Diploma (Overhead Line) runs at various points throughout the year.

Lawrence McEwan MPWI Principal Construction Manager – Network Rail

Professional Registration
Through the PWI, electrification engineers can pursue professional registration from EngTech to IEng through to CEng. Gaining a professional title is an important step in an engineer’s career and
an ideal way to communicate the breadth and depth of your knowledge and skillset. Below are the essential requirements to gain each title:

  • EngTech – Engineering Technicians apply proven techniques and procedures to solve practical engineering problems. They hold Level engineering/technology qualifications and two to three years industry experience, or three to five years industry experience.
  • IEng – Incorporated Engineers maintain and manage applications of current and developing technology, and may undertake engineering design, development, manufacture, construction and operation. They hold Level 6 (Bachelors) engineering/technology qualifications and three to five years industry experience, OR five to ten years industry experience.
  • CEng – Chartered Engineers develop solutions to complex engineering problems using new or existing technologies, and through innovation, creativity and technical analysis. They hold Level 7 (Masters) engineering/ technology qualifications and three to six years industry experience, or 10-15 years industry experience.

The Engineering Council recognise many engineering qualifications as meeting the academic requirements for Incorporated or Chartered engineer status. The PWI Registration Team and Academic Panel can help potential registrants determine if the qualifications they have are accredited, or if they are the equivalent of an accredited qualification. If an engineer doesn’t have recognised qualifications, then the PWI Registration Team can help them gain the right professional title for them via several individual assessment pathways including:

  • Further learning – applicants may choose to return to formal study to fill an academic gap. Many employers are supporting degree apprenticeships. Any courses chosen must lead to a recognised
  • Experiential learning – this route enables engineers to bridge the gap between the qualifications they have and the academic requirements for CEng, by demonstrating that they have acquired the underpinning knowledge and understanding needed, through work projects and career experience.
  • Technical report – this route is available to everyone, whether they hold some qualifications or none. Applicants write a report to explain their technical knowledge and understanding of the theory, mathematics and science that underpin and support their technical decision making and analysis of solutions. The process is challenging as it seeks to demonstrate that applicants hold the academic competence equivalent to bachelor’s or master’s degree level.

As the U.K. rail network embraces electrification to meet the decarbonisation challenge, it will change and adapt. This includes making changes to existing infrastructure, such as adapting bridges for OLE, extending platforms, and ensuring maintenance facilities are equipped for electric trains.

By engaging with the PWI, electrification engineers can stay ahead of the challenge by ensuring their knowledge is up to date, connecting with fellow infrastructure engineers, and hearing from and questioning key influencers, and improve their competency as engineers. They can also gain a greater understanding of the developments of other rail infrastructure, and every aspect of the railway system, on its journey to decarbonise.

Founded in 1884, the PWI – the Institution for Rail Infrastructure Engineering – is the cornerstone of knowledge leadership for the rail industry. The Institution offers comprehensive professional development opportunities including training, seminars, webinars, and Section meetings to facilitate learning about all aspects of railway infrastructure engineering and management, in addition to networking with other rail professionals.

Tel: 03003 736 000
Email: secretary@thepwi.org
Visit: www.thepwi.org