Rail station infrastructure is changing rapidly. As train operating companies are taking advantage of greater ownership and more responsibility than ever before, the implications are huge, making it more important to think long-term and invest today, for tomorrow.

As consumer gravitation towards public transport grows amid soaring petrol prices, there are currently 40 per cent more passenger journeys than 10 years ago and the increasing popularity of rail travel means that 50 per cent more trains run today than under the former British Rail.

As such, efficiency is becoming an increasingly important focus as the UK’s rail community unites over the next ten years to fix the CO2 mistakes of the past 50 years, as well as reducing its operating costs to the same level as its European counterparts.

In a bid to drive improvements, recent new arrangements agreed between the DfT, Network Rail, the ORR and ATOC have given franchisees greater responsibility for station operations, along with increased length of ownership. Constituting one of the biggest shake-ups to the UK rail sector in modern times, this provides major opportunities for train operators and their suppliers to improve the value from stations by reducing industry costs, thus improving the passenger experience and extending commercial opportunities.

Scope for improved efficiency is huge

And so, the onus is on the station infrastructure to invest in sustainable technology in order to maximise revenue generating potential, with operating costs high on the agenda. To place this into context, it is reported that operating costs for the UK railway are 40 per cent higher than its counterparts in France, Holland, Sweden and Switzerland. The scope for improved efficiency is huge and inevitable.

It would seem then that the UK rail industry is on the verge of an energy efficiency revolution. The view of the energy challenge ahead is clear: the industry needs new solutions, new thinking and new companies to lead it into an era in which more is achieved while consuming much less.

The approach required is multiple and complex. It needs a much more cohesive, efficient collaboration between the key stakeholders, including estates, facility, security and IT managers. Requisite levels of business efficiency involve system dynamics, across platforms and providers, like never before.

To place this into context, in a typical railway station, each energy system is independent and requires its own design, installation and management. An inherent disadvantage to this scenario is the wasted time and money dedicated to multiple vendors, redundant supervision, and excess cabling and devices. The result is costly downtime, higher operational expenditures and increased obstacles to achieving energy efficiency. As such, there is a need to fit everything together to deliver maximum results.

New architecture

Fortunately then, the market has responded with a highly intelligent innovation to negate this common issue; an active management architecture from power plant to plug.

Set to revolutionise the future of modern railway stations, this new architecture provides a complete solution to this issue. Unique to the market, it unites the separate entities of the rail station, including power management, the IT facility, building and security management, working as the backbone of the entire rail station setup.

At every level, each building domain has its own energy efficiency mechanics. In terms of power management, quality control products are employed to ensure intelligent power and motor control and renewable energy conversion. This ensures availability, while reducing energy bills and limiting CO2 emissions.

For the station’s IT department, the IT management solution ensures availability of servers, critical data, and applications via intelligent IT equipment positioning, ultra-secured power, and dedicated SLAs, while improving energy efficiency with cooling, IT capacity optimisation, and energy reports.

Conversely, easing the process for the facility manager, the building side incorporates HVAC, lighting and outdoor lighting control. Collectively, this improves user comfort and productivity, while also reducing the energy consumed.

Finally, security needs to be considered. A combination of video surveillance, emergency lighting and intrusion detection maximises the safety and security of the station’s occupants and assets. It also protects the physical environment with integrated technologies; an especially pertinent focus for the rail sector which is subject to frequent vandalism and theft.

On a holistic level, the architecture takes all of these multiple systems and adapts them to an integrated solution, reducing redundancy in equipment, software and personnel. Better still, with the need for adaptability in mind, the system is scaleable and can be applied to both retrofits and new construction.

Vastly improved green credentials

Collectively, the end-result is a high-visibility energy management solution which allows the rail operator to see, measure and manage energy in order to optimise energy efficiencies across all domains, both during installation and throughout the facility’s life cycle. Quite simply, this integrated way of working provides the rail operator with a single, actionable view of the facility. The site manager can ensure business continuity, user comfort, equipment security and energy performance in every respect and from anywhere in the world.

Moreover, the architecture enables significantly reduced energy consumption. From working in this way, operators can look to achieve up to 30 per cent savings on capital and operational expenses across the entire enterprise, starting immediately. The result is real, tangible business value and massively improved green credentials.

Of course, with so much to consider it can be hard to know where to begin for the rail operator. The good news is that for those looking to truly optimise energy efficiency, manufacturers, such as Schneider Electric have not only developed sector specific innovations for rail, but also have dedicated expert teams on hand to help.

As we look to the future of the UK rail infrastructure, momentous change is imminent as rail operators look to embrace sustainable strategy like never before. In doing so however, it is essential not to think of products singularly but rather think holistically and long-term in order to achieve the maximum energy savings possible. Only in this way is it possible to ensure that, as a nation, we remain on track for a more sustainable future in rail.

For further information contact Lee Fairburn, segment marketing manager at Schneider Electric: Tel: +44 (0)121 456 5600 www.schneider-electric.com/uk