Elizabeth Line opens doors to energy and digital efficiency

Opening of Crossrail Elizabeth Line - billed as UK's first fully digital railway - sees Alstom deliver on sustainable mobility and decarbonisation

The Elizabeth Line has opened, marking a new chapter for energy efficient digital transport in the UK.

The new trains were built at Bombardier Transportation's UK site in Derby (the company is now owned by Alstom) and the line is billed as the country's 'first full digital' railway, capable of carrying up to 500,000 passengers daily. But it arrived three years late and $4bn over budget.

The 100km line runs from Reading and Heathrow in the west of London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, connecting key city stops along the way.

Two targets were set around the rolling stock and carbon: trains should not exceed 350 tonnes, and energy efficiency should be 24kwH per train, which equates to around 55g of CO2 per passenger kilometre on the system.

Trains actually weigh in at 319 tonnes and 14KwH per train has been achieved (32g of CO2 per passenger km), and the payback period is scheduled to be between 'four and 10 years'.

A Waste Resources Action Programme was undertaken with Crossrail contractors to reduce waste through good design, reuse and recovery, and off-site construction, material optimisation, waste efficient procurement and future deconstruction. Laing O'Rourke prefabricated large parts of Crossrail Custom House station. 

Peter Hogg, Arcadis’ UK Cities Director, said if London wants to remain an inclusive, growing city it needs world class infrastructure to support it.

"For too long Crossrail's problems have choked the conversation on the need for Crossrail 2, the Bakerloo Line extension, the digital signalling upgrades to all London Underground lines and a whole host more," he said.

"From today, The Elizabeth Line will be that investment's most vocal champion and London will become a better global city for it."

Alstom targets hydrogen and electric to power next-generation trains

Alstom has developed two solutions for replacing diesel engines: engines that use hydrogen as a fuel source, via fuel cells, and engines powered by electric batteries. 

Hybrid solutions to reduce CO2 and NOx emissions are also available, to make part of a journey emission-free where complete transformation is not possible, for example, enabling diesel trains to run on electric batteries for the section of their journey through urban areas.

Up to 35% of a train’s energy consumption can be saved by using new traction systems that allow regenerative braking - but the transition isn't going to be easy with 90% of trains in the US and Canada still running on diesel.

Jean-Paul Moskowitz, Green Modernisation Solutions Development Manager, said the best solution to meet the customer’s needs depends on many parameters, including speed, the length of non-electrified lines, time for refuelling or recharging, the length of platforms, fleet age, compliance with technical specifications for interoperability and standards, the mission profile, and possibilities for installing infrastructure for hydrogen refuelling or for recharging electric batteries.

"Train-life extension is the other important area for reducing emissions. It allows customers to improve performance and reduce energy consumption and environmental impact. Adding 20 years of useful life to an existing train, while incorporating the latest technologies, gives customers effectively a ‘new’ train with their old assets," he said.

Camille Rozanes, who works in Alstom Services’ Sustainable Solutions, explains that green modernisation goes beyond saving energy and reducing emissions.

“Concerns are now emerging regarding the availability of natural resources. We know that we are going to lack many resources in the future and there are significant economic and environmental challenges to tackle this issue. The circular economy is a key consideration today, to ensure that we can optimise the use of resources in the way we manufacture and keep the resources in the railway industry loop.”

Parts that have become obsolescent can be re-used and repaired, or recreated via 3D printing. New, low-impact materials can be introduced in refurbishments, while old equipment is recycled into new, useful products. This is all part of achieving a circular economy, where old and new train parts are reused and recycled to the maximum.

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