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Initiatives that increase capacity and reliability

Refurbished stations and new control centres show the way ahead

North Lincolnshire based company C Spencer provides a nationwide integrated design, construction, civil engineering and mechanical & electrical service.

But it is in the field of transport that Spencer has had its most dramatic successes. We have recently completed work on Hull’s Paragon station, converting it from a crumbling eyesore to a state-of-the-art transport interchange. In St Helen’s, a drab 60s station was turned into a bright, modern and architecturally stunning gateway. And further north, Spencer is working on a £10.1m project to make crucial improvements to Partick Interchange, the fourth busiest interchange in Scotland.

Each of these projects will make a real difference to passengers’ everyday experience, but nearby also in Glasgow another major project is quietly taking shape that will make an even greater difference.

At the historic Cowlairs site in Springburn, a former centre of rail manufacturing in the late 19th century but until recently a derelict brownfield site, new technology, designed and installed by Spencer’s mechanical and electrical team, will be helping Network Rail deliver its promise of world class rail facilities for the 21st century.

Key to this promise is the elimination of signal failure, which causes disruption to the network and undermines consumer faith in rail travel. Spencer’s groundbreaking solution to this problem has been to create three levels of back up to sustain critical power to signalling equipment. As well as normal mains supply, the new system has a standby generator, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and secondary standby generator facility. The combined effect is a virtually failsafe power supply.

It is work such as this that has taken Spencer’s specialist in-house M & E revenue past the £30m mark. This technology has also been provided by Spencer on a similar project in Derby. The Derby centre will house all the signalling, communications and associated infrastructure to control the rail network from St Pancras to Sheffield.

The Glasgow and Derby control centres form part of Network Rail’s massive £2 billion investment in national infrastructure. This strategic change to signalling management will increase passenger capacity and improve signalling resilience to signalling failure. And improved reliability will hopefully encourage more passengers to choose the greener option of rail travel instead of taking to the roads.

Green concerns were very much in mind during the design stage of the prototype control centres. With the goal of achieving a BREEAM Rating of ‘Very Good’, the buildings have been designed to the highest environmentally friendly standards. Glazed curtain walls optimise daylight; timber comes from renewable sources; the construction is airtight; an insulated envelope significantly reduces CO2 emissions; and tinted glazing and vertical brise soliel minimise solar gain and reduce cooling requirements. As a result, the buildings better harness natural power sources making them less reliant on lighting, heating and air conditioning.

Proven capability in key projects such as Glasgow and Derby have led to Spencer being selected as preferred contractor for the Thames Valley Communications Centre at Didcot for which the design and initial works are now underway.

This communications centre is key to Network Rail’s future plans for the Great Western Mainline. Future multi-billion pound investment will include Reading Station programme, Crossrail, major resignalling works and many more schemes to improve services across the region.

Heath Williamson is operations director at C Spencer