Traction Power – We’ve still got it

Published: May 19, 2014

HSL - Power Supply System

 

Special expertise is needed to develop a dedicated traction power supply system for a High-Speed Line (HSL) railway from scratch. Drawing on historical and current expertise, Tractebel Engineering proves the point on the Bretagne – Pays de La Loire (BPL) HSL in France for EIFFAGE.

 

HISTORICAL REFERENCE

The “TRAC” in Tractebel Engineering traces back to the early 20th Century when the company (Société d’Electricité et de Traction 1919), was active in traction rail systems in Belgium but also Spain, Asia, South America, Russia and Turkey. Almost a century later Tractebel Engineering is still actively combining infrastructure and electrification competences to meet market needs. Read more

A POWERFUL BID STRATEGY

The BPL HSL is a PPP (Public Private Partnership) project. The public partner is RFF (Réseau Ferré de France), responsible for the fixed installation of French railways within the national railways company SNCF.  When RFF invited bid submissions for the construction of the BPL line in 2009, French Construction Company EIFFAGE was shortlisted as a potential private partner. Read more

MEETING THE CHALLENGES OF TRACTION POWER

Although the basic elements are always similar, every HSL traction power supply system is different in design.  The challenge for Tractebel Engineering experts is to find a dedicated solution, perfectly adapted to the case and constraints of a particular project. Read about Traction Power – how it works and the technical challenges involved…


  • Eurotunnel - car shuttle trains at the French side (1994)
  • HSL East European Paris-Strasbourg-works in progress

 

A HISTORICAL REFERENCE

The “TRAC” in Tractebel Engineering traces back to the early 20th Century when the company (Société d’Electricité et de Traction 1919), was active in traction rail systems in Belgium, but also Spain, Asia, South America, Russia and Turkey. Almost a century later Tractebel Engineering is still actively combining infrastructure and electrification competences to meet market needs.

AN EARLY START
The company’s earliest engineering activities in railway, tram and metro projects was closely associated with electrification projects as it grew as an important actor in the field of electricity supply. Fast forward to the end of the 20th Century; still combining infrastructure and power expertise, Tractebel was among the first involved in the European move to AC power supply in HSL (Eurotunnel 1986 – 1994) and in developing the Belgian HSL network with Belgian Rail Engineering company TUC RAIL  (connecting Brussels to Amsterdam, Aachen and Paris 1995 – 2010).

THE PICTURE TODAY
Today the European HSL network allows environmentally friendly train travel between major centres at over 300 km/hr.  And the network is still growing, particularly in France where the European High-Speed Rail Network programme, is pushing for the construction of 2,000 km of HSL in the country by 2020.

NEW FRENCH CONNECTIONS
A first important French contract was a Technical Assistance mission on the Paris – Strasbourg East European HSL (400 km). Other major HSL projects have followed:  one being the traction powering of the Bretagne–Pays de la Loire (BPL) HSL between the cities of Le Mans and Rennes. This 182 km new line will allow travel between Paris – Rennes in less than 1.5 hrs…

Even in an industry where a lot of knowledge is developed and held within the railway and associated construction companies, traction power expertise at the level we can provide is still a rare asset.
Daniel Boulu, Senior Railway Expert -Tractebel Engineering SSI


  • HSL Bretagne-Pays de Loire-route Le Mans-Rennes
  • HSL Bretagne-Pays de Loire-construction site © Philippe Dontot

 

A POWERFUL BID STRATEGY

The BPL HSL is a PPP (Public Private Partnership) project. The public partner is RFF (Réseau Ferré de France), responsible for the fixed installation of French railways within the national railways company SNCF.  When RFF invited bid submissions for the construction of the line in 2009, French Construction Company EIFFAGE was shortlisted as a potential private partner.

EXPERTISE OPENS DOORS
While a great deal of railway expertise is developed and held within railway companies or associated construction and development companies like EIFFAGE (known for its involvement in the Channel Tunnel and other HSL projects such as the French/Spanish – Perpignan-Figueras link), traction power remains a specialised field due to its combined infrastructure and complex power system requirements.

In 2009, EIFFAGE approached Tractebel Engineering for assistance in preparing the bid related to the BPL HSL traction power supply system. Tractebel Engineering’s first contribution was to build a complete preliminary design to enable accurate pricing to support EIFFAGE’s final bid.

The full BPL HSL contract – line and power system – was awarded to EIFFAGE in 2011. Tractebel Engineering were subsequently contracted by EIFFAGE and put in charge of the full design, supply, installation and construction of the traction power supply system, as well as its testing and commissioning.

A MISSION OF MANY PHASES
Altogether, from field to running trains, the project duration is at least 5 years during which there are many design studies, procurement and execution and conformity check phases to progress before  the actual installation of the power system, which is a surprisingly short part (12 months) of the process. Following detailed test, commissioning and global testing of the line; starting with trains at low speed then increasing – full commercial operation of the line is expected in 2017.


  • HSL Brussels-Liège-150 kV traction power substation © Tractebel Engineering
  • HSL Brussels-Liège-aerial view of traction power substation at Hannut ©Tractebel Engineering (D. Boulu)
  • HSL in Belgium-autotransformer substation ©Tractebel Engineering
  • HSL Brussels-Liège-design of a traction power supply substation ©TUC RAIL

 

MEETING THE CHALLENGES OF TRACTION POWER

Although the basic elements are always similar, every HSL traction power supply system is different in design.  The challenge for Tractebel Engineering experts is to find a dedicated solution, perfectly adapted to the case and constraints of a particular project.

WHAT IS EXPECTED OF A TRACTION POWER SUPPLY SYSTEM?
A traction power system is the electricity distribution system that powers HSL. Any design must ensure system security, performance and reliability, be fully in-line with approved standards, current parameters, as well as all future possibilities of HV power supply and train traffic for years to come. 

HOW DOES IT WORK?
Power from the national grid is fed via main HV substations into a 2 x 25 kV (double track) overhead AC current collection system (OCS), also called a catenary. Running TGV trains collect power from the OCS via a pantograph connection above the train engine – allowing them to achieve the high speeds they are valued for.

THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE
High speed trains need constant power to maintain speed and performance, but the number of trains drawing power on a line, and the transmission distance between substations can cause voltage levels to dip.  To avoid this, auxiliary substations supporting power feed sections, circulating and reinforcing the power are spaced along the line at set intervals. Analysing, calculating and defining the solution; the optimal location of facilities, system security, equipment quality and costs, against known and predicted parameters is the challenge.

A traction power system is built to last for at least 30 years; so its design has to anticipate and allow for changes to known parameters. Covering all bases, we carry out a large number of complex calculations using both power and infrastructure modelling tools such as IMTP, MATHCAD, to ensure controlled and coherent results in view of the many factors to be taken into account: trains, track gradient, substation locations, equipment specifications and performance limits, and more. In traction powering there is no standard solution – just the right solution for a particular length of track.
Philippe Mertens, Principal Engineer- Tractebel Engineering Power & Gas

Balanced Solution

Marianne Brismée © D. Plas

The enlarged Europe of the 21st century is facing contradictory concerns: on the one hand, the steadily increasing mobility of people and goods, and on the other, the environmental challenges which need to be taken into account. This double requirement imposes the preferential use of clean modes of transport. Our involvement in the design of electric railway systems since their origin and, currently, through major projects such as the French HSL contributes importantly to the solution.
Marianne Brismée – Product Manager Rail –Tractebel Engineering (SSI)

 

More HSL Action

Tractebel Engineering is also involved on the 300 km South Europe Atlantic (SEA) new HSL Tours- Bordeaux (France), providing Independent Technical Review (Organisme Technique IndépendantOTI) for LISEA (Vinci Group) and RFF. Leading the OTI group, with TUC RAIL (railway equipment) and ASCONT (environment) Tractebel Engineering’s focus is the civil works assessment requiring expertise in; geology, geotechnics, hydrogeology, hydraulics, earth levelling and tunnelling, bridges and structural engineering, roads and networks.

More information

Ph. Mertens, G. Teuwen, D. Boulu © D. Plas

Daniel Boulu – Senior Railway Expert – Tractebel Engineering (SSI)
Philippe Mertens – Principal Engineer – Tractebel Engineering (P&G)
Geoffroy Teuwen – Electrical Design Engineer – Tractebel Engineering (P&G)