London Midland has become the first UK train operating company (TOC) to equip 100% of its electric train fleet with energy meters.
Traditionally, TOCs buy electricity from Network Rail using a billing system that estimates the amount of electricity used to power trains and then redistributes any difference back to TOCs.
The new system means that London Midland will now pay only for the electricity that it uses and also have the information to be able to reduce energy consumption. Over time this will save up to 20% of its £15m electricity bill and reduce its annual carbon emissions from 98,000 tons to 78,000 tons.
At the same time, London Midland is looking to work with its train drivers and other staff to make the most of the electricity that they use, in the same way that car drivers can maximise a tank of petrol.
This is achieved by reducing power when the train is on level or slightly falling gradients and reducing acceleration when it is not needed to meet the train timetable.
Electricity can also be saved by smarter use of on board air conditioning, heating and lighting and reducing power when trains are parked up at night.
All 100 electric trains out of London Midland's total fleet of 159 trains (the rest are diesel) are now fitted with energy meters.
The meters themselves have a similar look to household electricity meters. The meter records energy usage every minute, the dates and times of energy usage and GPS-derived location.
A roof mounted antenna uses mobile phone technology to transmit data at 1 minute intervals.
Back office software can then process the data to produce a picture of which trains are using the most and the least electricity, in real time.
Network Rail will then receive all actual meter readings from all company electric trains on a daily basis, and every 4 weeks the company will receive an actual rather than an estimated electricity bill from Network Rail.
London Midland staff are keen to do their bit for the environment, and the company is planning training to encourage good practice in energy consumption.
The process from research to procurement to implementation has been achieved in a record breaking 10 months and this also includes changing the contract for billing of electricity with Network Rail.
The scheme has also had to gain approval from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), to ensure that other TOCs are not placed at a disadvantage by the scheme and that it meets the required standards of accuracy.
Following a competitive tender process, London Midland chose a Derby based company, Interfleet Technology, to project manage the scheme.
The scale of the project meant that the tender to build the meters had to be split between 2 suppliers.
Siemens has fitted meters made by Swiss firm LEM to 67 trains that it originally built and now maintains in Kings Heath depot, Northampton; while Interfleet has fitted the remaining 33 trains with meters made by FAR Systems of Italy.
Mike Haigh, Programme Director for London Midland, comments:
“If we know how much electricity we are using, we can start to manage that usage. We don't just want to be billed differently; we want to do things differently.
“Everyone in the rail industry is aware of the current need to make savings and this is an example of an early start we are making to invest in technology to reduce our costs and our carbon emissions.
“Just as 'smart meters' are starting to help us make intelligent decisions about using energy at home, our trains should be no different.”
Although the use of on-train energy meters is increasingly commonplace in mainland Europe, London Midland is the first UK company to use this technology on all of its electric fleet.
Mike Haigh continues:
“As well as energy consumption data, the technology we are fitting to our trains can also transmit data on the condition of train systems which will ultimately help us to improve reliability and our maintenance processes. If trains can tell us 'how they are feeling' we can resolve issues before they become a problem and give passengers a more reliable service.”
Jo Kaye, Network Rail route director, said:
"The development of this equipment is good for the environment and good for the taxpayer, and something that we hope other train operators will incorporate into their fleets of electric trains in due course.
"It will allow them to accurately measure electricity consumption and all the factors that affect it. This in turn should lead to innovative ways to reduce the total amount of electricity used and reduce the train operators' carbon footprint.
"For the taxpayer, it offers value for money because in future, individual train operators will only pay for the electricity they use rather than simply having to pay a proportion of Network Rail's overall electricity bill."
London Midland is currently contributing to Department for Transport (DfT) and Network Rail research on energy usage in the rail industry, as well as sharing good practice with European counterparts.