Science and Engineering


01 May 2017

Costs associated with building new electric rail, or upgrading existing diesel and electric networks to more efficient electric systems, could be vastly reduced as a result of research undertaken with rail network giant Aurizon.

Electric rail would be cheaper to implement and run by a factor of approximately 20% over the network lifetime with a few key changes to the technologies currently utilised in most metropolitan and regional networks, according to QUT doctoral candidate, Igor Perin.

Currently, 400km of regional electric railway for bulk haulage requires eight electricity feeder stations – each valued at $50m to build. The feeder stations are subjected to irregular high power demands for long, heavy trains, reducing the network performance compared to an even flow of energy.

Common issues include unbalanced loads and harmonic distortion. Perin’s research proposes using pre-existing German and Japanese electronic converter technologies to share the electrical load between feeder stations; implementing new energy storage technology; using railway owned transmission; and reducing the number of feeder stations. In this 400km of rail example, Perin proposes only building five feeder stations using converters that manage energy more efficiently. The cost reductions in building and operating these systems will be considerable and the implications for electric rail globally are significant.

Considerable forward planning and preparation would be required if the changes Perin proposes are to be implemented. Some of the challenges to implementation include getting the rail project leadership on board with understanding the benefits of electric rail over diesel.

Perin’s research, under the supervision of QUT’s Assoc. Professor Geoff Walker and Professor Gerard Ledwich and Central Queensland University Professor Peter Wolfs, takes a whole-of industry approach in alleviating these issues while delivering significant savings and enhancing effectiveness of rail transport. Aurizon Pty Ltd, Australia’s largest rail-based transport business, shares the same issues with most electric rail companies globally.

The first electric train on the Bauhinia branch line, Queensland.


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