Innovate UK and DfT Fund Project to Electrify Rail Freight Terminals

A prototype electrified rail freight terminal is one of 30 projects to receive funding from Innovate UK and the Department for Transport (DfT) as part of the First of a Kind 2021 rail innovation competition.

Diesel shunter at terminal
Diesel shunter at terminal

Engineering firm Furrer+Frey will use the funding to develop an overhead conductor system for its decarbonisation and electrification of freight terminals (DEFT) project. This will specifically be designed for UK freight terminals, which currently rely on diesel shunters to move trains into position, which comes with added time and fuel requirements as well as noise and pollution.

The company has installed similar retractable systems at passenger train depots, such as at the Temple Mills Eurostar depot, in the past. However, no such system has been successfully developed for the distinct needs of rail freight, which includes the overhead loading and unloading of goods and movement of the loading machinery.

The prototype involves moveable overhead cables that allow freight trains to move into position then retract to enable safe loading and unloading. By making rail freight quicker and greener, the moveable overhead conductor-rail system could help shift more freight from road to rail with significant benefits for UK carbon emissions.