In continuing to champion innovation in the rail sector, Schneider Electric has recently developed a range of low voltage functional supply point (FSP) switchgear assemblies in conjunction with Network Rail, which have received ‘PADs’ Approval.

As rail operators come under increased pressure to optimise safety, the activity coincided with Network Rail moving to a distribution network for their signalling supplies that is insulated from earth (IT system). As a core safety consideration in rail, switchgear in an IT network must be a totally insulated (Class II) construction for protection against electric shock by means of double or reinforced insulation.

Working in close collaboration with Network Rail, Schneider Electric has developed a range of FSP switchgear assemblies based around its core range of insulated Class II enclosures. Employing a tailored approach, all assemblies are populated with additional switches, fuses and transformers as required to complete the various type of assembly within the range.

From start to finish, the process required a robust and acute approach. As in the early stages of the development Network Rail requirements were evolving, design reviews were held at timely intervals to substantiate progress and any inherent issues. Once the designs had been stabilised and the first issue of Network Rail’s specification for FSP switchgear assemblies had been published, a comprehensive series of verifications were undertaken to ensure strict compliance with the specification including all the standard low voltage switchgear type tests, dielectric tests, IP tests, temperature rise tests and vibration tests.

Subsequently, the FSP switchgear assemblies were submitted for ‘PADs Approval’ – the Network Rail system for ensuring equipment is suitable for use in critical applications on their network. Renowned as one of the most rigorous processes of its kind, it involved comprehensive review of design, application of the equipment, compliance with specification, verification data, operational and maintenance manual, supply of spare parts and routine testing which is essential if installing product on Network Rail.

Lee Fairburn, segment marketing manager at Schneider Electric, commented, “With Network Rail moving to a Class II Based Signalling Power Distribution System we saw a potential market for our product, drawing on our unrivalled national and global expertise in the rail arena.

“Working closely with Network Rail engineers, we have evolved what started out as a Class II enclosure design to provide low voltage functional supply point (FSP) switchgear assemblies ensuring the most exceptional safety standard at all times.”

Fairburn added, “The PADs Approval process is notoriously stringent – it requires a holistic approach and acute attention to detail. We are therefore thrilled to receive this prestigious accolade, and already have further products in the approval process as we continue to work in close alignment with the rail industry.”