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Lighting the way to efficient rail travel

File:Trackmen's Cabins silhouetted at the Putney end of Clapham Junction - geograph.org.uk - 1601670.jpg

If we’re to make sustainable changes as individuals, it’s easier if the infrastructure of the world around us is taking significant steps down the same road. Take the daily commute, for example. Hybrid buses, increasing numbers of cyclists and solar-powered road signs remind us that we’re part of a world that’s changing.

Now the UK’s busiest railway station is getting in on the act – and using the latest in smart technology. Clapham Junction have installed an intelligent lighting control system which matches lighting used to current train timetables, natural light levels and the amount of people on the station.

Clever as it is, it’s not just for showing off. It has been suggested that the system will reduce lighting costs by 35 per cent – with related carbon savings achieved too.

The London train network’s quest to cut emissions has been covered on the blog before: we’ve looked at massive solar schemes at King’s Cross and Blackfriars. Such large undertakings wouldn’t be happening if the figures in terms of costs, savings and paybacks didn’t make sense.

The Clapham lighting installation is set to pay for itself in six years, while a report from earlier this year suggested that the UK train network as a whole could save £40million a year through energy efficiency improvements at stations, offices and depots. The report’s authors Sustain suggest that energy use needs to be built into the bureaucracy around the management of the network:

"The rail industry is in the best position for many years to align sustainability and efficiency improvements. If sustainability principles are integrated into the management of assets, supply chains, projects and programmes by taking a whole life cost and environmental impacts approach, the environment and cost benefits are significant."

The idea of building sustainability into rail planning seems to be taking hold. The proposed (and somewhat controversial) Crossrail scheme has a number of built-in energy efficiency proposals, from regenerative train braking to well insulated, energy-monitored project offices.

Have you noticed energy efficiency changes for the better at your local station? Tell us about them in the comments section below. 

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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