A creative new system that will enable the electrification of rail freight line has been disclosed in Northamptonshire, which would help in providing a significant speed towards the decarbonising of the UK’s rail network. Funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Innovative UK, the Decarbonisation and Electrification of Freight Terminals project has been carried out by a group of partners Tarmac, Furrer+Frey GB and GB Railfreight.

The possibility of the freight trains being electrified is prevented due to the loading and unloading, that takes place from above the train, as for electrification, overhead cables were not the solution for freight trains, like the ones used in passenger railways. This concluded that the freight remained completely dependent on diesel while the rest of the railways are on the verge of becoming electrified.


Tarmac’s aggregate facility is currently taking the trail of the system in Wellingborough.

In order to work around this matter, a moveable overhead conductor system was designed by the engineers of company Furrer+Frey, with the help of which, the overhead power arrangement of the rail can be moved to and away from the trains safely when needed. Tarmac’s aggregate facility is currently taking the trail of the system in Wellingborough, which is adjacent and near to the Midland Main Line. If the trial becomes successful, the moveable overhead system would be sent to other terminals of freight in the UK and this would help to reduce the hold-up to passenger services.

Noel Dolphin, who is the head of UK projects of Furrer+Frey GB has said that the biggest technological challenge to net-zero rail freight is the freight terminal electrification and they have overcome it. The demonstrator has shown the process of how freight yards can be plugged into electrified rail lines to operate them safely and efficiently for better and cleaner journeys. This means that the moveable conductor system will enable the trains to work on electricity, disconnect from the trains so the loading and unloading can take place safely, and then reconnect with it to travel ahead. He also added that he is proud of the team and partners who helped to achieve this milestone for a greener future in the industry.  Head of the rail from Tarmac, Chris Swan said that the company can help to achieve net-zero for decarbonising transport across the country, as it is one of the company’s key skills in the field.


The moveable conductor system will allow the trains to work on electricity, disconnect from the trains for safe loading and unloading, and then reconnect.

Rail minister Wendy Morton has said that it is fantastic to see the winners of their first of a kind competition is helping the country to transform the railways for a better future. The making of rail freight more environment-friendly will help to speed up the process of plans to build greener and the whole UK net-zero by the year 2050.  

On the other hand, the chief executive of GB Railfreight, John Smith said that as compared to road transport, rail freight is already an alternative when it comes to a greener mode of moving goods, and innovation like moveable overhead conductor system will help to go even further to protect the planet.