Railway electrification in Great Britain

Railway Electrification In Great Britain

Railway electrification in Great Britain

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Railway electrification in Great Britain describes the past and present electrification systems used to supply traction current to railways and tramways in Great Britain with a chronological record of development, a list of lines using each system and a history and a technical description of each system.


Railway electrification emerged at the end of the 19th century. This had many advantages over the then predominant steam traction, particularly in respect of its rapid acceleration (ideal for urban (metro) and suburban (commuter) services) and higher power (ideal for heavy freight trains through mountainous/hilly sections). Many systems emerged in the first twenty years of the 20th century. In 1921, a government committee chose 1,500 V DC overhead to be the national standard but little implementation followed and many different systems co-existed.

After World War II and the nationalisation of the railways in 1948, British Railways expanded electrification of both the 1,500 V DC overhead and Southern Region third rail systems. However in 1956, British Railways adopted 25 kV AC overhead as standard for all future projects outside the natural extensions of existing third-rail systems.

Despite the following years of minimal capital investment, the 25 kV AC network has continued to expand, slowly, although large areas of the country outside London...
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