Hampshire launches world’s first solar-powered railway line

UK Hampshire railway line becomes the first in the world to run on solar energy, ditching diesel. The solar panels started functioning on Friday, powering signalling and lights on Network Rail’s Wessex route. If the pilot project takes off successfully, UK would scale up the solar energy to even run the trains by next year. The Network Rail switched to renewable energy, as it was looking for alternatives to cut on on cost and pollution.

Stuart Kistruck, a director for Network Rail’s Wessex route, said: “We have ambitions to roll this technology out further across the network should this demonstrator project prove successful, so we can deliver a greener, better railway for our passengers and the wider public.”

It is not the first time the UK used solar energy for its railways as there are few railways stations, including Blackfriars in central London, which uses renewable energy to power operations at the station. What’s new is the solar panels directly powering railway lines, without being connected to the electricity grid.

Britain plans to incorporate the project across the country.

It’s a huge breakthrough in the world of sustainability as it establishes solar power a more efficient energy source, capable of bypassing even electricity. The project not only earned appreciation but also award funding from the Department of Transport. It showed an efficient way of cutting down electricity bills by connecting solar power directly to rail, tube, and tram.

The research work for the project began two years ago by a company called Riding Sunbeams. According to the project team, the solar panels could power 20% of the Merseyrail network in Liverpool, as well as 15% routes in Kent, Sussex, and Wessex. It could also solar charge trams in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham, London, and Manchester.

Leo Murray, the director of Riding Sunbeams, said that the project solves a lot of problems in one go, ranging from the cost of electricity to the climate issue, with an added advantage of paying back to the local community.

Murray said, “Matchmaking the UK’s biggest electricity user, the railways, with the nation’s favourite energy source, solar power, looks like the start of the perfect relationship.”

Murray added that a similar technique should be used in other parts of the world as well, especially in sunny countries in South America, and India.

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