Utilising the mining expertise engrained in the Baldwin & Francis heritage, we have developed pioneering DITA technology that is set to be instrumental in shaping the future of railway infrastructure. This exciting product is being unveiled to the industry this month after eight years of research and development, so let’s go behind the scenes to see how it was created…
How it all started
It was 2016 when Network Rail first approached B&F with the idea for the ‘DITA’ product, standing for Distribution Interface Transformer Assembly. Given our vast range of experience in the rail industry, we were invited to design and build a DITA to their exact specifications. When used on railways, this electrical equipment interconnects or interfaces between different signalling power supplies.
Benefits of DITA
A key benefit of DITA is its ability to boost voltage to compensate for drops, typically caused due to the use of long signal feeder cables on the railways. DITA can also be used to isolate one part of a supply cable from another, helping to improve both safety and operator convenience.
Network Rail is constantly improving safety, not just for train passengers but also for those working on railway infrastructure. However, the nation’s railway network infrastructure is ageing. Replacing all the existing legacy equipment (Class I) with newer, safer equipment (Class II) is set to take many years and cause compatibility issues when both classes are in operation simultaneously.
A Class II-compatible DITA offers a workable solution to this, by providing an isolating point that removes the earth reference, it can reduce the risk of electrocution. It can also seamlessly connect new types of signal supply to older equipment, which is both cost and time effective.
The development process
A team of rail infrastructure electrical engineering experts from B&F worked closely with Network Rail to develop the DITA. This team comprised of a Senior Design and Development Engineer, a Director of Engineering, and a design team, alongside associates at Network Rail.
Once the unit had been designed, concept-tested and type-tested, an application for Network Rail PADS approval was submitted. It was then time to find a suitable trial site for the DITA to be put through its paces. The site was identified as Beckingham Level Crossing, which is near Gainsborough in Lincolnshire. You would have passed by our DITA on trial if you caught a train between Doncaster and Lincoln during the trial period.
The trial began in July 2022 and involved rigorous criteria. The DITA replaced an oil-filled booster transformer manufactured in 1977. The trial program required the team to visit the DITA every month for assessment and to carry out performance and operational tests during both day and night. It passed every examination undertaken without a single issue.
After a final, thorough inspection, the DITA has earned FULL PADS approval from Network Rail (PA05/06809).
What makes our DITA product unique?
B&F’s DITA is unlike any other on the market due to it featuring a Distribution Feeder Soft Start (DFSS). When any electrical item is first switched on, there can be a huge inrush of current, which places significant demand on supply.
On the railways, a tripped supply causes complex and costly challenges. Trains can be halted, passengers delayed, and significant work is required in order to make corrections. A DFSS reduces the risk of potential power surges and associated complications by allowing the current through more gradually.
Soft start equipment already provides considerable benefits to the coal mining industry, which is subject to stringent safety and operational reliability requirements. Having been involved in this industry for over a century, it was a natural transition for our experts at Baldwin & Francis to apply this long-standing expertise to the rail sector.
While the DFSS has been built into the DITA for Network Rail, the solid-state design can also act as a stand-alone product in its own right and be installed in other supply points.
A closer look at our DITA product
We are delighted to be debuting our DITA at this year’s Rail Live. Taking place on June 21st and 22nd at the Long Marston Rail Innovation Centre in Warwickshire, more than 5,000 rail professionals are set to attend the exhibition. Our team cannot wait to display our innovative technology here and see what else is currently being developed within the sector.
The future is bright
Due to its technical excellence and distinguishing characteristics, we are confident in the DITA’s future. After seven years of hard work and development, seeing it on the market and making a difference in railway safety is an absolute triumph for everyone at Baldwin & Francis.