Rail Electrification

Electrified railways are an environmentally friendly and future ready alternative to diesel railways. By using electricity as the source of power for train movement as opposed to diesel, air quality around the area is improved, noise pollution is reduced, high efficiency is attained and quality of service is improved by enabling more frequent and faster train service. Electrification is receiving greater attention as a solution in reducing the impact on global warming and promoting environmental sustainability.

Innovations in power and control technologies such as regenerative braking have made electrification more energy efficient and economical. As well, emerging electrification technologies such as rolling stock powered by hydrogen fuel cell provide an attractive alternative to traditional methods for electrification. Electrified transit systems are able to meet the various needs of urban and suburban commuters as well as long-distance travellers for the present and the future to come.


WSP has worked with almost every major transit agency in Canada, including Metrolinx, the Toronto Transit Commission, Edmonton Transit Service, Calgary Transit, and OC Transpo in Ottawa. WSP has also worked with major transit agencies in the US, including AMTRAK, HART Honolulu, and the Utah Transit Authority.


Our expertise includes all features of railway electrification comprised of traction power supply and distribution systems, including overhead contact system and third-rail contact system for all system voltages.

Alternating and Direct Current Traction

Deciding between alternating current and direct current for traction power is a critical step in Electrification design and WSP offers design services for all aspects of alternating and direct current traction electrification systems catering to a multitude of transit applications, including street cars, people movers, LRT, urban mass transit, commuter systems, inter-city transit, and high-speed trains. Alternating current and direct current power delivery each has its own critical set of challenges, and WSP has the expertise to respond with safe, sustainable, and cost-effective solutions to any electrification system.


Traction Power Design

Whether it is designing for a new system in a greenfield environment, or designing upgrades to existing systems in a busy and challenging brownfield environment, WSP excels in providing solutions in traction power design to meet these challenges, including:

  • Initial planning/feasibility studies to determine electrical needs and capacities
  • Traction power simulation studies to determine/confirm/increase available power capacities or operating potentials for an entire network, or for a particular branch line
  • Traction power system designs, including system configuration, developing specifications and design drawings
  • Load flow simulation studies to optimize the power system design, relay protection system, and safety aspects, including grounding, bonding, and lightning protection
  • Interfacing with power supply utility services for reliable supply of traction power to the transit system
  • Addressing power quality issues, including EMI /EMC and harmonic source mitigation


Overhead Contact Systems

WSP provides knowledge and expertise in Overhead Contact Systems (OCS) design. We provide complete solutions for OCS in any transit environment, with particular attention to:

  • Contact wire geometry and wire tensioning for efficient OCS pole placement
  • Section breaks in strategic locations to support the traction power system design
  • Mitigating potential OCS wire clearance issues for brownfield environments in locations such as tunnels, bridges, and grade crossings, and for transit systems encompassing both passenger and freight rail services
  • OCS pole designs that minimize the aesthetic impact to the surrounding environment for enhanced urban integration


Third Rail

An alternative design to OCS, third rail runs alongside or between the rails of a track to provide traction power to the rolling stock. WSP’s experts have the knowledge and expertise to provide the right solutions in third rail design, including:

  • Use of innovative designs, such as underground third rail systems to minimize aesthetic impacts in locations of historical significance
  • Interface between conductor rail and contact shoes on rolling stock
  • Optimal conductor rail geometry to provide uninterrupted power to rolling stock at all times
  • Occupancy control system and third-rail current collection system design and upgrades


Stray Current Mitigation

Stray currents, especially for traction power systems utilizing direct current, can cause extensive damage over time to surrounding utilities and structures if proper engineered solutions are not in place. WSP has extensive expertise in stray current mitigation strategies to meet the demands of complex urban environments where stray currents have the most significant amount of impact.

WSP also offers the following services for rail electrification:

  • Complete design packages (drawings, specifications, staging plans, etc.) from conceptual and preliminary to final engineering phases
  • Testing, commissioning and start-ups of installed electrification systems to bring new or upgraded networks into revenue service
  • Electrification of SCADA system interfaces
  • Analysis of faults, defects, and shortcomings in the existing electrification systems and recommendations for improvements in a most cost-effective manner
  • Construction management and program management of electrification projects