Overhead line equipment

How we maintain and install overhead line equipment on the railway near you.

Electric trains are better for the environment than diesel trains, and they’re quieter for both those on board the train and those living close to the railway.

We’re making it possible for electric trains to travel on more areas of the rail network by electrifying railway lines that only diesel trains can run on at the moment.

This will help support economic growth across many of our cities and towns and is a key part of the Government’s rail strategy as electrification promotes cleaner, more reliable travel and will help reduce the cost of running and maintaining the railway.

If you have a concern or question about our work that this page doesn’t answer, please contact us.

What’s overhead line equipment (OLE)?

Overhead line equipment (OLE) refers to the overhead wires and supporting infrastructure that carry electricity at 25,000 volts to power electric trains.

Watch the video below to see how we install OLE

OLE and your property

Safety is our number one priority – we place new equipment in a suitable location where access can be gained in the event of a failure.

How the structures holding the overhead wires are spaced depends on design factors including the alignment of the track and how fast trains can travel on that line. Their positioning is critical to the safety and operation of the railway.

We aim to keep local residents informed of our work by writing to those living close to the railway and, where relevant, we hold public information sessions to discuss the works with local communities.

With around five million homes either backing onto or facing the railway in Britain, we are unable to consider individual requests from our lineside neighbours.

Installing OLE

Safety is our priority when working on any part of our railway infrastructure or installing new equipment. We take the utmost care to ensure the safety of our workers, lineside neighbours and rail users at all times.

Installing new overhead line masts and wires for our programme of electrification also involves clearing vegetation from the railway, reconstructing any bridges that are too low to fit the OLE, and piling – drilling foundations for the overhead line masts.

Maintaining OLE

OLE problems can arise because of power supply failure or a mechanical problem, such as the wire or other parts being displaced from the gantry. In this case, no trains can run until the broken equipment is cleared, then diesel trains can run and if the affected part is short enough electric trains can coast past. We’ll carry out the repairs overnight to reduce disruption if possible.

When the failure is serious, for example, if the wires have been brought down, the solution is more complicated and takes more time.

We routinely inspect OLE manually from both ground and high level, and our New Measurement Train runs computerised checks on the OLE during its inspections, giving us the information that we need to fix potential problems before they affect services.

We also upgrade existing OLE to improve the reliability of train services, such as with our programme of OLE renewals on the Great Eastern Mainline in Anglia route.

More about Electrification works

Learn more about some of the work we do to prepare the railway for electrification.