How 'RiPAC' helps enhance pantograph and catenary design

How 'RiPAC' helps enhance pantograph and catenary design
01 September 2020

A new service from our vehicle-track interface team enables product developers to simulate the dynamic interactions between pantograph units and catenary systems during early stages of the design process.

Electrified routes powered via overhead catenary systems depend upon a smooth and continuous connection between the pantograph units and the wires.

Currently, any new pantograph or catenary product being prepared for market must prove it can meet the standards set out in the Technical Specifications for Interoperability for locomotives and rolling stock (Commission Regulation (EU) No 1302/2014) and Energy (Commission Regulation (EU) No 1301/2014).

Both standards require rigorous testing of the dynamic interactions - the forces and movements - that occur between the systems, a step that involves extensive physical test programmes on the network.

The tests assess how the products adapt to an operational environment, such as variations in bridge height, differing tensions and resonance in the catenary wire, or whether changes in speed or the number of pantograph units a vehicle is carrying has any impact on performance.

RiPAC simulation software

The Ricardo Pantograph and Catenary modelling and simulation package, ‘RiPAC’, has been developed by our in-house technicians to allow product developers to simulate the full motion behaviour of their designs at much earlier stages of the development process and well in advance of the test stage. 

We can help bring improved products to market in a much shorter timescale.


The simulations, which are in line with the applicable standard for current collection systems (EN50318), are overseen by our expert teams who will assess the data and provide detailed measurements that can help reduce the time and cost of the testing programmes.

Train operators and infrastructure managers can also use RiPAC to monitor the performance of existing systems across their networks, or to gain new insight ahead of major refurbishment and upgrade programmes. For example, RiPAC was recently used by a Dutch rail infrastructure operator to examine the catenary of a new 3.8 km line serving the port of Rotterdam for its compliance with applicable standards.

“RiPAC uses state of the art modelling software to perform a wide range of pantograph-catenary interaction analysis,” says Jasper Peen, a senior consultant in our Utrecht office and service lead for RiPAC.

“By providing developers with a detailed and accurate reading of a product’s expected performance on the network, we can help bring improved products to market in a much shorter timescale whilst also offering reduced development costs.”  

As well mainline rail infrastructure, the same modelling software can be used to provide simulations and analysis for street-level light rail systems and catenary-powered electric bus networks.

RiPAC is part of a growing portfolio of Asset Optimisation tools available from our vehicle-track interface team, alongside a range of studies, analyses and advisory services related to vehicle dynamics, multi-body simulation and optimization of wheel/rail interaction.

To request more information about RiPAC, contact [email protected], or complete the contact form on this page.