Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Quarmby calls for abolition of Third Rail

Has David Quarmby woken up with somebody else's wallet?

This from his review on winter resilience published today...

With the experience of the third successive winter affecting the operation of these services, I believe the time has come to seriously investigate the costs and benefits of the replacement of the entire third rail top contact system with an alternative method of bringing traction power to the trains. Possible solutions include converting to side contact or underneath contact (like DLR and many metro systems in continental Europe), which still using DC traction would not involve replacement of trains or power supply. Or conversion to 25kV overhead lines, which would have wider ramifications for power distribution and for trains. No solution will be cheap, given the network mileage of the existing system.

Not cheap?

That has to be the understatement of the year and what about the disruption to passengers during the changeover?

Not forgetting the cost of modifying rolling stock.

No matter.

On the plus side this proposal should have Driver Potter frothing about the gills!

UPDATE: This from the Velopodist...

Of course, David Quarmby suggests converting the southern third rail system to underside or side contact in the same report where he notes that the Berlin S-Bahn was severely affected in the bout of bad weather on which he's reporting.

He doesn't mention how the Berlin S-Bahn is electrified. It uses a 750V DC third rail - with underside contact.

UPDATE: This from Dr Dionysius Lardne...

Surely replacing the third rail with on-board hydrogen fuel cells would cost less than replacing the third rail with OHLE south of the Thames.

According to the DfT's 2007 Rail Technical Strategy fuel cell power will make electrification obsolete by 2022 anyway

And the electrical output from the fuel cells could power the existing traction equipment.

UPDATE: This, surprisingly, from the Rev Robert Stirling...

Awa' wi yon fancy gases.

My heat engine is the obvious solution.

Dinna forget, the automobile manufacturers in oor Amercian colonies built Stirling powered vehicles.

Noo's the time,th noo.

UPDATE: This, remarkably, from Mr Herbet Akroyd Stuart.

Happen tha could use my compression ignition engine, the most efficient prime mover, tha knows.

Imagine Waterloo in the rush hour echoing to a thousand exhausts.

(Deltic! Is that you hiding beneath a very poor comedy Yorkshire accent? Ed)

UPDATE: This from a Mr Saltaire...

Quarmby seems to suggest that the top contact third rail system, as adopted by the Southern Railway, is a significant weak spot when exposed to the inclement winter weather.

Yet, what’s this? During the same period that South Eastern & Southern were providing PPM that languished in the 40 odd percentage points, Merseyrail managed to deliver 91%, operating 750 V dc third rail trains with top contact conductor rails.

The main difference of course is that the majority (though by no means all) of the Merseyrail network is underground.

So, since Mr Quarmby appears to have such deep pockets, perhaps he should suggest that the south of the river network should be encapsulated in tunnels, to mitigate the issue!

UPDATE: This from a Mr Hind...

Surely the 3rd Rail will last a 1000 Years ?

UPDATE: This from The Voyager...

A slightly cheaper option which would involve modification of the fleet and encapsulating the third rail is the system used on the line through Chamonis which uses a third rail similar to ours but the traction is picked up by a blade instead of a shoe.

The Third Rail is almost encased in wood except for a slot in the side to allow the blade to sit on top of the rail.

UPDATE: This from a Mr Cherry...

The only parts of Merseyrail that are underground are those under Liverpool City centre, under the Mersey itself, and under central Birkenhead.

Over 90% of it is above ground !!!

UPDATE: This SN Barnes...

As a keen member of Friends of Potter I feel I must speak out

Are your readers living in a belief that NOTHING happened North of the Thames in the recent winter wonderland session.

A fair share of wee and not so wee incidents seem to have affected the 25KV knitting, indeed unlike the Juice Rail system, and its 'winter season', knitting gets snagged at any time of the year in any weather.

The recent spell has delivered a pretty spectacular pull-down, which knocked out the East Coast for much of the day, and ice build-up at least when the Third Rail goes bang trains can keep running, and nothing falls off the insulators.

Friends of Potter can be spotted around the network, rather like a masonic band concealing our shoe paddles under our coats...

UPDATE: This from Driver Potter (for it is he)...

To answer Mr Quarmby in one sentence:

"Don't spend money on overhauling a system that doesn't need fiddling with; give us the resources we need to keep lines open - it will be a damn site cheaper."

Perhaps a new run of rolling stock is called for? No computers, no fiddly namby-pamby shoegear...? We could give them simple designations like 4VEP, 4CIG, 4EPB, HA or HB....?

To get Captain Deltic onside, motors and switchgear will be stamped "English Electric.