The Anonymous Widower

Algorithm Could Cut High Speed Rail Energy Use

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the Railway Gazette.

This is the first paragraph.

Researchers at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University’s Suzhou campus have developed an algorithm intended to optimise the storage and reuse of braking energy.

Regenerative braking energy is stored on the trainand reused, rather than returned to the grid.

Ten percent savings are claimed.

I’ve always thought this was possible.


March 15, 2019 - Posted by | Transport | , ,


  1. that’s an interesting little article. Not only does it recommend adding storage to electric trains. It also seems to be saying that it’s ‘inevitable’ that drivers get acceleration/braking wrong, and so that it’s better for the machine to take over. If train drivers aren’t in charge of accelerating/braking, what are they for?

    Comment by Peter Robins | March 15, 2019 | Reply

  2. If you look at the Victoria Line In 1967, when the driver had ascertained that the doors had shut properly, he just pressed a button, that moved the train to the next station automatically. It was all done with valve electronics. The driver just watched to see that it did it correctly.

    Airliners do autolanding and takeoff in a similar way, with the pilot monitoring the computer.

    Comment by AnonW | March 15, 2019 | Reply

  3. I seem to remember a case on the Victoria line, where the driver got out at a station to clear some obstruction from a door, but forgot to set the drive into neutral. So when he cleared the obstruction the door closed and the train set off, leaving the driver on the platform. The train stopped correctly at the next station and none of the passengers noticed any problem.

    I landed in thick fog at Bristol a couple of years ago, where they made an ‘instrument only’ landing as the pilot couldn’t see anything. The landing was so smooth that most passengers – including me – didn’t realise we were on the ground. That makes me think that pilots aren’t needed any more. On the other hand, the recent Boeing crashes seem to indicate that machines sometimes get it wrong, in which case the pilot is needed to override the machine. However, as with autonomous cars, if pilots/drivers are only there to handle the 1 in whatever chance of machine error, they’re likely to get bored/fall asleep/not be paying attention when this 1 in whatever chance occurs.

    The most serious high-speed train accident was the one at Compostela, where the driver was on the phone and neglected to apply the brakes in time for the curve. There were criticisms at the time that there was no automatic braking system in operation – i.e. the machine should have overridden the driver. Likewise, the Croydon tram accident will lead to automatic braking being installed, to override any driver who falls asleep or doesn’t do what s/he’s supposed to.

    There are plenty of metro (and tram) systems around the world now that have no drivers, and there doesn’t seem to be any evidence they are less safe. Last year the SNCF promised autonomous trains in 5 years time. The overwhelming response on social media was “hooray, no more drivers’ strikes” – which seems to indicate that, at least in France, General Public has a higher opinion of the machine than the driver.

    This algorithm seems to be another indication that the days of train drivers are numbered.

    Comment by Peter Robins | March 17, 2019 | Reply

    • It will be interesting to see what system HS2 uses. I suspect it will be an updated version of the one on Dear Old Vicky.
      For instance what would happen if an idiot driverdrove over a bridge parapet onto the tracks and the there was no driver on the train? Would automated systens spot it? Remember this happened with a cenent mixer truck at Oxshott. No automation can cope with that!

      Comment by AnonW | March 17, 2019 | Reply

      • but with high speed trains, would the driver have time to spot such things in time?

        Comment by Peter Robins | March 17, 2019

      • Probably not! At Oxshott the truck hit the middle of the train, so the driver didn’t see it. But he could do the right thing after the accident. Luckily the train was a Class 455, with all the strength of Mark 3 coaches protecting the passengers.

        Comment by AnonW | March 17, 2019

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.