The Anonymous Widower

Third Degree Murder

The title of this post is the same as that of an article by Ian Walmsley in the April 2019 Edition of Modern Railways.

In the article Ian has a heavyweight go at the Office of Road and Rail about their policy towards third rail electrification.

As a Control and Electrical Engineer, I agree with a lot he says, especially as I believe modern control systems and good design can improve safety of third rail systems to a high level.

I also believe the following.

  • In some places third-rail electrification, which is only live when a train is protecting the rails from morons, is safer than any other electrification system.
  • In some places, like on top of high viaducts third-rail electrification is safer for engineers installing and maintaining it,  than overhead electrification.
  • Some battery charging systems will be designed around third-rail electrification.

Ian’s article gives various reasons for using third-rail electrification.

He also proposes the radical innovation of using a voltage of 1500 VDC, which he calls 2XV.

I like it and agree with his reasoning..

It sounds radical, but it is not a new idea.

An article on Wikipedia is entitled Rail Transport In The Netherlands.

This is said.

Most of the network is electrified at 1.5 kV DC (which limits interoperability with neighbouring countries), although Belgian trains – built for 3 kV DC – can run on the Dutch network at reduced power. Both the HSL-Zuid and the Betuweroute have been electrified at 25 kV AC; although conversion of existing electrified lines to 25 kV AC was considered in 1997, 2005 and 2012 at a cost of over €10 billion, a 2015 proposal (revised in 2017) is to convert to 3 kV DC at a 2017 cost of €1 billion. The higher DC voltage would reduce power losses and have faster acceleration above 60 to 70 kilometres per hour (37 to 43 mph), so stopping trains would save seven to 20 seconds per stop.

Are the Dutch implementing their proposal?

April 1, 2019 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , ,


  1. Are there any 3rd rail systems that are only live when a train is on the line?
    I’ve never heard of this.

    Comment by James Allen | April 1, 2019 | Reply

    • At 15-16, I was putting control systems on rolling mills and then went to Liverpool University, where I obtained a degree in Control Engineering.

      My teenage self would have believed it was possible using 1960s technology to devise a system, that only switched the current on when a train was present.

      It’s certainly done in Bordeaux with trams.

      Comment by AnonW | April 1, 2019 | Reply

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