The Anonymous Widower

Are The Office Of Rail And Road (Or Their Lawyers) Too Risk Averse?

An article in the April 2022 Edition of Modern Railways is entitled Uckfield Third Rail Is NR Priority.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Electrification of the line between Hurst Green and Uckfield in East Sussex and the remodelling of East Croydon are the top Network Rail investment priorities south of the river, according to Southern Region Managing Director John Halsall. He told Modern Railways that third rail is now the preferred option for the Uckfield Line, as it would allow the route to use the pool of third-rail EMUs in the area. This is in preference to the plan involving overhead electrification and use of dual-voltage units put forward by then-Network Rail director Chris Gibb in his 2017 report (p66, September 2017 issue).

NR has put forward options for mitigating the safety risk involved with the third-rail system, including switching off the power in station areas when no trains are present and section isolation systems to protect track workers. ‘The Office of Rail and Road hasn’t yet confirmed third rail would be acceptable, but we are working out ways in which it could be’ Mr Halsall told Modern Railways. He added that bi-mode trains with batteries were not a feasible option on this line, as the 10-car trains in use on the route would not be able to draw sufficient charge between London and Hurst Green to power the train over the 25 miles on to Uckfield.

As an Electrical Engineer, who’s first real job in industry at fifteen was installing safety guards on guillotines nearly sixty years ago, I don’t believe that an acceptable solution can’t be devised.

But as at Kirkby on Merseyside, the Office Of Rail And Road, do seem to be stubbornly against any further third-rail installations in the UK.

I wonder what, the Office Of Rail And Road would say, if Transport for London wanted to extend an Underground Line for a few miles to serve a new housing development? On previous experience, I suspect Nanny would say no!

But is it more than just third-rail, where the Office Of Rail And Road is refusing to allow some technologies on the railway?

Battery-Electric Trains

I first rode in a viable battery-electric train in February 2015, but we still haven’t seen any other battery-electric trains in service on UK railways running under battery power.

Does the Office Of Rail And Road, believe that battery-electric trains are unsafe, with the lithium-ion batteries likely to catch fire at any time?

Hydrogen-Powered Trains

The hydrogen-powered Alstom Coradia iLint has been in service in Germany since September 2018.

But progress towards a viable hydrogen train has been very slow in the UK, with the only exception being demonstrations at COP26.

Are The Office Of Rail And Road still frightened of the Hindenburg?

Although hydrogen-powered buses have been allowed.

A Tale From Lockheed

When Metier Management Systems were sold to Lockheed, I worked for the American company for a couple of years.

I met some of their directors and they told some good American lawyer jokes, such was their disgust for the more money-grabbing of the American legal profession.

At the time, Flight International published details of an innovative landing aid for aircraft, that had been developed by Lockheed. It was a suitcase-sized landing light, that could be quickly setup up on a rough landing strip, so that aircraft, like a Hercules, with an outstanding rough field performance could land safely.

I read somewhere that a Flying Doctor service or similar had acquired some of these landing aids, so they could provide a better service to their clients.

But Lockheed’s lawyers were horrified, that they would get sued, if someone was seriously injured or even died, whilst the aid was being used.

Apparently, in the end, the aids were marked Not For Use In The USA.

Conclusion

I do wonder, if third-rail electrification, battery-electric trains and hydrogen-powered trains have come up against a wall created by over-cautious lawyers.

 

May 6, 2022 - Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. ORR’s policy seems quite sensible to me. They’re not saying ‘no 3rd-rail ever’, simply that any proposal has to show it’s evaluated alternatives and found that 3rd-rail is the only solution. Quite apart from safety concerns, I think 3rd-rail is widely acknowledged to be at the limits of its capabilities. Basically, end of life.

    A few years back, there was talk of replacing with OLE, but that would be very expensive. In the long term, as battery tech improves, I can see batteries providing a cheaper alternative, and reducing 3rd-rail to Vivarail-style chargers. Unlikely to happen in my lifetime though. 😦

    Comment by Peter Robins | May 7, 2022 | Reply


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