The Anonymous Widower

DB Says Innovative Freight Train Project ‘Very Promising’ So Far

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in Global Rail News.

This is the first paragraph.

A project to design innovative freight wagons, which is being financed by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), DB Cargo and VTG, is producing ‘very promising’ results.

The article is worth reading in full and in my mind it could be important in the development of efficient and reliable freight trains.

I remember in the 1960s, British Rail were trying to run faster freight trains and a lot of wagons derailed.

Research at Derby using computer simulation solved the problem and went on to lead to a greater understanding of the dynamics of steel wheel on steel rail.

I do know that British Rail Research had one of the best tools for this job; a PACE 231-R analogue computer.

 

This is the one, that I worked on at ICI.

They were a powerful computer, which were capable of solving a hundred simultaneous differential equations.

They were late 1950s technology, based mainly on electronic valves, that responded to tender loving care.

But two of them working together, did the dynamic calculations for the moon landings, when linked to the digital computers of an Apollo capsule and lander.

On Apollo 13, when Jack Swigert said “Houston we have problem”, it was these machines, that were used to find a way to bring everyone home.

And the rest, as they say is history!

In my view, after over fifty years in computing, the rescue of Apollo 13 was the greatest piece of computing ever done with an electronic machine.

The second paragraph of the Global Rail News article has this phrase.

feature new digital systems which optimise handling.

Does this mean the Germans are worried about the handling?

I do sometimes wonder, if dynamic systems are best analysed using analogue computers and the demise of the technology means the same problems keep returning in different guises.

There can’t be many of us left, who’ve used an analogue computer seriously.

August 19, 2018 Posted by | Travel, Computing | , , , | Leave a comment

NHS Is Still Reliant On Fax Machines

The title of this post as the same as that of an article in The Times last week.

This is the first paragraph.

Hospitals are still using 9,000 fax machines according to a survey that highlights the NHS’s with modern technology.

Other points from the article.

  • The survey was done by the Royal College of Surgeons
  • Newcastle on Tyne NHS Foundation trust had 603 machines.
  • Barts Health uses 369 faxes.
  • Only ten trusts said they didn’t own any faxes.

Coupled with another report last year, which showed that NHS hospitals still use an estimated 130,000 pagers, it surely shows the NHS is stuck in the past, as far as communications are concerned.

But this is not all!

A friend told me, he is trying to analyse the computer network of a trust, that stretches across three English counties.

These days, computers and complicated equipment usually have an address on the network, which in most organisations follow a logical pattern controlled by a sensible comprehensive specification.

But the NHS does things differently, with each county relying on one person in their area to create idividual node names.

How much could the NHS save, if they sorted out their communications and computing?

 

July 16, 2018 Posted by | Computing, Health | | 2 Comments

Network Rail’s Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit (IPEMU) Trial Report

The report of the BEMU trial using a Class 379 train is freely available on the Internet, after a simple registration and download.

It is a very professional document, that goes a lot further than describe how the trial was carried out.

Other information includes.

  • Battery power can aid the introduction of power sources such as hydrogen.
  • Objectives included a target range of 50 km and speed of 60-100 mph.
  • The list of those contributing to the project were impressive.
  • Three different types of battery were comprehensively tested.
  • The batteries were able to handle the regenerative braking.
  • Testing included runs at up to 100 mph and an extreme range test.
  • It is suggested that battery power could enhance safety.
  • It is suggested that electrification could be simplified, if trains had batteries.

In addition, Bombardier have developed software to analyse routes to see if they are suitable for battery operation.

As someone, who has spent most of my working life looking at the mathematics of systems, I suspect that lots of useful ideas have been indicated by Bombardier’s modelling.

I suspect that the bi-mode Aventra I discussed in Bombardier Bi-Mode Aventra To Feature Battery Power, is one train that has been designed extensively by computer simulation.

Aircraft have been designed that way for decades.

 

June 26, 2018 Posted by | Computing, Travel | , , , , , | 9 Comments

£250m Bypass Will Destroy Woodland

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in today’s copy of The Times.

This is the first paragraph.

A four-mile bypass will be built partly in the South Downs National Park under a plan that conservation groups fear will set a precedent for development in other protected areas.

This map shows the route of the proposed bypass.

The route may be the best solution, but I believe we need to be more radical.

Overcrowded and inadequate roads exist all along the South Coast of England and in many other scenic places in the UK.

I think we need to develop a philosophy to solve the problems of roads in these crowded places.

Building a four-mile bypass at Arundel, may be needed, but we should do many other things to ease traffic congestion and improve transport capacity.

So what do I believe we should do?

We could introduce negative measures like road pricing or other restrictions, but I believe there are positive things we could do.

Broadband

You might think, what has broadband got to do with reducing the need to build roads.

I believe that as more houses and businesses get very high speed broadband, this will reduce the number of journeys taken.

Mobile Phone Coverage

I am not sure, what effect excellent mobile phone coverage will have on traffic, but it certainly will have one.

Cycling

We will all be cycling more and one of the consequences of excellent mobile phone coverage will be the growth of park-it-anywhere bike schemes like ofo and Mobike.

I think a few years time, many short distance journeys will be done by bicycle.

But expect some Luddite councils to legislate against ofo, Mobike and their ilk!

Rail

Fast forward five years and a train journey in an area like along the South Coast or in East Anglia or the West Country, will be very different.

  • Digital signalling will increase the capacity of all lines and mean that most stations will have at least four trains per hour (tph) in both directions.
  • Digital signalling will also allow more routes.
  • Advances in train design will mean that journeys are faster.
  • Ticketing will use contactless bank cards or mobile phone payment systems.
  • Trains will be a much more comfortable and work-friendly experience, with wi-fi, 4G and power sockets.
  • Track layouts will be improved and level crossings will be removed., to allow trains to operate more efficiently.
  • Improved information on trains and stations.
  • The improved dwell times of modern trains, will allow new stations to be added without degrading services.

The biggest development along the South Coast, will be an improved service between Ashford and Portsmouth/Southampton/Bournemouth.

  • Existing tracks will be used, with the addition of short stretches of new track at possibly Brighton and Eastbourne.
  • Line speeds will be at least 100 mph.
  • Most stations will have a Turn-Up-And-Go four tph service.

There will also be other improved routes to and from London and Gatwick Airport for many of the coastal towns.

This improvement in rail services will be impossible with a rail company like Govia Thameslink Railway providing services.

  • They are more conservative, than the RMT.
  • They look after their core commuter traffic, at the expense of other passengers.
  • The franchise is just too big.

However, digital signalling will allow Open Access Operators to compete and create new services geared to customers needs.

Thameslink

The current Thameslink service will have the following characteristics, when it is completed in December 2019.

  • Twenty-four tph through London.
  • A well-designed track layout at Bermondsey that unlocks London’s North-South railway.
  • Services at a level of at least two tph to many stations in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
  • A set of uncomfortable Class 700 trains, designed by a moronic civil servant in the Department of Transport.

The major Thameslink upgrade was designed totally without vision and charisma.

However, the basics and possibilities are there to do the following.

  • Increase the frequency to thirty tph through the Central London core.
  • Increase the frequency on the Brighton Main Line through Gatwick, substantially, by using digital signalling.
  • Rebuild the trains, with what passengers need.
  • Add extra services all along the South Coast.
  • Develop a massive rail-air interchange station at Gatwick.

I believe that Gatwick could develop into the busiest station in the UK.

I also think, that anybody going between London and the South Coast, will have a frequency of at least four tph from their local station, using either a direct service or a single change at Gatwick.

Freight

This Google Map shows the A27 through Arundel.

Note the number of trucks on the roads.

Where are they going?

The bypass would get the trucks out of Arundel, but would it just encourage more to use the South Coast route as a bypass for the crowded M25?

We need a proper philosophy for freight in this country.

  • As much freight as possible should be by rail.
  • Trucks should be for short distance or specialist needs only.

Does Southampton Docks have good enough access to the UK rail network?

I think not, especially as it would be very difficult to increase freight traffic through Southampton Central station, due to the restriction of the double-track Southampton Tunnel.

Conclusion

There is a lot to do, before we spend £250million n a bypass.

 

 

 

May 14, 2018 Posted by | Computing, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Huge Outlay On Motorways Despite Reduction In Traffic

The title of this post, is the same as a small news item in The Times on Friday.

According to the Commission on Travel Demand, individuals used cars and other vehicles fourteen percent less than they did in 2002.

Reasons given include internet shopping, Netflix and flexible working.

They also say that many in their teens and early twenties shunning car ownership altogether.

There is a graph in the article, which shows that the reduction has been largest in Greater London. That seems to fit with my observations.

  • I’ve chatted to several youngsters , who have no intention of learning to drive for some years. It’s all just too costlyin the Capital and there are few places to park securely.
  • I’m also sure, that my road which is wide and has cars parked on both sides, is less crowded than when I moved here nearly ten years ago. Now, when I get a parcel delivery, there is always space for the van outside.
  • In Dalston, we have also benefited from the Overground and lots of new buses, although the frequency of the latter hasn’t increased.
  • I wouldn’t underestimate the fact that those of a certain age, like myself, get free public transport in Greater London.
  • There has also been a tremendous increase in the use of bicycles for commuting.

I don’t think that all parts of London have seen as much reduction as the North and East.

It always seems that traffic is busy, when I go to Chelsea, Westminster or the West End. But I don’t think we can stop, those with large 4x4s going to the local Waitrose and Harrods.

I also think, that Crossrail will reduce traffic across a whole swathe of London from Ealing to Ilford via Paddington, the West End and the City.

It will be a well-designed stylist railway with trains every few minutes.

According to the article, Metropolitan areas are also seeing a reduction in car use.

Although, they haven’t got as comprehensive, a public transport network as London, over the last ten years, several large metropolitan areas have improved public transport considerably.

Traffic also seems to have reduced slightly in what the report calls shire towns, resort and rural.

I would put this down to the three factors said earlier by the article; internet shopping, Netflix and flexible working.

The only places not showing a less significant decline is districts with industry and new towns.

But a lot of these have been built for car use.

Conclusion

It is a thought-provoking article.

Given that Greater London has shown the biggest decline in traffic and it has the most comprehensive public transport system in the UK, the question has to be asked if more money is spent on public transport, could it reduce the amount of money spent on the roads!

I would do the following.

  • Build more welcoming new stations with adequate parking like, Apperley Bridge , Bromsgrove, Cambridge North, IlkestonKenilworth, Kirkstall Forge and Maghull North.
  • Update some of the worst stations in the country to a modern standard.
  • Put more seats on busy routes.
  • Increase train frequency where possible.
  • Make certain everybody who wants to, can work flexibly from home.
  • Use more sophisticated and better managed home delivery systems.
  • Build HS2 as fast as possible.
  • Develop more rail-based freight solutions.
  • Make it possible to get to most Airports by public transport.

Hopefully, with local mayors and other devolved bodies, we’ll see more areas of the country taking the decisions they need.

May 5, 2018 Posted by | Computing, Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Will TSB Exist In A Couple Of Months?

I am seventy and I have been programming computers and using them since I was eighteen.

I also worked for Lloyds Bank in the 1970s, although not on their computing side, but as a high level consultant, where I was using data extracted from the main computer system to calculate bank costs, through a program I had written that was effectively a giant spreadsheet.

So I have heard a lot of stories from the 1960s, of when banks were first computerised, over drinks with bank e,employees.

One was about an absolutely brilliant fraud, that would make a good film.

None were as horrific as what TSB have inflicted on their customers over the last few weeks.

I like to check my bank account every morning, as in my view, that is the best way to pick up any fraud.

So if I had been a TSB customer, I would already have long ago moved my account.

It would be in everybody’s interest, if all TSB account holders moved to other banks.

As that would hopefully, close TSB!

This would surely mean, all banks and other financial institutions made sure they got their computing right.

From my computing knowledge, I do wonder whether the TSB problems are being caused by an evil programmer!

The chaos undoubtedly, could have been created deliberately.

But for what purpose?

  • There is always a rogue state or organisation, wanting to create mischief.
  • Banco Sabadell, who are TSB’s parent, are a publicly-quoted company.  Their share price appears to have been falling recently. Could someone have placed a big bet on the share price?
  • Chaos is a good smokescreen for fraud.

Hopefully, the truth will come out in the end!

 

 

May 3, 2018 Posted by | Computing, World | , , | 2 Comments

Why Did I Get The Samsung QLED Television With The Faulty Screen?

These pictures show the screen omn my new Samsung QLED television.

Notethe shadow down the screen.

You don’t expect that, with the price I paid.

I shall be going into John Lewis today.

January 30, 2018 Posted by | Computing, World | , , | 1 Comment

Unwanted Image Messages On My Mobile Phone

I have started getting unwanted messages from Google and an American company called Peel Remote on my phone. I seem to get at least two every hour.

If they don’t stop, my mobile phone usage will go to emergency only and I’ll switch it on once a week or so!

I am allergic to two things; gluten and advertising!

I also have started getting a TV remote for my Samsung television on the phone. That is really wierd as the TV hasn’t been unpacked from its box and all my other televisions are old Sonys.

January 26, 2018 Posted by | Computing | , , , | 3 Comments

Open Banking

Open Banking – Not for me.

But as a retired world-class programmer, I can envisage an AI-based computer system, that you can run on your laptop to guide your financial decisions!

In my lifetime, I have come across various pieces of financial advice, that proved to be totally crap.

For a start, I’ve met at least four people, who used the strength of the Icelandic banking system to lose all their savings.

Every financial expert told me not to touch Zopa. But it has paid me five percent before tax on my savings for ten years.

There’s an old City joke.

The best way to make a small fortune is to give a large one to a financial adviser.

Many a true word was spoken in jest.

January 12, 2018 Posted by | Computing, Finance, World | , | 2 Comments

Would Third-Party Rail Ticket Machines Be A Good Idea?

I travel extensively on the UK rail network and my journeys are generally of three types.

  1. Local journeys within the London Zone 1-6 Travelcard area, for which I use my Freedom Pass.
  2. Journeys to places like Brighton, Hastings,  Ipswich and Rochester, where I generally buy a ticket from a machine.
  3. Long distance journeys, where I use the Internet and pick up the ticket at a machine.

I suspect that many travellers across the UK, have a similar pattern of use.

The Changing Nature Of Cash Machines

Forty years ago, there were an adequate number of cash machines, but they were generally associated with bank premises.

I can remember my delight, when I first found a machine in a motorway service area.

Now, cash machines are everywhere and all are free. Although, there are mutterings, that charges might be made and the number of machines will drop, due to contactless cards.

A Third-Party Rail Ticket Machine

At present, the nearest to this are the ticket machines on the London Overground.

The latest ones allow you to do all the normal ticketing functions, with these valuable additions.

  • Buying a ticket between any two stations in the UK.
  • Buying an extension ticket from the London Zone 6 boundary.
  • Prices are generally the lowest you can purchase, on the Internet without using Advance Tickets for specific trains.

These feature means, that if say I’m going to a football match outside London in a few days, I’ll buy my ticket from the Overground.

Ticket machines will add more and more features.

  • Train information.
  • Itinerary printing.
  • Buying Advance tickets for a specific train.
  • Seat reservations.
  • Special tickets like Plus Bus, Plus Tram and Rover and Ranger tickets.
  • Selling railcards

Imagine turning up in a city and being presented with a screen on the same machine, which allows you to buy Travelcards and tickets for local attractions.

As the machines get more sophisticated, I believe there will be less need for ticket machines to be at train stations.

So could we see companies like The Trainline putting ticket machines in places like shopping centres, superstores and the smaller shops that service Oyster in London?

If the financial model stacks up, I’m sure we will see ticket machines everywhere!

Ticket Machines On Platforms And In Ticketed Areas

In Germany, there is often a ticket machine after you have passed the gate.

I find it very useful, as they can be used to buy tickets for a later journey or look up future connections.

I only know of one ticket machine inside the ticketed area in the UK and that is on Platform 8 at Stratford station.

We need more of these!

Would a third-party company be more likely to provide them? Especially, as they’d quickly identify the most profitable places, where there were large numbers of interchange or waiting passengers.

Collateral Benefits

Making rail tickets more available will surely increase sales. Suppose you live in Nottingham and your mother lives in Peterborough. You’ve just had a bad drive across the Midlands to see her for her birthday.

Will a ticket machine in your local superstore, lead youto investigate the trains as an alternative?

If it does, it must surely lead to more passengers on the trains.

Train companies are notoriously bad, at making sure that a weekend service has enough carriages.

Making it easier to buy tickets would surely give them a better estimate of passenger numbers.

But would the train companies make use of the information?

Conclusion

We’ll see a lot more ticket machines.

Some will be from third-party operators. Just like cash machines!

 

 

January 4, 2018 Posted by | Computing, Travel | , | 1 Comment