The Anonymous Widower

Cargo Sous Terrain

This is a Swiss idea to move small parcels around the country.

This is the project’s web site.

There will be a network of tunnels under Switzerland serving all the major centres.

This article on LeNews is entitled Switzerland’s Underground Tunnel Project Gets Green Light From Upper House, describes the project.

This is the first paragraph.

On 1 June 2021, a project to build an underground freight tunnel network stretching from Geneva to St Gallen, gained almost unanimous support in the Council of States, Switzerland upper house.

These are a few points from the article.

  • It appears to be privately funded.
  • There will be a three-lane tunnel network across the country.
  • It will use driverless electric vehicles.
  • Speed will be 30 kph.
  • It will run twenty-four hours per day.
  • There will be a track in the roof of the tunnel for smaller parcels.
  • There will be a total of 500 km of tunnels.
  • Completion date is set for 2045.
  • It will cost around £24 billion.

It’s as though all of Switzerland were to be turned into a giant Amazon or Ocado warehouse.

Will It Work?

I don’t see why not, although it would be an immense project!

This paragraph indicates they will start small.

The first 70 km section of the tunnel network, which will connect a hub in Härkingen-Niederbipp with Zurich, is scheduled for completion in 2031.

But even that will cost around £2.5 billion!

It certainly, is a bold idea, that has possibilities.

June 15, 2021 Posted by | Design, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

On Track – Network Rail Reaches Key Milestone On Dartmoor Line

The title of this post, is the same as that of this news release on the Network Rail web site.

These are the first two paragraphs.

The reopening of the railway line between Okehampton and Exeter is one step closer after Network Rail finished relaying the new track and sleepers this week.

Following the confirmation of government funding in March, engineers started immediately and have worked tirelessly upgrading this 14 mile stretch of track between Okehampton and Coleford Junction, where the Dartmoor Line joins the existing railway line to Exeter.

Perhaps the most significant fact about this project, is the speed with which work has progressed since it started.

So far it appears the following has been done.

  • 11 miles of track has been laid.
  • 24.000 new concrete sleepers have been installed.
  • 29,000 tonnes of ballast has been installed.

Much of the work was done by a clever machine which is shown in a video.

I do wonder if this machine, when it finishes in Devon will be sent all the way to Newcastle to relay the Northumberland Line in the same manner.

May 16, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Freshly Vacuumed Strawberries

I have been eating a few more boxes of Dyson’s strawberries.

They certainly seem clean and could have had a good vacuum before packing.

Unlike some Moroccan ones, which tasted like they’d been sprinkled with some sand from the Sahara.

Plump And Red

Dyson Farming’s strawberries do seem to be very plump and very red.

Is this because they have been grown, so that they will be easy for picking robots to identify in the future?

April 23, 2021 Posted by | Food | , , | Leave a comment

Crossrail Trains Cleared To Use The Heathrow Tunnel

This title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Ian Visits.

These are the first four paragraphs.

Last month, a significant achievement took place on the Crossrail project, which is far more important than the headlines make it seem to be.

At a basic level, the Office of Rail Regulation approved the use of the new Class 345 trains that will be used on the Elizabeth line to carry passengers into the Heathrow tunnels.

The practical implication being that TfL Rail will in the next few weeks be able to run from Paddington to Heathrow direct, as they were supposed to start doing back in May 2018.

The delay has been caused by the bane and saviour of modern railways, the signalling system.

Ian then goes on to give a full and understandable explanation of the complex nature of modern rail signalling.

Ian finishes by giving a detailed description of the Class 345 trainsAuto-Reverse feature.

Around half of westbound trains will terminate at Paddington, but to head back eastwards, once all the passengers are off, they carry on westwards to Westbourne Park, then return back to Paddington on the eastbound line.

Normally that means the train driver would drive to Westbourne Park, stop, walk through the train to the other end, then drive back. But with “auto-reverse”, as soon as the train leaves Paddington, the driver switches to automatic and starts walking through the train to the other end. By the time the train arrives at Westbourne Park sidings, the driver will be sitting in the drivers cab at the other end of the train ready to head back into Central London.

I feel we need more automation on trains.

Possible Uses Of Automation

These are some possibilities.

Reversing In Services

Several services, require the driver to change ends and then drive the train from the other end, when calling at a station.

  • Some Nottingham and Skegness services, reverse in Grantham station.
  • Maidenhead and Marlow services, reverse in Bourne End station.
  • Norwich and Sheringham services, reverse in Cromer station.

I could envisage an automatic system, that took the train from A to B to C etc. under the control of the driver.

  • They might just touch a screen or button to move to the next station, as drivers have done on the Victoria Line.
  • Both cabs would have a remote video screen showing the view from the other end of the train.
  • The driver could drive the train from either cab.
  • Arriving at a station, the automation would stop the train in the correct position.
  • As on a Victoria Line train, the driver would monitor the system at all times and take control and drive manually, if required.
  • The driver might also have a sophisticated remote control, so that if he needed to walk through the train to change cabs, he would still be in full control.

The guard might also have a remote control, for use in the very rare case of driver incapacitation, where he would need to halt the train.

Shuttle Services

There are services in the UK, where a single train shuttles between two stations.

  • Brockenhurst and Limington Pier – 11 minutes
  • Grove Park and Bromley North stations –  5 mins
  • St. Erth and St. Ives stations – 10 mins
  • Slough and Windsor & Eton Central – 6 mins
  • Sudbury and Marks Tey – 19 mins
  • Twyford and Henley stations – 12 mins
  • Watford Junction and St. Albans Abbey – 16 minutes

Note.

  1. The time shown is the time for a single journey.
  2. All these services use a single train, where the driver changes ends before each journey.
  3. The  services use a dedicated platform at both terminals.
  4. There is a dedicated track between the terminals.
  5. Some of these services may need a more frequent service.

If the driver doesn’t change ends, would the time saved allow more trains per hour (tph)?

I think the following improvements are possible.

  • Grove Park and Bromley North – three tph to four
  • Slough and Windsor & Eton Central – three tph to four
  • Watford Junction and St. Albans Abbey – If the journey time could be reduced to fourteen minutes or less, there is a chance that the service could be doubled to two tph.

It looks that if the driver change ends, then it appears the following frequencies are possible, with these journey times.

  • Less than six-and-a-half minutes – four tph
  • Less than nine minutes – three tph
  • Less than fourteen minutes – two tph

I do wonder if an automated shuttle on the Abbey Line could run at the required two tph, with only minimal infrastructure works.

 

 

June 2, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 5 Comments

Will Innovative Engineering Solve The PPE Gown Problem?

In the early 1970s, I worked as a programmer for various consultancies, who were doing innovative engineering. In one, which could have been Cambridge Consultants, where I worked for perhaps three months. One guy told me about a project he was working on, that was the automatic assembly of clothing.

I know more than a bit about making clothes, as my mother taught me how to knit, crochet, sew and use a sewing machine. In the early years of our marriage, I used to make dresses for C and in one instance, I made her a long heavy-weight winter coat.

So I am surprised, that innovative engineering has not come together to make hospital gowns automatically!

Let’s hope that some engineers have seen the gap in the market, and as I write, are putting together a machine, where you put material in one end and get gowns out the other. Neatly folded of course!

April 19, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , , | 4 Comments

Automated Vegetation Monitoring Technology Deployed In Train Cabs

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Transport for Wales has worked with technology company One Big Circle Ltd to fit trains with ‘smart’ cameras designed to automatically record, analyse and report lineside vegetation risks.

This is surely, a simple application of technology, that will spot vegetation problems, before they cause serious trouble.

April 10, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On Very Light Rail

The article on Railway Gazette International, which is entitled Very Light Rail Research On Track, a list of thirty-five rail lines, that could use the technology are given.

These are some of my thoughts.

Multiple Working

These are some examples of branch lines, where very light rail my be used.

  • Cromer  to Sheringham – 226,000
  • Liskeard to Looe – 118,000
  • St Erth to St Ives – 750,000
  • Twyford to Henley-on-Thames – 771,000
  • Maidenhead to Marlow – 300,000
  • Slough to Windsor & Eton Central – 2,024,000
  • Watford to St Albans Abbey – 167,000

Note.

  1. The first station is on the main line and the second is the terminus of the branch line.
  2. The figure is the number of passengers, who used the terminal station in 2018-2019

The numbers have quite a range and I’m sure that a single eighteen metre vehicle carrying 56 seated and 60 standing passengers, will not be big enough, even if it runs at a frequency of four trains per hour (tph) on some routes.

 

So I am convinced that the vehicles must be able to work in multiple.

One picture on this page on the Transport Design International web site, shows the vehicle with a coupler.

Increasing Passenger Numbers, Festivals And Sporting Events

Forecasting passenger numbers on a new rail service, is a very inexact science. I talk about London Overground Syndrome, which seems to occur regularly.

There are also the problems of festivals and sporting events of various kinds, where perhaps for a week or so traffic is much higher.

Extra very light rail vehicles can be added to the trains as required or even drafted in at times of high demand.

Automatic Coupling And Uncoupling

They must also be able to couple and uncouple quickly and automatically, as needs vary throughout the day and to rescue a stranded unit.

Transit Mode

Suppose a large event, like say the Open Golf was taking place near a station with an inadequate train service and for the duration of the event, a dozen very light rail vehicles were to be running a shuttle to the nearest major rail hub.

A method must be developed to bring the vehicles to the event. I suspect Rail Operations Group, who are the experts in rolling stock movements would have a simple solution, perhaps by using a diesel locomotive to tow them to and from central warm storage.

It could probably be argued, that a capability to build temporary stations is needed.

Automation

These very light rail vehicles are prime candidates for automation.

I can envisage a lot of routes being run automatically, with the driver in a supervisory role, very much as the Victoria Line has been run since it opened in 1968.

  • At each station, when they had ascertained that the passengers had all left and boarded the train safely, they would close the doors and activate a control to start the vehicle.
  • It would then move to the next station and stop in the right place.
  • The doors would then be opened automatically or by action of the crew.

Dear old Vicky has been doing this for over fifty years!

I also think, that with automation and CCTV, a system could be devised, where the driver stays in one cab all the time.

This would speed up operations.

Procedures For Running On Shared Tracks With Freight, Private And Heritage Railways

These suggested routes for very light rail are either freight, private or heritage railways.

  • Bodmin Parkway to Bodmin General
  • Kidderminster to Stourport
  • Ashington to Blyth
  • Sheffield to Stocksbridge
  • Paignton to Brixham
  • Totton to Hythe

I’m sure procedures can be devised, so that all traffic can run safely.

 

February 3, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Automated Shuttle Trains With A Train Captain

There are various short routes on the UK rail network, where shuttle trains work a frequency of perhaps two or three trains per hour (tph), that is generally felt by passengers and train operators to be inadequate.

Examples include the following.

Could the frequency on these lines be increased using automation?

The Automated Docklands Light Railway

The Docklands Light Railway is not a simple railway, but it is fully automated.

  • Trains are driverless
  • A Train Captain is responsible for patrolling the train, checking tickets, making announcements and controlling the doors.
  • The Train Captain can take control of the train if required.

It is a system that seems to have worked well for many years.

An Automated Shuttle With A Train Captain

Could a similar principle be applied to a shuttle train?

As an example, I’ll use the Bromley North Line.

Consider.

  • The line is two miles long and trains take five minutes each way.
  • The current frequency is three tph.
  • There are problems at Grove Park station with connections in the Peak.
  • The route is double-track.
  • The current service is operated by a single train, manned only by a driver.

It would appear if the Bromley North Line could be run at four tph, this would be a welcome improvement.

One of the problems of driver-operated shuttle services like this, is that at each end of the route, the driver must change ends, which takes a couple of valuable minutes.

To operate a frequency of four tph, the round-trip must be performed in fifteen minutes.

  • Each leg takes five minutes.
  • There are four stops in a round trip; one at Grove Park, one at Bromley North and two at Sundridge Park.

I believe that a single automated train, with a Train Captain on board to look after safety, open and close the doors and start the train after each stop, should be able to handle the much-needed four tph on the Bromley North Line.

How Would The Automation Work?

Many years ago, a Central Line driver explained to me how the original automation of the Victoria Line worked.

  • A train would arrive in the station and stop in the correct place automatically with high precision.
  • The doors would be opened.
  • After passengers had unloaded and loaded, the doors would be closed.

When the doors were closed and everything was safe, the driver would push a button to ask the automation to take the train to the next station.

Automation has moved on since the 1960s, and I believe that some form of on-train automation would be able to handle a simple shuttle.

  • Only one track would probably be need to used to remove the complication of points.
  • Only one train would be used for the shuttle, as this increases safety.
  • Sensors would determine the exact position of the train.
  • CCTV cameras, including ones looking forwards and backwards,  would be relayed to the Train Captain and their Control Station in the middle of the train.
  • The Train Captain would have an Emergency Stop Button.

If something goes wrong or the train is  being taken to and from the depot, the Train Captain would go to the forward cab, switch off the automation and drive the train in the normal manner.

I am sure, that it would not only be a very safe system, but if it made full use of the capabilities of modern trains, it would speed up services sufficiently, so that frequencies could be increased.

What Trains Would Be Suitable?

I think that the choice of trains would be wide, but I think they must have the following characteristics.

  • An ability to perform a station stop and restart quickly.
  • Fast acceleration and deceleration.
  • Level access between platform and train.
  • Walk-through interior, to help the Train Captain perform their duties.
  • Lots of wide double doors and large lobbies.

All these characteristics would enable the train to save time on the route.

Power would be anything that could be used on the route. For the Bromley North Line, that would be either third-rail electrification or battery power.

Battery power, though on this route, would have a problem.

If the train is running an intense shuttle service, with stops taking a minute or even less, the train never stops long enough to charge the batteries. As the route is electrified with 750 VDC using third-rail, this would need to be used on the Bromley North Line.

Although, I have used the word train in this section, I suspect trams, tram-trains or light rail vehicles could be used.

All vehicles would retain their driving cabs for the following reasons.

  • If there is a problem, the Train Captain can drive the train, as happens on the Docklands Light Railway.
  • If the train needs to be positioned to and from a depot, the train could be driven manually.

I also feel that for these reasons, the Train Captain would be a fully qualified driver.

Examples of vehicles that could be used, if appropriate automation were to be fitted include.

Class 399 Tram-Train

Class399 tram-trains are working successfully in Sheffield and they have been ordered for the South Wales Metro, where they will run under both overhead and battery power.

As an Electrical Engineer, I believe that it would not be the most difficult piece of engineering to fit these tram-trains with the ability to run under third-rail power.

The tram-trains would have similar capacities, cross-section and performance to the current Class 466 trains.

The only modifications that would be needed to the route, would be to adjust the platforms used by the tram-train to give level access between tram-train and platform.

A Three-Car Aventra Or Similar

Three-car Class 730 Aventra trains,  have been ordered by West Midlands Railway and Aventras have also been ordered to run using third-rail power.

As with the Class 399 tram-train, these trains could probably work the route successfully, subject to suitable platform modification.

How Fast Could Stops Be Performed?

I have timed stops on the London Overground and the London Tramlink rarely do you find a time from brakes on to brakes off in excess of a minute, without a red signal being involved.

I have measured some London Overground stops are at  thirty seconds some  London Tramlink stops at twenty seconds.

If a shuttle had the track to itself and the train was a modern design, I could see maximum timings on the Bromley North Line as follows.

  • Bromley North – One minute
  • Sundridge Park – Thirty seconds
  • Grove Park – One minute

Surely, with station stop times like these and perhaps faster running than the current 30 mph, the goal of four tph could be comfortably achieved.

What Happens With Delays?

Suppose, an incident occurs, and the train is delayed.

After the incident is successfully sorted, the train could just carry on or wait until it was on schedule for the next train.

Within a few minutes, the train would be running to time.

Some Other Selected Routes

Over the next few days, I will be adding calculations for other routes.

Brentford Branch Line

Greenford Branch Line

Marlow Branch Line

Romford And Upminster

Slough And Windsor & Eton Central

Extra routes will be added here.

Conclusion

On the Bromley North Line, selective automation should be able to enable a four tph service using one train or tramtrain.

February 19, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Charging For Single Use Plastic. Aluminium And Glass Drinks Containers

I’m all for this, but I feel we should look at how the empties are returned and refunds are obtained.

The Norwegians seem to have solved this by means of expensive machines, which give vouchers back.

But there must be something simpler.

A few of my thoughts.

Marking Chargeable Containers

All containers for which a deposit is made, should be clearly marked with symbol, which says that it is worth something to return.

Returning To Shops

Obviously, people will want to do this, but I suspect a lot of smaller shops will ask shoppers to take the empties elsewhere.

They might install a machine, but many shops couldn’t afford the expense.

Collecting For Charity Or Local Causes

Suppose, you had a simple steel bin with holes in the top, like those we had in Suffolk for bottles.

Anything that had the correct symbol could be put in the bin.

These bins would then be collected and sorted automatically at a large plant.

By weighing each bin and knowing its location and owner, it would be possible to apportion the refunds to the charity.

National charities might put recycling bins in car parks or prominent places.

But supposing, your area has a run down children’s playground, that everybody wants to improve.

A recycling bin is placed by the playground and everybody is asked to use it for bottles and other containers. All proceeds would go to the playground fund, with a collateral benefit, that the area of the playground wasn’t strewn with empty bottles.

Automatic Sorting Of Containers

If you have a large plant sorting the containers, it can do a better job, than the most expensive machine on the street.

  • It would be able to sort plastic, glass and aluminium containers.
  • I suspect technology exists to remove labels
  • Glass would probably be washed and crushed.
  • It could also sort out ordinary rubbish like fast food wrapping and boxes, newspapers and disposable nappies.
  • Any washing water would be collected and reused.

The plant would calculate the various combination of materials and if the weight of the rubbish would known, could calculate the return.

Extending The System

There must be other containers, that are also recyclable. In my cupboard, I have a large glass mayonnaise jar, which would probably be recyclable if washed and the top is removed.

So perhaps the system could accept this bottle without its top. It would be washed and crushed, so it could be used instead of quarried aggregate.

Conclusion

There are much better ways to handle the charge on a drink container.

I would reckon, that some of the biggest recycling organisations in the UK are working on a solution, that benefits us all and is as widespread as possible.

March 28, 2018 Posted by | Food, World | , , | 5 Comments

British Steel Secures Major Contract From Deutsche Bahn

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

I thought the article had a touch of Coals-to-Newcastle about it.

But read the article and there are a lot of things coming together to enable the order.

  • British Steel have spent a seven-figure-sum at Scunthorpe, to make the longer rails, that the Germans use.
  • Deutsche Bahn are Europe’s largest purchaser of rail.
  • The initial order is for 20,000 tonnes of rail.
  • Rails can be delivered in 120 metre lengths through the Channel Tunnel.

I should say, that I’ve read in the past, that Scunthorpe makes a quality product.

I found this video on the British Steel web site.

It all brings back memories of the time, I spent as a sixteen-year-old putting automation on heavy machines use to roll non-ferrous metals.

I doubt you get work experience like that these days!

March 15, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , , | 4 Comments