The Anonymous Widower

Could Battery-Electric Trains Be Used To Fight Cable Theft On Third-Rail Electrified Lines?

This article on the Network Rail web site is entitled What We’re Doing To Beat The Thieves.

These two paragraphs introduce the article.

Cable theft costs us millions of pounds each year. The total cost to the economy – taking into account the impact of freight delays to power stations and supermarkets, and on passengers who miss appointments or have their day ruined – is even higher.

The theft of metal is a big problem for the railway as thieves target signalling cables, overhead power lines and even metal fences to sell for scrap.

I took these pictures of cables on a trip to Hayes station, where the electrification is third-rail.

 

They all seem to be big and fat and are almost solid copper. Note that the cables are fat as they are carrying 750 VDC, so they need to be so, to carry the power for the trains, which can be several megawatts.

This explains, why thieves love these cables lying around and easy to access.

I should also say from personal experience, that with the right tools, it is easy to cut cables like these. When I worked at Enfield Rolling Mills in one summer in the early 1960s, I was asked by an electrician to help him dismantle the power cables to a machine. He cut through one with ease with an ordinary hacksaw, whilst I held it, with a couple of clamps.

I suspect modern day cable thieves have more advanced tools than we did sixty years ago.

A rail network like the UK, generally has four main types of lines that are electrified using third rails.

  • Main Lines, where trains run at 100 mph plus.
  • Branch Lines, which are generally shorter and trains run more slowly.
  • Sidings and depots.
  • Junctions

Note.

  1. Main Lines are probably easier to protect using security cameras, drones and surveillance devices on trains.
  2. As trains are also more frequent and faster, this must make cable thefts less likely to happen on Main Lines.
  3. Branch Lines and especially rural ones, that may be quiet for long periods could be very difficult to protect.
  4. Judging by the amount of graffiti on trains put on in sidings and depots, these are not easy to protect.
  5. Junctions are complex, often with lots of cables, so could be magnets for thieves.

It should also be noted that there are phone apps, that can be used by the thieves to know when a train is coming.

So could it be possible to cut cable theft, by using battery-electric trains, that didn’t need electrification in theft-prone areas like branch lines, sidings, depots and junctions?

November 22, 2022 Posted by | Energy, Transport/Travel | , | 3 Comments

Did Someone Try To Steal The Electrification?

I arrived at Ipswich station to come back to London at 09:30 this morning and finally arrived home at 15:00. The journey had taken at least four times longer than it should.

This article on Railnews, which has a subtitle of Overhead Line Damage Disrupts Great Eastern, explains the problem.

The wires between Colchester and Marks Tey stations were damaged at around four in the morning and trains didn’t run again until about 1700.

This is a paragraph that adds more details.

overhead line damage was discovered between Colchester and Marks Tey. Network Rail workers reported shortly before 04.45 that overhead line equipment was tripping, and a train driver reported ‘visible damage’ to the power lines.

I eventually came home by this route.

  • I took a train to Class 153 train to Cambridge.
  • Another electric train took me to to Tottenham Hale,.
  • It was then two buses home.

It was a completely wasted day.

What puzzles me is that the damage to the wires appears to have happened, when no trains were running. So that seems to indicate they either just fell down for no apparent reason or someone was up to no good.

Years ago, I did some work for British Rail and they talked about all sorts of groups getting up to all sorts f tricks to steal copper. signalling cable.

The crooks would even repeatedly cut fibre optic signalling cables, in the hope it would be replaced by copper, so they could nick that!

I shall await the report of what happened yesterday with interest!

Greater Anglia Were Short Of Trains

I took this picture, when I arrived at Ipswich.

It shows the Ipswich to Cambridge service that gives a good connection to the train from London. For several years, it has been a smart three-car Class 170 train. This is a rwo-car Class 156 train.

  • Greater Anglia were also apologising for the connecting Lowestoft service being just a one car; Class 153 train.
  • It appeared to me, that Greater Anglia has sent nearly all of their Class 170 trains to Wales.
  • And yet again, Greater Anglia are looking after their Norwich customers and heaping all the inadequate rolling stock on Ipswich.
  • Are the new Class 755 trains and their drivers ready?

It looks to me, to be a management cock-up.

Train For Cambridge Anybody?

This was my train to Cambridge.

As I said, it was normally a three-car Class 170 train, but this is an inadequate Class 153 train, which went they ran between Ipswich and Cambridge generally ran in pairs.

Gerald Fiennes and Delia Smith at Dullingham

At least I only had to wait ten minutes at Cambridge for my Tottenham Hale train.

Greater Anglia’s Response

The staff at Ipswich did their best, but there did seem to be a biit of bad leadership from somewhere as at one point, it was announced that a London train would be running and I don’t think it did.

To make matters worse, as we ran into Cambridge, we passed two brand new Class 755 trains in the sidings. Are they parked their ready to start the service?

This article on the East Anglian Daily Times is entitled We’re Completely Stuck – it’s A Joke’ – Rail Passengers’ Anger At Train Chaos.

It shows a large degree of management failure.

Planning For The Future

The electrification on the Great Eastern Main Line appears to be notoriously unreliable.

Network Rail must get it better! But they don’t seem to be doing a good job, as I have had pain getting to Ipswich for six years, whilst they are updating the wires!

I believe that the best insurance for the train services would be to do the following, as soon as possible.

  • Increase services on the Ipswich and Cambridge route to two trains per hour (tph) using four-car Class 755 trains. One would be direct and the other would have a change at Ely.
  • Increase services on the Norwich and Cambridge route to two tph using four-car Class 755 trains. One would be direct and the other would have a change at Ely.
  • Start running the London and Lowestoft service using four-car Class 755 trains.
  • Make sure that, it is possible to run routes with pairs of Class 755 trains.
  • Ensure, that Class 755 trains can run London and Norwich via Cambridge.

As an example yesterday, a six-car Class 755 formation formed of two three-car trains shuttling between Ipswich and Cambridge, would probably have solved the problem.

But I do think that East Anglia’s rail problems might be best served by running a new direct service between London Kings Cross and Norwich.

As I have said several times, the Kings Cross and Cambridge and/or Kings Lynn service needs to be upgraded to 140 mph trains to make the most of the 140 mph running on the Southern section of the East Coast Main Line.

So why not run the following services?

  • Hourly between Kings Cross and Kings Lynn via Cambridge.
  • Hourly between Kings Cross and Norwich via Cambridge.

The trains could be Hitachi AT-300 trains with a battery capability sufficient to take the train North of Ely.

Conclusion

Did someone try to steal the electrification?

I will await the answer as to what happened with interest.

October 26, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Now It’s Thieves On The Line As Crooks Target Railway Cables

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in The Times on Tuesday.

I was involved in a similar project with British Rail, where they were looking at patterns in signalling cable faults on the East Coast Main Line. My software Daisy was used to display the patterns.

I know in this case British Rail got a solution.

I even have their internal report somewhere!

May 7, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 2 Comments