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

The Mathematics Of Blending Twenty Percent Of Hydrogen Into The UK Gas Grid

HyDeploy is a project, that is investigating blending hydrogen into the UK’s natural gas supply to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced by the burning of natural gas in power stations, industrial processes and in our homes and other buildings.

To find out more about the project, visit the HyDeploy web site.

This is a paragraph from this page on the HyDeploy web site, which describes the current progress of the project.

HyDeploy is progressing well. The HSE gave the go ahead for a live demonstration, at Keele University, of blended hydrogen and natural gas which began in Autumn 2019 and completed in Spring 2021. The HSE are satisfied that the blend of gas will be as safe as the gas we all currently use. The hydrogen content will be up to 20% and has so far reached 15%.

Note that HSE is the Health and Safety Executive, who are closely involved.

HyDeploy has now moved on to Phase 2 in the North East.

For our North East demonstration, we have contacted everyone who will be involved in that demonstration – more than 650 homes – and arranged for our engineers to carry out Gas Safe checks on their gas appliances and gather information on the range of appliances in the demonstration area. The Gas Safe checks were free of charge. Almost 90% of those homes have engaged with us.

What would be the effects of 20 % of hydrogen blended into natural gas?

Will current boilers, cookers and other gas-powered devices work on a blend of hydrogen and natural gas?

This is one for the scientists and it is one of the objectives of the HyDeploy trial to understand how every use of gas performs if instead of natural gas, the fuel is a mixture of eighty percent natural gas and twenty percent hydrogen.

I will assume that these problems are solvable.

I am not just hoping, but I can remember in the early 1970s, when our elderly gas cooker was successfully converted from town gas, which was typically a mixture of hydrogen (50%), methane (35%),carbon monoxide (10 %) and ethylene (5%), to natural gas, as North Sea gas started to flow.

This document from the UK government is entitled Fuels: Natural Gas, which contains a section entitled Material Properties Relevant To Use, where this is said.

Natural gas is a combustible gas that is a mixture of simple hydrocarbon compounds. It contains primarily methane, along with small amounts of ethane, butane, pentane, and propane. Natural gas does not contain carbon monoxide. The by-products of burning natural gas are primarily carbon dioxide and water vapour. Natural gas is colourless, tasteless and odourless. Because it is odourless, an odorant (80% tertiarybutyl mercaptan, 20% dimethyl sulphide) is added to the gas, to give the gas a distinctive smell. Other beneficial properties of natural gas are a high ignition temperature and a
narrow flammability range, meaning natural gas will ignite at temperatures above 593°degrees and burn at a mix of 4 – 15% volume in air (St. Lawrence Gas, 2015)

As ethane (C2H6), butane (C4H10), pentane (C5H12) and propane (C3H8) are all similar simple hydrocarbons to methane, which burn to produce carbon dioxide and water, I will assume in this analysis, that natural gas is all methane (CH4).

It is reasonable to assume, that currently we use a fuel which is equivalent to 100 % methane and that in the future we could use 80 % methane and 20 % hydrogen. Also in the past, we used to use a fuel, that was 50 % hydrogen and 35 % methane. The carbon monoxide is a poison, so I’ll ignore it, but ethylene (C2H4) is another of those simple hydrocarbons, which burn to release just carbon dioxide and water.

So if we were able to go from town to natural gas fifty years ago, by just adjusting gas equipment, surely we can go partly the other way in the Twenty-First Century.

I can certainly see the UK gas supply containing twenty percent hydrogen, but wouldn’t be surprised to see a higher level of hydrogen in the future.

How Much Hydrogen Needs To Be Added?

This page on worldodometer says this about UK gas consumption.

The United Kingdom consumes 2,795,569 million cubic feet (MMcf) of natural gas per year as of the year 2017.

I will now calculate the weight of hydrogen needed to be added.

  • 2,795,569 million cubic feet converts to 79161.69851 million cubic metres.
  • I will round that to 79161.7 million cubic metres.
  • Twenty percent is 15832.34 million cubic metres.
  • A cubic metre of hydrogen weighs 0.082 Kg, which gives that in a year 1,298.25188 million kilograms will need to be added to the UK gas supply.

This is 1,298,251.88 tonnes per year, 3,556.85 tonnes per day or 148.2 tonnes per hour.

How Much Electricity Is Needed To Create This Amount Of Hydrogen?

In Can The UK Have A Capacity To Create Five GW Of Green Hydrogen?, I said the following.

Ryze Hydrogen are building the Herne Bay electrolyser.

  • It will consume 23 MW of solar and wind power.
  • It will produce ten tonnes of hydrogen per day.

The electrolyser will consume 552 MWh to produce ten tonnes of hydrogen, so creating one tonne of hydrogen needs 55.2 MWh of electricity.

To create 148.2 tonnes per hour of hydrogen would need 8,180.64 MW of electricity or just under 8.2 GW.

How Much Carbon Dioxide Would Be Saved?

This page on the Engineering Toolbox is entitled Combustion Of Fuels – Carbon Dioxide Emission and it gives a list of how much carbon dioxide is emitted, when a fuel is burned.

For each Kg of these fuels, the following Kg of carbon dioxide will be released on combustion.

  • Methane – 2.75
  • Gasoline – 3.30
  • Kerosene – 3.00
  • Diesel – 3.15
  • Bituminous coal – 2.38
  • Lignite 1.10
  • Wood – 1.83

Engineering Toolbox seems a very useful web site.

I will now calculate how much carbon dioxide would be saved.

  • In 2017, UK methane consumption was 79161.7 million cubic metres.
  • One cubic metre of methane weighs 0.554 Kg.
  • The total weight of methane used is 43,855,581.8 tonnes.
  • Multiplying by 2.75 shows that 120,602,849.95 tonnes of carbon dioxide will be produced.

As twenty percent will be replaced by hydrogen, carbon dioxide emission savings will be 24,120,569.99 tonnes.

That seems a good saving, from a small country like the UK.

The UK would also reduce natural gas consumption by twenty percent or 15832.34 million cubic metres per year.

How many other countries with good renewable and zero-carbon electricity resources like Australia, Chile, Denmark, France, Iceland, Ireland, Jordan, Morocco, Norway, Sweden and the United States will take this route, as it seems a good way to save large amounts of carbon?

There is also the collateral benefit, that countries with a good supply of hydrogen can use hydrogen to decarbonise the heavy transport sectors of rail, road and sea freight transport.

The big winners would appear to be those companies like ITM Power, who manufacture electrolysers and those companies like Fortescue Future Industries, who are prospecting, developing and promoting the hydrogen resources of the planet.

The losers will be countries, who are reliant on importing large amounts of gas and other fossil fuels, who don’t have access to large amounts of renewable energy like geothermal, hydro, nuclear, solar and wind.

Germany’s energy policy of no nuclear, more coal and Russian gas seems to have been a mistake.

But I’m sure, if Olaf Sholz talked nicely to Boris, there is a deal to be made.

  • German utilities have already arranged to fund BP’s move into wind farms in Morecambe Bay and the North Sea.
  • Norfolk’s gas terminal at Bacton is less than three hundred miles from Germany’s new hydrogen terminal at Wilhelmshaven.

The biggest loser could be Vlad the Poisoner.

 

 

 

 

February 6, 2022 Posted by | Energy, Hydrogen | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Apology After Woman Dragged On Platform By London Overground Train

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

These first three paragraphs describe the incident.

An investigation has been launched after a woman attempting to board a London Overground train was dragged along a platform.

The passenger tried to board the train at Wood Street Station in Walthamstow, north-east London, on 14 January when her hand got trapped in the door.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said she was then forced to run alongside the train for about 20m (66ft), before the train stopped. The woman was uninjured.

I don’t know Wood Street station or the size, shape and agility of the lady, who had the near accident.

I shall be going to have a look.

I took these pictures at Wood Street station, this afternoon.

These are my observations.

  1. The platforms have a very pronounced curve, which makes the gap between train and platform wider.
  2. There is a significant difference in the height of the train floor and the station platform, which makes the gap effectively wider.
  3. All the passengers getting into the train were men and wearing sensible shoes. I was too!
  4. There is a warning message about doors closing thirty seconds before the train leaves. I’ve never seen one before on the Overground.

I will not speculate on what caused the accident, except to say, that as the passenger wasn’t badly injured, I suspect we’ll get to the truth of what happened.

January 31, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 6 Comments

Grab-Handles In London Underground Train Entrances

I have been taking pictures of the grab-handles in the doors of London Underground trains.

Bakerloo Line

 

There are no grab-handles.

 

Central Line

The Central Line trains, which were built in 1991-4, probably set the original standard.

Hammersmith & City Line

These are probably similar to Circle, District and Metropolitan Line trains.

Jubilee Line

Note the long grab-handles tucked behind the doors.

Northern Line

Note the long grab-handles tucked behind the doors.

There is also a cheeky one behind the wheelchair space. Although you would get into a Northern Line train in a wheelchair is another matter.

Piccadilly Line

Despite their age, there is a full set of grab-handles.

Victoria Line

Note the long grab-handles tucked behind the doors.

Conclusion

I do find it strange that all the other Underground trains have vertical handles just inside the door, but the Bakerloo Line trains don’t have this valuable safety feature.

I think this could be dangerous.

I have a damaged left arm because the school bully broke my humerus. It can do most things, but some things are painful.

So when I get on a train, in case there is a step-up into the train, I position myself towards the right of the door. Then if there is a step-up, I reach forward and grab the handle and pull myself into the train.

Recently, I boarded a train on the Bakerloo Line platform at Waterloo. On finding there was no grab-handle I slipped slightly as I pulled back.

In the end I climbed into the train by holding on to the rubber edge of the door and got a very dirty hand.

Could this lack of grab-handles have contributed to a recent death at the station, that I wrote about in Death Of A Commuter At Waterloo?

I very much feel that grab-handles should be fitted to the doors on Bakerloo Line trains.

 

 

November 5, 2021 Posted by | Design, Transport/Travel | , , , | 7 Comments

Should All Trains Have Grab Handles By The Doors?

These pictures show the vertical grab handles on London Overground Class 710 trains.

Note the vertical handles everywhere and especially tucked into the corner behind the door.

These pictures show the interior of a 1973 Stock train on the Piccadilly Line.

There are worse trains in the UK.

It should be noted that the trains were extensively refurbished in 1996-2001.

Should all trains have lots of grab handles like these two examples? And especially by the door?

I think they should.

This is an interesting picture of a Siemens design study, which I wrote about in Siemens’ View Of The Future Of The Underground.

Note the grab handles by the sides of the doors.

So at least Siemens are following the rule of grab handles by the door.

November 3, 2021 Posted by | Design, Transport/Travel | , , , , | 4 Comments

Train-Platform Interface On Platform 1 At Willesden Junction

Access to trains at Willesden Junction station can be difficult for some people.

I took these pictures of the access between train and platform for a Bakerloo Line train at Platform 1.

It is a step down from the platform of at least twenty centimetres.

These for a Watford DC Line train are not much better.

Once at this station, an elderly Indian lady in a sari was getting off one of these trains. She shouted something like “Catch me!” and jumped. Luckily, I caught her and it was smiles all round.

Of the ten stations that are shared by both services, it appears that only Queen’s Park has level access for both services.

These stations are an accident waiting to happen.

November 3, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Death Of A Commuter At Waterloo

This tragic accident is reported in this article on ITV, which is entitled Commuter Crushed To Death After Falling Unseen Into Tube Gap At Waterloo.

These are the first two paragraphs.

A commuter was trapped and crushed to death by a Tube train after he fell down the gap on the northbound Bakerloo line train at Waterloo, an investigation has found.

Tube staff did not spot the man after he slipped and fell on to the track where he lay for more than a minute before being hit by a second train, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said.

The accident is partly blamed on the curve of the track in the station.

I took these pictures at Waterloo station.

Note.

  1. Pictures were taken on both platforms, which are similar, as they are above each other.
  2. The gap is wide, but not the widest on the Underground.
  3. When I boarded a train, I realised there was no grab handle.
  4. I got my hand rather dirty using the door to pull myself across the gap.

Could this have been a factor in the death of the commuter, in that he looked for the grab handle, noticed there wasn’t one and then overbalanced?

This picture shows the detail on the inside of the door.

I’m sure a design could be created, that would give those who needed a pull-up something to grab.

November 3, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , | 1 Comment

Russian Convoys

This article on Railway Gazette is entitled Five-Train Platoons To Operate With Virtual Coupling.

This is the first paragraph.

Russian Railways is planning to use platooning technology to operate flights of up to five freight trains next year using radio data exchange between locomotives to create a virtual coupling. The aims to reduce headways from 12 to 6 to 8 min, increasing capacity on congested sections of the Trans-Siberian main line.

As a Control Engineer, I must believe that if the Russians get the programming right, then it should work.

Similar techniques will probably be used with digital signalling in the UK and Europe, where each train is controlled by the signalling. But each train will probably have a driver.

The problem in Russia could also be the large number of ungated level crossings, which according to some I’ve met  are prone to a lot of accidents, as drivers regularly chance it after too much vodka.

September 8, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

ORR’s Policy On Third Rail DC Electrification Systems

The title of this post is the same as that of a document I downloaded from this page on the Office of Rail and Road web site.

It is one of the most boring legal documents, that I have ever read and I have read a few in my time.

As I read it, effectively it says that new third-rail electrification is banned because of Health and Safety issues, which take precedence.

But only once in the document is new technology mentioned, that might make third-rail safer and that is a reference to the Docklands Light Railway, where the third rail is shielded.

I am an Electrical Engineer and I was designing safety systems for heavy industrial guillotines at fifteen as a vacation job in a non-ferrous metals factory.

One design of an ideal electric railway would have battery-electric trains, that were charged in stations by third-rail. The third-rail would only be energised, when a train was over the top and needed to be charged. In effect the train would act as an all-enclosing guard to the conductor rail.

Electrification Of The West Of England Main Line

The West of England Main Line runs between Basingstoke and Exeter via Salisbury. It is one of the longest, if not the longest main lines in England, that is not electrified.

It would probably need to be electrified with 750 VDC third-rail electrification, as that standard is used between London Waterloo and Basingstoke.

In Solving The Electrification Conundrum, I described a system being developed by Hitachi, that would use battery-electric trains that were charged by short sections of electrified line every fifty miles or so. For reasons of ease of installation and overall costs, these short sections of electrification could be third-rail, that was electrically dead unless a train was connected and needed charging. These electrified sections could also be in stations, where entry on to the railway is a bit more restricted.

Conclusion

The Office of Rail and Road needs to employ a few more engineers with good technical brains, rather than ultra-conservative risk-averse lawyers.

As a sad footnote, I live in East London, where trespassers are regularly electrocuted on the railway. But usually, it is when idiots are travelling on top of container trains  and inadvertently come into contact with the overhead electrification.

July 10, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Frankfurt Starts Building Fuel Station For World’s Biggest Zero-Emissions Train Fleet

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

These are the two opening paragraphs.

German regional transport group RMV began construction on Monday of a filling station near Frankfurt that will use hydrogen generated as a by-product of chemicals manufacturing to fuel the world’s largest fleet of zero-emissions passenger trains.

France’s Alstom will deliver 27 hydrogen-powered fuel cell trains to the Infraserv Hoechst industrial park in the Rhine-Main region in mid-2022. Starting regular local services by that winter, the fleet will replace diesel engines.

All the investment will be partly funded by fares.

Chlorine Manufacture

I find it interesting, that the article also states that the hydrogen comes as a by-product of chlorine manufacture. When I worked in a ICI’s electrolysis plant around 1970, their plant used the Castner-Kellner process to produce both gases.

The process uses a lot of mercury and Wikipedia says this about the future of the process.

The mercury cell process continues in use to this day. Current-day mercury cell plant operations are criticized for environmental release of mercury  leading in some cases to severe mercury poisoning as occurred in Japan Minamata_disease. Due to these concerns, mercury cell plants are being phased out, and a sustained effort is being made to reduce mercury emissions from existing plants.

Are INEOS, who now own the Runcorn plant, and the Germans still using the Castner-Kellner process?

I remember two stories about the theft of mercury from the Runcorn plant.

Mercury was and probably still is very valuable,  and it was always being stolen. So ICI put a radioactive trace in the mercury, which didn’t affect the process. The result was that all legitimate metal dealers on Merseyside bough Geiger counters to check any mercury before they bought it.

One guy thought he had found the ideal way to steal mercury, so he filled his bike frame with the metal and wheeled it to the gate. Whilst he clocked out, he propped the bike against the gate-house. Unfortunately, it fell over and because of the weight of the mercury, he was unable to pick it up.

My work in the plant, involved devising a portable instrument that would detect mercury in air and a colleague’s project was to develop a way of detecting mercury in urine samples from the plant operatives.

Those projects say a lot, about why we should be careful around any process involving mercury.

 

 

October 26, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel, World | , , , , , , | Leave a comment