The Anonymous Widower

A Safety Fence At Barnes Station

I noticed this barrier at Barnes station and I just had to investigate.

I don’t like being on the platform, when a train speeds through. Not that the Class 66 locomotive in the pctures was going fast.

This barrier will allow you to duck through and hang on to fence.

October 11, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

RMT Fights Trains That Might Have Saved Girl

This is the headline on an article in today’s Sunday Times.

It is only for balance that you read the whole article, but I predict there could be an almighty row over over Merseyrail’s new Stadler trains, which as the article describes, are designed totally with safety in mind.

But not the RMT!

January 15, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Where’s The Emergency Train Power For Crossrail?

Things that can go wrong in a deep rail line do happen and even in the Channel Tunnel, there have been incidents.

There have been two major fires in the Channel Tunnel in 1996 and 2008 and there have also been various train failures.

I am not being alarmist, but as each Class 345 train can carry 1,500 passengers and twenty-four trains per hour will be going through the line for much of the time, there will be an awful lot of people underground at times.

If you look at the specification of a Class 345 train, it has features surely will help recovery if a train breaks down.

I found this snippet on the Internet which gives the formation of the new Class 345 trains.

When operating as nine-car trains, the Class 345 trains will have two Driving Motor Standard Opens (DMSO), two Pantograph Motor Standard Opens (PMSO), four Motor Standard Opens (MSO) and one Trailer Standard Open (TSO). They will be formed as DMSO+PMSO+MSO+MSO+TSO+MSO+MSO+PMSO+DMSO.

This formation and the train design could have positive implications for safety.

  • It looks to me that the train will be two half-trains. Can they be driven independently, as Class 373 trains in the Channel Tunnel can?
  • Half-trains must get around some train failures. If say the pantograph fails on one half-train, the other half-train can take the train to a suitable place like the next station to evacuate the passengers.
  • The trains will also be walk through, so let’s assume that a passenger’s laptop or mobile catches fire, passengers can be moved to another safe part of the train.

I suspect that all the experience of running electric trains in long tunnels for several decades all over the World, will have been used in validating the design of Class 345 trains.

My biggest worry as an electrical engineer and a Londoner, is a complete electrical failure in the capital.

They don’t happen often, but this article on the BBC is entitled Blackout hits London’s Soho on Black Friday.

It describes London’s power failure of last week.

Power failures do happen, so what happens if a computer virus or extreme weather blacks out London?

I have just read this article in Rail Engineer, which is entitled Crossrail – approaching the final stages.

This is said about the power supply in the tunnels.

The Crossrail route will be powered by a 25kV overhead line system using a Cariboni 110mm deep rigid overhead conductor bar throughout the tunnels. Although from a different manufacturer, this design concept is similar to the one being installed in the Severn Tunnel that doesn’t require weights and pulleys.

In the central section, 25kV traction power for the Crossrail trains will be provided by two new bulk supply points from National Grid 400kV, at Pudding Mill Lane in the east and Kensal Green to the west. Super grid transformers have been installed and fitted with fans and additional coolants.

A 22kV high-voltage network will be installed in the central section from Royal Oak Portal in the west to Limmo Peninsula in the east with an 11kV high-voltage non-traction spur to be installed from Limmo through to Plumstead. This network will supply mains power to each Crossrail station, shaft and portal within the central section.


  • It is a very simple power layout, for the trains, with a continous overhead rail providing power.
  • There is only two feed points for the overhead power to the trains, but these feed points seem to be of a robust design.
  • Trains in the middle will be fed by power coming a long way in the conductor rail.
  • Conductor rail must be a more robust power supply to the trains, than the typical overhead wires.
  • All Crossrail stations and shafts will use Crossrail’s own dedicated power supply.

The article though doesn’t mention two things.

  • How is an emergency power failure handled?
  • How is the power from regenerative braking fed back into the power network?

I’ll deal with the power failure first.

It would appear that a Central London power failure such as last Friday should have little effect on an independently-powered Crossrail. I wouldn’t expect anything less.

But there are always unexpected reasons, why a train may be isolated without power. So how does a train get to the next station or evacuation shaft, with its valuable load of passengers?

With respect to the regenerative braking, the power is usually fed into the overhead wires and used by another train nearby.

But, I do wonder if Crossrail will be doing things differently, as I like to think of the line as the latest and most energy-efficient of train lines.

Both the braking and failure problems are made easier, if the train is fitted with an on-board energy storage system or batteries in everyday parlance.

A fully-loaded Crossrail train going at its maximum speed of 145 kph will have an energy of  105 KwH, so if it stored this energy on the train when it brakes and stops, it could use it when it accelerated away.

Using batteries for regenerative braking has other effects.

  • It relegates the overhead rail to providing top up power as the train proceeds through the tunnel.
  • The overhead rail and its power supply, only has to cater for energy going to and not coming from the train.
  • The engineering on the train is simpler, as braking energy doesn’t have to be raised to 25 KVAC to feed back into the overhead rail, using perhaps a heavy transformer.

But most importantly, it means that the train has stored energy to proceed to the next station or safe place, if the overhead power should fail.

I have no evidence that this is actually the case, but Bombardier have said that the train will have a remote wake-up facility as I discussed in Do Bombardier Aventras Have Remote Wake-Up?, so that the driver will turn up and find a train ready for action. Try doing that without a substantial on-board power source, without leaving the train plugged in to electricity all night.

Bombardier are only stealing ideas, from some of the latest cars, if I’m right.


I wouldn’t be surprised if Crossrail’s Class 345 trains are fitted with on board energy storage. The storage would handle.

  • Regenerative Braking
  • Emergency get you to safety power.
  • Remote wake-up of trains.

The design would also mean that the Crossrail and its new trains would be more energy efficient.



November 30, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Now ASLEF Joins In!

I take the headline from this article on Rail News, which is entitled Southern dispute: now ASLEF joins in.

This Southern dispute and the related one in Scotland, appear that they may continue until 2017 at least.

I used to travel up to London in the 1990s with a driver-supervisor on the Central Line. We would discuss various technical subjects and the questions of efficient operation of trains and driver only operation came up.

Nothing he said, ever gave me any hint that driver only operation was anything but totally safe, if you have good communication with those on the platform. In fact, he did give the impression, that when problems did occur, it was because communication between driver and platform staff failed. I can remember him saying that with trainees, he always impressed on them, the dangers of not checking properly before starting when platforms are long and curved, as at Bank.

My view as someone, who has seen a lot of industrial automation at work in factories and industrial plants, is that the safest way to drive a train, is let the computer do the driving and the train driver should monitor what is happening.

Effectively, that is what has happened on the Victoria Line since 1967.

It’s about time that the UK’s trains joined the twentieth century, instead of clinging to the nineteenth.

August 4, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

ORR’s Annual Health and Safety Report of Performance on Britain’s Railways: 2015-16

This document on the Office of Rail Regulation will be dull reading for some.

But for anybody worried about rail safety and especially how perhaps the infrastructure is affecting their walking and driving, it is a hard but must read.

Some good points from this year’s report.

  • No rail worker was killed on the rail network in 2015-2016.
  • Britain’s railways are currently the safest they have ever been, but there is still room for improvement.
  • For the ninth year in a row, we saw no passenger fatalities in train accidents.
  • In 2008, in collaboration with us, Network Rail started closing high risk level crossings. With government support, over 1,000 crossings have been closed since 2009-10.
  • This year saw a 12% reduction, to 252, in suicides and suspected suicides on Britain’s mainline railway.

Let’s hope the process continues.

July 20, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

The Natives Are Getting Restless

It would appear that Network Rail have stirred up a hornet’s nest in Suffolk over the tricky subject of level crossings.

Over the last couple of days, three letters have appeared in The Times either supporting or opposing the closures.

I’ve also had talks with old friends in the County and some are not happy.

This web page on Network Rail’s web site, which is entitled Anglia level crossings proposals, gives more details. This is said.

We have been working to reduce the risk that level crossings pose and have developed proposals to manage the possible closure or change of use of around 130 level crossings in Anglia across Cambridgeshire, Essex and Suffolk.

We believe it’s possible to close level crossings:

  • with private rights only
  • by diverting people to where a nearby alternative exists
  • by providing a new public route to a nearby alternative

We will also look to downgrade level crossings to non-motorised users. None of the crossings in this proposal involve closing public A or B roads.

We recognise the importance of public rights of way and where possible we will maintain easy access to the countryside.

Having read the full document, I would say that Network Rail are trying to do there best to eliminate these hazards of a bygone age.

But try telling that to some of the locals.

What should bring it home to the locals is the Roudham train crash on April 10th, 2016, when a Class 170 train hit a tractor on a level crossing.

The train hasn’t been returned to service, so as I wrote in An Illustration Of East Anglia’s Rail Problems, the operator is scratching sround for trains.

So one place’s level crossing accident, is another area’s lack of trains.

There are rumours, that the Roudham crash was caused by human error, but the main cause of the crash, was the fact the level crossing existed.

All level crossings should be removed.

July 19, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 6 Comments

I Get Struck By The DOO Lurgy

The DOO (Driver Only Operation) Lurgy has generally been limited to Southern, Gatwick Express and ScotRail trains.

But today, when coming back from IKEA, I was unable to get a train on the Great Northern Route at Highbury and Islington to Essex Road, as the train was cancelled.

The station-man upstairs said it the DOO Lurgy and I walked off to catch a bus.

This row over DOO has gone on long enough and from what I wrote about in Design For Safety In A New Station, I would suspect that the solution I saw at Lea Bridge station, is as good as its going to get!

July 9, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Design For Safety In A New Station

I took these pictures at the new Lea Bridge station


  • There is a series of cameras, that display images of the complete train on the screens for the driver.
  • Speakers and CCTV cameras are everywhere along the platforms.
  • Very little seems to have been left to chance.

I doubt, even a driver, who was in the midst of some unfortunate personal emergency would miss anything untoward happening on the platform.

But even if they collapsed, it would be hoped that other safety systems on the train, would cut the power.

As a passenger and engineer, the setup of the platform, certainly reassured me.

Should we make sure, that the safety systems at all stations are as comprehensive as this?

July 9, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Tram Safety At Augsburg

One of the problems with trams, is that pedestrians cross in front of trams, more intent on their mobile phone, than their safety.

At Augsburg Haunstetterstraße station, they are trialling a warning system.

Note how the lights turn red as the tram approsaches and clear, when it is safe to cross.

It was very simple. But it wasn’t always obeyed.

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Jeremy Corbyn Sugests Women-Only Carriages On Trains

According to this article on the BBC, Jeremy Corbyn is suggesting that women-only carriages should be introduced in the UK. This is the start of the article.

Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn has said he would consider women-only rail carriages to help stem a rise in assaults on public transport.

Mr Corbyn told the Independent he would consult women on the suggestion.

But the idea was attacked as outdated and unhelpful by his Labour leadership rivals Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham.

I have no view one way or another on the actual proposal, but practically there are problems.

Most new urban trains, like those on the London Overground, Underground, Thameslink and Crossrail are effectively built as one long articulated carriage. This picture shows the inside of a Class 378 train on the Overground.

Looking Through A 5-Car Class 378

This layout increases capacity, enables passengers to spread themselves to less-crowded parts of the train and get to the appropriate carriage for disembarking.

I am not sure whether it is a safer layout, but on a couple of occasions, I’ve had a drunk or a noisy baby sit by me, whilst I’m trying to read, so I’ve quietly moved to another part of the train. It must also be an easier train to monitor for security purposes.

The layout also makes evacuation of the train easier in the case of an incident, like a complete power failure in a tunnel, as you’d just walk to one end of the train to be taken down steps by the emergency services.

If there was a segregated area for women, this would be extremely difficult to incorporate into a train designed in this way. It might even compromise the tunnel evacuation procedures.

So to create some women-only trains would mean an expensive rebuild, new trains, or a lot of work to make tunnels fit the new circumstances.

An alternate would be to make one train in six say, women only!

And surely, if you have women-only trains, you should also have women-only buses, taxis and minicabs. I think the latter are one of the worst places for attacks on women. This article in the Daily Mail has the headline of No woman is safe in a minicab, says rape judge. It may be an exaggeration as it’s the Daily Mail, but it does say there are 100,000 private hire drivers in the country and questions the checking procedures.

It would be far better, if instead of making public transport safer for a particular group, we made it safe for everybody who wants to use it.

I was travelling on the Overground recently, when on arrival at Dalston Junction station, a blind, black lady in her forties was met by a uniformed Overground stationman, who led her professionally up the stairs and through the barriers.

Every station in the UK should be mandated to follow the Overground rule of station staff being present from the first train of the day until the last. Also if you need special assistance on the Overground, you don’t need to give prior warning. This page on the Transport for London web site, details their policy.

August 27, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment