torsdag 16 november 2017

Super Express - how super?

The new Hitachi bi-mode trains are now coming into service; after the embarrassing maiden trip, it is possible to make a more balanced judgement. It will be a while before I get an opportunity to travel in them, but the verdict seems to be that the underfloor engines are not too bothersome and the main complaints are about the hardness of the  seats. The air conditioning problem on the inaugural run was due to the failure of the pump which removes the condensed water, but one wonders why the system was designed to need one, when previous air conditioning systems relied on gravity to drain away the condensate. What became of the principle of keeping things simple?

Ian Walmsley, writing in Modern Railways, said that the Great Western ones so far running are all right as commuter trains, but not much better than that. The big question mark concerns performance. The engines were supposed to have been de-rated to improve reliability, but this will have a detrimental effect on timekeeping, especially now that so much of the electrification is uncompleted and likely to remain so for a long time to come. There are also unsolved issues such as the bridge over the main line at Steventon; until it is resolved, there will be a break in the electrification. Given the problems with changeover from diesel to electric on the first journey, having to carry out the operation is going to create a long-term risk to reliability. This saga is going to run for a few years yet.

In 1985 I was the co-author of an article that was published in the Railway Magazine, written slightly tongue-in-cheek, suggesting that the Great Western Main Line should be electrified on the third rail system. Perhaps the idea was not so daft.

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