onsdag 10 juli 2024

When the wind blows, the trains stop

For the second time this week, trains on many routes in the west of Sweden have been cancelled due to high winds: this happened on Sunday morning (7 July) and again this afternoon (10 July).

Apparently there is a risk of trees falling on the overhead electrification cables, and of the cables themselves getting blown down. The cables come down regularly; a couple of times a week, it is said. I have personally been caught up in two incidents. In the first, the train was stuck in a forest for four hours when the wires came down. This was on a lovely afternoon in July and passengers could enjoy the sun and opportunity to walk their dogs. The stay in the forest was so long because it took two hours to couple a rescue locomotive to the train. A month ago the passengers were ordered off a Copenhagen to Gothenburg train because the wires had been stolen, and that journey ended up with an overnight stay in a hotel.

Which raises two questions. Why are trees allowed to grow where they are an obvious hazard? In steam days the trackside had to be kept clear because of the risk of fires. On electrified lines, the risk of disruption due to trees falling on the track is even greater.

The second is why are the lines electrified at all? Now that electricity is priced on the Europool market, it is not cheap, and there are many lines where there is not enough traffic to justify the cost of putting up the wires and keeping them in order, which is an onerous task in itself.

Perhaps some of this electrification infrastructure should be removed when it is life expired?

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