2 Mar 2010

Pay attention to Captain Deltic

Prototype Deltic., originally uploaded by steven.barker57.
Captain Deltic, otherwise known as Roger Ford or Uncle Roger, has a long running series in Modern Railways, under the heading "Informed Sources."

And informed they are. He does his homework uniquely well, bringing together the physics, the engineering and the economics of railways. Anyone involved in making decisions about railways should study his writings assiduously.

Correspondence I have received through my MP shows that the DfT civil servants are not paying attention as they should. That is one reason why £20 million came to be wasted on consultancy work in connection with the aborted Inter City 125 replacement, which, as Captain Deltic pointed out, was going to have to be constructed of a new metal he called "Unobtainium".

His latest piece is an analysis of the refurbishment opportunities presented by the fleet of trains inherited from British Rail. It is just as well, as he points out, that vehicles such as the mark 3 have an economic life of at least sixty years. This is the thinking that is going to be needed to keep the wheels turning over the next decades.

My only criticism of him is that he has a bit of a blind spot about kettles. This technology has had a boost in recent years. As potentially green off-the-wires traction, able to run on any fuel, and with a low construction cost, he may be missing something that needs to be kept an eye on.

1 comment:

  1. There's one example of a train vaguely similar to the "Intercity express programme" trains - the RENFE 130H (currently not in service)

    The trains are basically a RENFE 130 (Talgo 250) trainset with generator vans added containing MTU 12 cylinder engines - very similar to the ones used to remotorise some Intercity 125s) - these are for non-electrified parts of the Spanish rail network - once the lines are electrified the trains can be converted back to all electrical operation.

    See http://www.cope.es/tecnologia/14-12-09--nuevo-invento-espanol-tren-todoterreno-115520-1 for details (in spanish)

    At a simple level this is what the dft was asking for. (ignoring variable axles, loading gauge etc) However having read their specification I know that a 1435mm version built to UK loading gauge would not have been acceptable to them - their specifications were far to specific (some commentators have used the term 'micromanagement'). I don't know if the RENFE trains come even close the the demands for increase in energy efficiency set out in the dft documents.

    Nevertheless it does show that the concept of a diesel and/or electric high speed train was not a complete fantasy.

    Still I breathed a sigh of relief when I read that the whole thing had been halted subject to a new report. As I understand it 'on hold pending independant report' is Whitehall speak for "quietly killed off". I hope so anyway.