Is electrification of rail lines just a bridge too far?

The Oxford Times: FUTURE  VISION: An artist’s  impression of one of the new electric trains FUTURE VISION: An artist’s impression of one of the new electric trains

NETWORK Rail needs to modify, raise or rebuild 29 rail bridges in Oxfordshire by 2018 to make room for new, overhead electric wires. PETE HUGHES looks at the impact and complexity of the £1bn project

BETWEEN 1838 and 1840, Isambard Kingdom Brunel forged his Great Western Railway across the country, from London to Wales.

Nicknamed “God's Wonderful Railway”, the project was endorsed by an Act of Parliament, and is now more important than ever, ferrying commuters to and from the capital.

Trains are as beloved as ever, but, inevitably, the technology has changed to improve efficiency and meet environmental concerns.

As early as 1979, British Rail proposed electrifying the line from Paddington to Swansea, but in November the project finally arrived in Oxfordshire.

To make room for the new overhead electric wires, track owner Network Rail (NR) has to increase the distance between trains and bridges.

The Oxford Times:

  • COMMUNICATION: Parish council vice-chairman Robert Green, front, and Steventon residents concerned about the bridge closure and its impact on the village

However, that will require entirely rebuilding some bridges, including arterial roads like the A34, A338 and A417.

Work began with Fulscot Road Bridge, South Moreton, near Didcot, in November.

Originally due to take four months, that road closure was extended to a year because of unforeseen engineering challenges, which it would not comment further on.

And last month the company revealed it will have to close the Grade II listed bridge at Steventon High Street for eight months from next January to August.

The firm says there isn’t any other way it can increase the gap, but villagers disagree.

The Oxford Times:

  • DISRUPTION: The Grade II listed bridge at Steventon High Street will be closed for eight months

Steventon Parish Council believes Network Rail could increase the gap between train and bridge by lowering the track rather than raising the bridge by having to rebuild it.

The firm chose that method with a listed bridge at Bourton, near Shrivenham, but said track lowering in Steventon would create a flood risk on the line.

Parish council vice chairman Robert Green said: “The real reason is that track lowering will mean disruption to services.

“That means they will have to compensate the operators like First Great Western, which is costly.”

The parish council is not prepared to give up without a fight and has drawn up an action plan to look into Network Rail’s decision.

This includes commissioning an expert report on the flooding risk of lowering the track, at a cost of about £1,500 and lobbying English Heritage to support having a smaller distance between the wires and bridge.

And it will urge Network Rail to consider not electrifying some sections of wire in the hope this would allow a smaller distance between the wires and bridge as there would be fewer health and safety considerations.

The alternative is putting up with what Mr Green calls “huge disruption” to village life for eight months.

He said: “There is no plan for any compensation, and God knows what the traffic congestion will be.”

He is also concerned the closure was announced last month without prior notice to the parish council.

Mr Green said: “Their communication with parish councils and Oxfordshire County Council has been awful.”

The county council has yet to comment.

The company has spoken of the difficulties in being precise about such a large and complex project and pledged to improve communications, including through its website.

Network Rail spokesman Sam Kelly said: “Network Rail acknowledges this is a listed bridge.

“We have employed Alan Baxter Associates to consider all practicable options for Steventon High Street Bridge.

“Having established that reconstruction is the only viable option, Alan Baxter Associates is now working with English Heritage to develop the most appropriate design for the reconstruction.

“Listed building consent will be obtained prior to work being carried out.”

The firm has promised to tell communities at least four weeks prior to closing any roads.

 

MODERNISING HINKSEY FOOT BRIDGE

The Oxford Times:

OXFORD City Council has called on The Equality and Human Rights Commission in its battle against Network Rail over a footbridge in South Oxford.

The rail firm was given permission to demolish Hinksey footbridge, above, and replace it with one without ramps by a planning inspector.

Bob Price, the leader of the city council, has said Network Rail should put ramps on the bridge, which currently only has steps, because of equal access legislation.

This will enable cyclists, wheelchair users and mums with push chairs to easily use the bridge. Network Rail was refused planning permission for the new bridge by the city council, but this was overturned by a the independent Planning Inspectorate in April.

Under the Oxford and Rugby Railways Act 1845, Network Rail does not have to seek planning permission to replace the bridge, but merely needs prior approval.

Network Rail says it only has funding for a like-for-like replacement of the bridge.

A similar footbridge in Whitehouse Road was refused permission by the council on the same grounds, and this is set to go to a planning appeal.

Rough ride for NR over traffic routes

Wantage MP Ed Vaizey branded Network Rail “insensitive and incompetent” in April after it announced that it would have to close Fulscot Road, South Moreton bridge for six months longer than planned.

The main road to Didcot from South Moreton, closed in November, will now stay shut until September.

But South Moreton Parish Council has taken issue with Oxfordshire County Council (OCC), over its “dangerous” traffic diversions, sending vehicles down roads villagers use to walk children to school. The county council has yet to comment.

Parish council clerk Roger Templeman, pictured, said: “Why did OCC agree to close the road without having diversion routes for pedestrians considered, and with the roads in too poor a condition to take the increased volume?

The Oxford Times:

“Both OCC and NR have shown incompetence in the handling of the affair, but believe it was within OCC powers to stop it.

“For Network Rail’s part, I do not believe that Fulscot Bridge was a time-critical element in the overall electrification programme and could have been put back one year to allow a proper engineering assessment of the bridge abutments and stability of the approach road embankments. It is frustrating that nobody appears to be able to be brought to account.”

Network Rail spokesman Sam Kelly apologised that the work over-running.

 

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Comments (13)

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6:27pm Wed 4 Jun 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

I haven't seen any of the Hinksey Bridge "Activists" tell the Bicester Bridge "Activist" how lucky she is to have a ramped bridge installed over the railway adjacent to her workplace.

As to the other bridges, if the communities had encouraged growth and new homes in their towns - there would be more bridges and better roads.
I haven't seen any of the Hinksey Bridge "Activists" tell the Bicester Bridge "Activist" how lucky she is to have a ramped bridge installed over the railway adjacent to her workplace. As to the other bridges, if the communities had encouraged growth and new homes in their towns - there would be more bridges and better roads. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: -1

6:29pm Wed 4 Jun 14

Feelingsmatter says...

With all the massive amount of money they're going to spend, why don't they just put up a temporary access road in the field leading from "Little Lane", the bumpy back road, and resurface the existing track? Temporary traffic lights to enable people to get out of the entrance safely and problem solved. Oh, wait, that would be too sensible now, wouldn't it.
With all the massive amount of money they're going to spend, why don't they just put up a temporary access road in the field leading from "Little Lane", the bumpy back road, and resurface the existing track? Temporary traffic lights to enable people to get out of the entrance safely and problem solved. Oh, wait, that would be too sensible now, wouldn't it. Feelingsmatter
  • Score: 9

6:33pm Wed 4 Jun 14

Feelingsmatter says...

Andrew:Oxford wrote:
I haven't seen any of the Hinksey Bridge "Activists" tell the Bicester Bridge "Activist" how lucky she is to have a ramped bridge installed over the railway adjacent to her workplace.

As to the other bridges, if the communities had encouraged growth and new homes in their towns - there would be more bridges and better roads.
Steventon is about to begin a major building project for new homes, the businesses in the village are thriving and the road is busy. It doesn't need more bridges, it just needs one as it's a small village. If Network Rail is unwilling to support the village during work which they consider necessary I can't see how the villagers can do any more.
[quote][p][bold]Andrew:Oxford[/bold] wrote: I haven't seen any of the Hinksey Bridge "Activists" tell the Bicester Bridge "Activist" how lucky she is to have a ramped bridge installed over the railway adjacent to her workplace. As to the other bridges, if the communities had encouraged growth and new homes in their towns - there would be more bridges and better roads.[/p][/quote]Steventon is about to begin a major building project for new homes, the businesses in the village are thriving and the road is busy. It doesn't need more bridges, it just needs one as it's a small village. If Network Rail is unwilling to support the village during work which they consider necessary I can't see how the villagers can do any more. Feelingsmatter
  • Score: 0

8:04pm Wed 4 Jun 14

fishstew says...

of course they could of gone the 3rd rail route then they wouldnt have to modify any of the bridges.
of course they could of gone the 3rd rail route then they wouldnt have to modify any of the bridges. fishstew
  • Score: -5

7:32am Thu 5 Jun 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

fishstew wrote:
of course they could of gone the 3rd rail route then they wouldnt have to modify any of the bridges.
It's no longer considered safe enough for new track outside urban networks.

Rail speed is limited to around 80mph maximum.
Is badly affected during leaf fall - which means more trees cut down to protect track.
Hopeless during snow or flooding
More energy is wasted when delivered at 750V rather than 25,000V
3-4 times more substations are required due to transmission loss.
[quote][p][bold]fishstew[/bold] wrote: of course they could of gone the 3rd rail route then they wouldnt have to modify any of the bridges.[/p][/quote]It's no longer considered safe enough for new track outside urban networks. Rail speed is limited to around 80mph maximum. Is badly affected during leaf fall - which means more trees cut down to protect track. Hopeless during snow or flooding More energy is wasted when delivered at 750V rather than 25,000V 3-4 times more substations are required due to transmission loss. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 7

8:36am Thu 5 Jun 14

paddy173 says...

It might help Steventon if the access road to the A34 was reopened for the duration of the work.
Looking at the eyesores that NR have created elsewhere I think that something needs to be put into place so that NR replace like for like or at least similar rather than the steel and concrete carbuncle at (South Moreton)??
It might help Steventon if the access road to the A34 was reopened for the duration of the work. Looking at the eyesores that NR have created elsewhere I think that something needs to be put into place so that NR replace like for like or at least similar rather than the steel and concrete carbuncle at (South Moreton)?? paddy173
  • Score: 3

11:30am Thu 5 Jun 14

LukeDuke says...

Do the trains need to be in permanent contact with the overhead power lines?
Could the lines not be dropped and buried for passing under bridges (especially for these main arterial routes that will be crippled for months if the bridges need to be replaced)? Or would the trains come to an immediate halt the instant they're without power? Is there no battery to power certain functions just for those brief seconds?
(These are genuine questions - I have not one clue on how these things work!)
Do the trains need to be in permanent contact with the overhead power lines? Could the lines not be dropped and buried for passing under bridges (especially for these main arterial routes that will be crippled for months if the bridges need to be replaced)? Or would the trains come to an immediate halt the instant they're without power? Is there no battery to power certain functions just for those brief seconds? (These are genuine questions - I have not one clue on how these things work!) LukeDuke
  • Score: 3

11:48am Thu 5 Jun 14

Car 67 says...

The unforeseen problem at Fulscot bridge was the road no longer meets the bridge. How is that unforeseen? Just total incompetence.
The unforeseen problem at Fulscot bridge was the road no longer meets the bridge. How is that unforeseen? Just total incompetence. Car 67
  • Score: 2

2:18pm Thu 5 Jun 14

yabbadabbadoo256 says...

LukeDuke wrote:
Do the trains need to be in permanent contact with the overhead power lines?
Could the lines not be dropped and buried for passing under bridges (especially for these main arterial routes that will be crippled for months if the bridges need to be replaced)? Or would the trains come to an immediate halt the instant they're without power? Is there no battery to power certain functions just for those brief seconds?
(These are genuine questions - I have not one clue on how these things work!)
The trains need to be in contact for as much as possible while at speed if they loose and regain contact this can cause damage to the electronics (power surges etc) and the pantograph from the continuous dropping and recatching of the wire.

Most dropping and re contacting the wire happens at slow speed, typically when going over points. It is for this reason that OHL railways try to minimise level crossings as well.
[quote][p][bold]LukeDuke[/bold] wrote: Do the trains need to be in permanent contact with the overhead power lines? Could the lines not be dropped and buried for passing under bridges (especially for these main arterial routes that will be crippled for months if the bridges need to be replaced)? Or would the trains come to an immediate halt the instant they're without power? Is there no battery to power certain functions just for those brief seconds? (These are genuine questions - I have not one clue on how these things work!)[/p][/quote]The trains need to be in contact for as much as possible while at speed if they loose and regain contact this can cause damage to the electronics (power surges etc) and the pantograph from the continuous dropping and recatching of the wire. Most dropping and re contacting the wire happens at slow speed, typically when going over points. It is for this reason that OHL railways try to minimise level crossings as well. yabbadabbadoo256
  • Score: 4

2:31pm Thu 5 Jun 14

LukeDuke says...

yabbadabbadoo256 wrote:
LukeDuke wrote:
Do the trains need to be in permanent contact with the overhead power lines?
Could the lines not be dropped and buried for passing under bridges (especially for these main arterial routes that will be crippled for months if the bridges need to be replaced)? Or would the trains come to an immediate halt the instant they're without power? Is there no battery to power certain functions just for those brief seconds?
(These are genuine questions - I have not one clue on how these things work!)
The trains need to be in contact for as much as possible while at speed if they loose and regain contact this can cause damage to the electronics (power surges etc) and the pantograph from the continuous dropping and recatching of the wire.

Most dropping and re contacting the wire happens at slow speed, typically when going over points. It is for this reason that OHL railways try to minimise level crossings as well.
Ahhhh, that makes sense. Thanks yabbadabbadoo.
[quote][p][bold]yabbadabbadoo256[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]LukeDuke[/bold] wrote: Do the trains need to be in permanent contact with the overhead power lines? Could the lines not be dropped and buried for passing under bridges (especially for these main arterial routes that will be crippled for months if the bridges need to be replaced)? Or would the trains come to an immediate halt the instant they're without power? Is there no battery to power certain functions just for those brief seconds? (These are genuine questions - I have not one clue on how these things work!)[/p][/quote]The trains need to be in contact for as much as possible while at speed if they loose and regain contact this can cause damage to the electronics (power surges etc) and the pantograph from the continuous dropping and recatching of the wire. Most dropping and re contacting the wire happens at slow speed, typically when going over points. It is for this reason that OHL railways try to minimise level crossings as well.[/p][/quote]Ahhhh, that makes sense. Thanks yabbadabbadoo. LukeDuke
  • Score: 2

12:34pm Fri 6 Jun 14

Adrian1 says...

I hope with that sort of disruption the line under the bridge goes to four tracks extended from the four track side such that when the line becomes four tracks along its length the disruption isn't suffered all over again. Or given that unforseen road no longer meeting bridge problems means no such simple basic joined up thinking exists?
I hope with that sort of disruption the line under the bridge goes to four tracks extended from the four track side such that when the line becomes four tracks along its length the disruption isn't suffered all over again. Or given that unforseen road no longer meeting bridge problems means no such simple basic joined up thinking exists? Adrian1
  • Score: 0

11:24pm Fri 6 Jun 14

rabbitrr says...

This is work that should have been done 40 years ago and if it had been done then the railways would now be a lot cleaner, more efficient and cheaper to use. Of course, we had NIMBY's back then as well.

Stop the whining and let them get on with the work which is in the interest of the nation rather than just thinking of yourselves.
This is work that should have been done 40 years ago and if it had been done then the railways would now be a lot cleaner, more efficient and cheaper to use. Of course, we had NIMBY's back then as well. Stop the whining and let them get on with the work which is in the interest of the nation rather than just thinking of yourselves. rabbitrr
  • Score: 2

2:47pm Sun 8 Jun 14

piper2011 says...

The plan was to close the fulscot road bridge for 4 months but this has been extended to a year, so Steventon i would imagine by that reckoning your bridge will 2 years,dont take Network rail at their word
The plan was to close the fulscot road bridge for 4 months but this has been extended to a year, so Steventon i would imagine by that reckoning your bridge will 2 years,dont take Network rail at their word piper2011
  • Score: 0

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