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September 11 2017
Many people will remember the storms of 2013-14 which caused so much disruption across the UK, and particularly along railway routes in the South West.
The scenes at Dawlish near Exeter in Devon, where the track runs right alongside the coast, were particularly memorable – the sea wall was partially destroyed, taking weeks to rebuild and temporarily cutting off much of the region from rail travel.
What may not be quite as well known, however, is the damage that adverse weather conditions can also cause to the trains themselves. Although it may not be as visible to passengers, the corrosive effect which heavy rain and salt-laden sea spray can have on vital components such as brake resistors can be every bit as expensive to repair.
Fortunately, engineers at the Japan-based Hitachi Rail company have come up with a solution which should ensure that these problems become a thing of the past when their new Class 802 Intercity Express trains are officially launched on Great Western Railway’s Paddington-Penzance line next year.
The innovation, described in this Telegraph article as a ‘deceptively simple design change’ involves raising the brake resistor platform, which should ensure that any excess water hitting the train runs away from the roof without touching any equipment; currently, the resistors are located in a sunken well which is far too exposed to the elements in a stormy place like the West Country coastline.
Testing of the new trains has been rigorous, with the Telegraph reporting that ‘gallons of salt water’ have been ‘dumped’ on the trains to check their durability at Hitachi’s factory. Live rail tests are now underway, with no problems being reported so far.
As well as being ‘Dawlish-proof’, Hitachi have promised that the new trains will also feature more seats and improved storage, as well as shorter journey times, whilst upgrades to stations including Penzance and Exeter St. Davids are also expected. These developments in particular will doubtless create a range of employment opportunities for those signed up with rail job agencies .
Image Credit: Jeremy Bishop