Microwaves to zap away leaves on the track

0
368

    It’s an announcement that every commuter dreads: ‘Your train has been delayed due to leaves on the line.’ But those delays could soon be a thing of the past, with a new invention that zaps the leaves from the line.

    The device is a new type of train wheel that uses microwaves to blast 120-kilowatt rays with the aim of leaving tracks clear.

    How does it work?
    The system has been created by the Imagination Factory, and involves fitting small 30 millimetre cables to the front of train wheels.

    These produce powerful 120-kilowatt rays when the train brakes, which instantly ‘dissipate water from the rail surface’, according to the company.

    The small devices are at least 100 times more powerful than kitchen microwave ovens.

    The small system is at least 100 times more powerful than a kitchen microwave oven, and could be introduced to trains in the UK within two years.

    As autumn is around the corner, train operators, including Southeastern, Northern and TransPennine Express are preparing to impose ‘leaf fall timetables’ which could lead to less frequent trains, and delayed services.
    To combat this issue, the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) are investigating a range of solutions.

    Other ideas include a magnetic braking system, and using dry ice to remove moisture from tracks.

    Neil Webster, innovation programme director at the RSSB, told The Times: ‘We are supporting the industry in the research, development and innovation of various technologies including microwave energy and dry-ice blasting.’
    A mature tree has between 10,000 and 50,000 leaves and each autumn thousands of tonnes of leaves fall onto railway lines across the UK.

    The problem is a global one. According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in the US, high pressure rail washers and scrubbers are used to remove crushed leaf residue from the tracks.

    ‘On-board “sanders” on our diesel trains automatically drop sand on our tracks to help improve traction and reduce wheel slippage when it begins to occur,’ the MTA added.

    Compressed by passing trains, the leaves create a slippery layer on the rails, so train drivers have to brake earlier when approaching stations and signals to avoid overshooting and accelerate more gently to avoid wheel spin.

    Leaf mulch can also insulate trains from the rails with the result that the signalling system, which uses electric currents in the track to locate trains, becomes less accurate.
    To maintain safety, longer gaps must be left between trains, leading to delays.

    In 2015, leaves were blamed for creating more than 5,800 hours of delays in the UK.leaves2

    The Rail Safety and Standards Boards hope that the microwave technology could reduce this problem.

    The system has been created by the Imagination Factory, and involves fitting small 30 millimetre cables to the front of train wheels.

    These produce powerful 120-kilowatt rays when the train brakes, which instantly ‘dissipate water from the rail surface’, according to the company.

    The technology will first be trialled on test tracks in the West Midlands in the next few months, before the Rail Safety and Standards Board decide whether to introduce it nationwide.

    Julian Swan, co-founder of the Imagination Factory, told The Times:

    ‘This is a huge problem for the rail industry. We are very confident that this is a more efficient and clean way of dealing with it.’

    Source: dailymail.co.uk

NO COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY