New Elizabeth Line trains bugged by insect problem in early testing

The wind screen wipers on TfL’s new Class 345 rolling stock to run on the Elizabeth Line encountered some difficulties in early testing from a build-up of insects, RTM can exclusively reveal.

Despite being tested in a state-of-the-art facility in Austria at the start of this year that ensured the trains could withstand extreme weather, back in London, TfL engineers found that the windscreen wipers were not capable of clearing bugs from the windscreen.

Though the problem was spotted and solved in early testing for the trains, it shows that every small detail is vital when it comes to the design of crucial new rolling stock.

Speaking exclusively to RTM, TfL senior project manager for rolling stock David Sherrin explained about the peculiar problem that the Class 345s encountered early on.

“We took a vehicle over to Vienna and tested the windscreen wipers in Arctic conditions, but one of the problems we had with the first trains down in London was with the windscreen wipers,” he said.

“In the summer, you use the windscreen wipers to clean bugs off the windscreen, and we had tested the wipers in wind, snow, rain and ice, but not with bugs, and we found the trains had great difficulty getting the bugs off the screen.”

Sherrin went on to describe how TfL went about adjusting the design to overcome the issue that had cropped up early on.

“We changed the software of how the windscreen wiper works and the amount of force it uses to sweep across,” he continued.

“When you have a dry windscreen, you need a lot of force to push the blade across, whereas when there’s snow, rain and ice on there, it doesn’t need as much force.”

TfL added that windscreen wipers were often a source of unreliability on new units. Some of this was down to the fact that the Class 345 requires a wiper system which is capable of clearing a large swept area over a complex curved windscreen, so the wiper not only needs to be reliable but also needs to be capable of dealing with a variety debris, including snow, bird strikes and insects. 

The company told RTM that manufacturers Bombardier employed an electropneumatic wiper drive on the Class 345, as opposed to an electric motor driven wiper. 

This relatively new system brings together the reliability of a conventional pneumatic wiper drive with the functionality of an electronic control unit, which allows the use of prognostics to monitor the performance of the system. 

The wiper system was also subjected to durability and functional testing to prove its reliability. When the Class 345s were tested in London they were exposed to flies and other summer debris, and several weeks of trial day-time operations between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria allowed the performance of the wash wipe system to be optimised for these conditions.

Sherrin also told RTM that the roll-out of the Class 345s was delayed for a month as TfL wanted to ensure passengers and drivers had total confidence in the new rolling stock.

Look out for the full interview with Sherrin in the August/September edition of RTM, hitting desks on 6 September. To receive your copy, you can subscribe by clicking here.

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Steve   18/08/2017 at 16:39

Software and variable pressure on a windscreen wiper...... where is the common sense and the people in the project who can inject some reality into the spec and design of what should be a £20 motor, an arm and a spring pushing a generic truck or coach blade?

Graham Senior   18/08/2017 at 19:14

I've spotted the problem. From the text: "We took a vehicle over to Vienna and tested the windscreen wipers in Arctic conditions..." Vienna's not in the Arctic, therefore the test wasn't valid. Seemples.

Henry Law   18/08/2017 at 20:42

I don't recall there being any trouble with insects when I first started travelling on the route around 1950. The Great Western 6100 class tank locos ran without such problems. The coaches had more comfortable seats then, which made the longer journey time no hardship.

Martin   18/08/2017 at 21:48

Over complicated as usual simple pneumatic and spring

Andrew Gwilt   19/08/2017 at 15:08

Well at least Bombardier are good at spotting faults and issues to the trains that they have built in resent years. At least they will check for faults and problems as they are to manufacture the new Class 710's for London Overground, Greater Anglia Class 720's and new Aventra EMU trains for First MTR South Western Railway (formerly South West Trains).

John Glover   19/08/2017 at 18:37

Windscreen wipers seem to originate from around 1903, but it does take time to get all the details right.

David Winter   20/08/2017 at 09:17

Well, the wrong type of bugs joins the wrong type of snow (class 317) in the annals of infamy of new train design!!! 😊😊

Gabriel Oaks   21/08/2017 at 07:26

@ New Elizabeth Line trains bugged by insect problem in early testing Just wait until it gets the problem of passengers......... :-)

Ben   22/08/2017 at 12:01

Graham, the second paragraph of the article linked to another article, which described the test facility used to simulate arctic conditions.

Melvyn   25/08/2017 at 18:18

Well this brings a different meaning to " software bugs!" and seems to show these trains are not all " the bees knees" they are zzzaid to bee! The item mentioned using wipers on dry windscreens so I take it these trains are not fitted with water dispensers as found on road vehicles ! Looks like future tests need to include tests in hot desert conditions with a plague of locusts..

JB   05/09/2017 at 11:56

Could the solution be introducing a solvent into the washer fluid which would dissolve the squashed bugs on the windscreen?

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