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Fewer heat-related delays expected on GEML following overhead line upgrade

Overhead lines on the Great Eastern Main Line are in the process of being upgraded in order to make them more resistant to hotter temperatures, allowing speed restrictions in hot weather to be lifted.

The £250m project, part of the Rail Upgrade Plan, began in March 2014. Since then, 87km of new wire has been installed, 21km of which were installed this year between London Liverpool Street and Chelmsford.

The old 1950s overhead lines sagged in hot weather, when temperatures on the railway are 20 degrees hotter than elsewhere, meaning temporary speed restrictions had to be imposed to prevent trains from damaging them and causing delays.

However, the new lines use a system of weights and counterweights to remain taut regardless of temperature, meaning the temporary restriction between Chelmsford and Shenfield has been lifted and more could be lifted in the future.

Richard Schofield, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said: “This is a huge and very important project to provide a better, more reliable railway for passengers on this busy route. Removing the hot weather speed restriction between Chelmsford and Shenfield is a great start and shows the improvements this project will deliver as our Railway Upgrade Plan for passengers in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex continues.”

Jamie Burles, managing director for Abellio Greater Anglia, added that he was very pleased that the project to replace the overhead wires on the Great Eastern Main Line is progressing well.

“The benefits of the new equipment will be improved reliability and overhead lines that don't sag in the heat - thereby avoiding the imposition of speed restrictions on hot days and enabling us to deliver a more punctual train service,” said Burles.

A further 32km of wire will be replaced between London Liverpool Street and Shenfield before the end of the year, and the project is due to be completed in 2019.

Speed restrictions were used to protect track points on First Great Western services in the Thames Valley during last summer’s heat wave.

A recent report from the RSSB said that the rail industry must do more to prepare for the impact of climate change, which will include higher temperatures.

(Image c. Network Rail)

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Noam   14/06/2016 at 10:23

I wonder how long it is until local NIMBYs object to effective OHLE here, like they have done on the GW in Oxfordshire?

Jerry Alderson   14/06/2016 at 17:29

A technical question for Rail TECHNOLOGY Magazine, if I may. You say "temperatures on the railway are 20 degrees hotter than elsewhere". By saying that the rail temperature can be 20 degrees higher than the air temperature (a figure I'm aware of from rail buckling) you direclty imply that the OHLE (presumaby both contact and catenary wires) would also be 20 degrees higher (i.e. suggesting that the sag would be large). I'm no scientist but I would not have expected wires in the air to get as hot (i.e. air temperature plus 20 degrees) as rail on the ground on very hot days. Can you confirm?

Andrew Gwilt   16/06/2016 at 10:28

The Southend Victoria line will also see new overhead wires and overhead equipment, beans and support to be installed and erected between Shenfield and Southend Victoria as the older wires are ageing and there has been problems with the overhead wires and they do sag during summer with warmer temperatures causing the problems to the overhead wires. So yes new overhead wires on the Southend Victoria line is soon going to happen.

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