The splendid brick-arch railway viaduct crossing the River Can in Chelmsford’s Central Park was built around 1840; certainly by 1843 it was carrying trains. It has been repointed in many places, some of the facing bricks have been renewed, and the area is subject to flooding every few years. Nevertheless, a structure built nearly 200 years ago – to carry far fewer and much lighter trains than those using it today – continues to function faultlessly.
If only the same could be said for the modern railway using overhead 25,000 volt overhead lines. Yet again, today, these lines failed, disrupting the travel of tens of thousands of commuters using the line between Norwich and London.
It is easy to carp, but I do wonder whether the design margins on these structures are really adequate given the level of use they get, coupled with the cost of disruption when they fail. Furthermore, railway fares in this country are notoriously some of the highest in Europe. Are we not severely short-changing our hard-pressed commuters by demanding premium ticket prices for a barely adequate service?
One more thought occurs: how can we encourage people to leave their cars at home and use the railways when they are so expensive and the wretched trains keep breaking down?
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs