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Cool trains, climate change and Blackberry black-outs

London commuters not tempted to hop onto a “Boris bike” will be pleased to hear that their underground travels may soon become a less sweaty affair.

London Underground has unveiled its first new air-conditioned train, which begins serving the Metropolitan line from today.

There will eventually be 191 air-conditioned trains on the underground system, serving 40 per cent of the network.

London’s other subsurface routes–the Circle, Hammersmith & City and District lines–will be next to roll out cooler trains.

It will likely raise expectations for commuters travelling on some of the city’s more sweltering deep underground lines, but there is no word yet on when air conditioning systems will be deployed for those lines. 

Transport for London say it has cut its carriage cooling money by 25 per cent, from £40m to £30m to address budget cuts. Click here to read an in depth report on how London Underground is spearheading an initiative aimed at cooling the system.

Meanwhile, temperature control on a global scale will be on the minds of those gathered at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which begins talks in Bonn today.

The talks are in preparation for climate change negotiations that will take place in Cancun, Mexico in November and December 2010.

At the same time a newly published report by academic network Climate Strategies warns that current emission pledges are insufficient. The study claims that countries’ pledged emissions targets need to be strengthened to ensure that global emissions will be halved by 2050.

According to the report ‘Analytic support to target based negotiations,’ if greater action is not taken now, future generations will have to make deep emission reductions to maintain the path to limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius. It concludes that countries’ pledged targets under the Copenhagen Accord are insufficient to drive the robust price in the carbon market needed to peak emissions by 2020.

The outcome of this week’s climate talks may be missed by mobile internet users in the oil rich Gulf states of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia where bans on some Blackberry functions have been announced because of security concerns.

While the UAE has announced a block on sending e-mails, browsing the internet and ‘pinging’ instant messages to other Blackberry handsets, Saudi Arabia is focusing its ban on the instant messaging service.

The ban has been set reportedly because of the unique way Blackberry handsets send encrypted data to computer servers outside the two countries.

Blackberry owner Research in Motion traffics handset data via its Canadian headquarters.

It is estimated there are 500,000 Blackberry users in the UAE, and 400,000 in Saudi Arabia.

Readers' comments (13)

  • Why do we need to install "energy guzzling" air conditioning units? Our trains travel at a speed which should be sufficient to provide a cool air transfer into the cabins. The technology exists to harness this free cooling potential and we do not need arctic temperatures to be comfortable in our travel.Why don't we wake up and use what we have without applying energy sapping devices?

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  • The heat problem might be a bit less if TFL did not use hundreds of back-lit LCD advertising screens on its escalators and constantly running advertising projectors on its platforms. But hey, why not put the commuters comfort and the environment in second place to revenue generation - after all public transport has never been a public service has it?
    Also 'Boris bikes' will never become very popular so long as there are constant reports of cyclists being squished by passing lorries and buses. If you want to encourage cycling for health and the environmental benefits then you have to put in place the infrastructure for proper, physically separated, bike lanes. Do this and thousands more commuters would cycle not just the really dedicated cyclists (and image-conscious MPs).

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  • Aircon just moves heat from one place to another. So cool trains but even warmer platforms?

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  • The solution is very simple, improve the ventilation and reduce the temperatures in the tunnels, this improves the cooling situation on all trains. Temperatures underground are hotter and more constant than those variable temperatures on the surface, so much easier to manage and control.

    Such a solution would provide adequate cooled air and airflow for crowded commuter platforms as well as the trains.

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  • The basic laws of physics (which one fictional engineer at least would have us believe "ye canna change") tell us that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change its form. So - what happens to the thermal energy extracted from the trains?

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  • With aircon comes:

    - pulmonary fibrosis
    - arthritis
    - breathing recycled farts

    Hope you'll enjoy it a lot.

    You'd better adapt a bit to a season called summer and ensure also that the train does not stop midway between station, only at a station. It is so simple.

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  • According to the BBC, the ban on Blackberry communications in Saudi and the UAE is because they cannot "monitor" the transmissions because they go via external servers.
    Paranoid big brother watches.

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  • See Proceedings Inst'n of Civil Engineers, current issue, Volume 163, Issue 3, August 2010 - " Squeezing the heat out of London's Tube", Authors: Matthew Botelle; Kevin Payne; Bill Redhead -
    "London Underground is planning to boost passenger capacity by increasing the number and size of its ‘Tube’ trains. However, on deeper parts of the network this will inject yet more heat into an already warm, subterranean environment which, combined with warmer weather, means cooling is now an essential part of upgrading works. This paper describes the challenges and proposed solutions for cooling the Victoria line, including doubling exhaust airflow capacity and innovative groundwater-based cooling systems for major stations."
    Intriguingly, the underground system has over the years warmed the ground for a 30m annulus around the tunnels (Fig 2)..

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  • TfL could consider using ground source heat extraction to remove unwanted heat from the underground system, providing heat (hot water, winter heating, etc) to the offices and other buildings above. This is a reasonbly efficient means of transfering energy, and would cut down on raw energy use elsewhere.

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  • Which genius chose the Underground line with the greatest proportion of surface route to trial this system? Any commuter would tell you that the Central and Northern lines are far more deserving causes.

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  • "Which genius chose the Underground line with the greatest proportion of surface route to trial this system?"
    The same one who realised that aircon in the train will heat up the air outside the train. Therefore this cheap, purely PR driven solution cannot be used in the deeper tunnels.
    An actual solution will require cooling the tunnel ventilation air (CCHP as part of a greater district heating/cooling system?) or storing the rejected heat in the train somehow until it reaches the surface (Phase change materials as thermal storage?)

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  • The underground commuter doesn't help themselves by keeping windows closed to avoid the grime. Moving air has a cooling feel, therefore start by removing the hot air from the train by a simple venturi. No extra energy required! Have they tried an Aerodynamacist, or is that too simple? Before you say it, no, I'm not.

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  • I don't think so

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