Going Underground

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For many, today represents the first working day of the year and some Londoners among you will have endured the exercise in hate-filled misery that is a peak-time journey to work on London Underground.

Peak-time travel aside, the London Underground network is a fast and convenient mode of transport that celebrates its 150th anniversary this Thursday

Carrying around 1.2 billion passengers a year, London Underground (LU) is now the third longest system of its kind in the world, a far cry from its more humble beginnings in 1863 when the broad-gauge line facilitated a journey between Bishop’s Road, Paddington to Farringdon Street.

This Sunday Transport for London will run a commemorative service retracing the journey, with a 1898-built steam engine (Met Locomotive No. 1), pulling what is described as the oldest surviving Tube carriage – the Metropolitan Railway Jubilee Carriage 353, which was built in 1892 – and a set of four ‘Chesham carriages’ from 1898.

The Engineer produced a history of The Metropolitan Railway in 1895, and it can be found by clicking here.

The entire system, with 270 stations, has since grown to a total network length of 249 miles with 45 per cent of it in tunnels, the longest of which runs for 17.25 miles between East Finchley and Morden on the Bank branch of the Northern Line.

According to Transport for London, there are 426 escalators across LU stations with Waterloo housing 23 and Angel boasting the longest at 60m/197ft.

The Royal Academy of Engineering has been in touch to supply us with a guide to the mathematics of moving four million a day on the network’s escalator system. Click here to learn more.

Manchester is home also to a mass transit system that is still evolving and a lecture being delivered tomorrow will address some of the challenges in expanding the city’s Metrolink.

Organisers of the lecture, which include IET and IMechE, tell us that extensions to the current system will give Greater Manchester the largest UK tram network by 2016.

Proposals for a second Metrolink route across the city centre are also being worked on and David Everson, senior electrical & mechanical engineer, Transport for Greater Manchester, will highlight the challenges that the expansion will present.

Electrified transport of the personal kind is on the agenda this Wednesday when Nissan’s Mike Ellis delivers a lecture on his company’s Leaf EV.

The organisers say the lecture will present a brief overview of current environmental challenges,
covering global warming, CO2 emissions and reduced environmental impacts during vehicle production and use.

Details will then be presented on the engineering challenges associated with producing a fully Electric Vehicle, with explanation of the battery, motor, electronic control systems and the overall vehicle design.

Taking place in Balderstone, Preston the lecture will touch on infrastructure requirements for wide-
scale EV use and provide further details of new technologies developed by Nissan for the Leaf.

EVs will need a reliable power source and RenewableUK believe that 30 per cent of the UK’s electricity will come from renewables by the end of the decade, with wind playing a significant role.

With this in mind, the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) inform us that it has appointed Blade Dynamics to develop and demonstrate the technologies for constructing what are expected to be the world’s longest wind turbine blades.

As part of the £15.5m project, Isle of Wight-based Blade Dynamics will construct blades of between 80m to 100m in length compared to blades now deployed offshore of between 60m to 75m in length.

The project will see prototype carbon fibre blades manufactured and in a position to be put into production by late 2014.

According to ETI, the intended end use for the blade technology is on the next generation of large offshore wind turbines currently under development with a capacity of 8 to10MW.

We finish the first Briefing of 2013 with positive news from EEF and GE, both of whom have conducted surveys that reveal cautious optimism from manufacturers.

EEF tell us, ‘Britain’s manufacturers have positioned themselves to secure growth in the year ahead by competing with new technologies and products and by continuing to focus on higher growth markets.’

The report contains the painfully familiar refrain of SMEs worrying about access to finance and EEF cautions also that the growth forecast for manufacturing has halved to 0.7 per cent from 1.5 per cent.

GE has found that less than one in five of the 405 high tech manufacturers questioned for latest GE High Tech Index said that they felt positive about the current economic situation in the UK.

This figure increases to 44 per cent when considering the conditions for UK high-tech manufacturing businesses and 72 per cent still feel positive about their own businesses’ performance.

The businesses surveyed were also slightly more positive about the UK economy going into 2013: 35 per cent felt the overall economic outlook would get better this year, with two per cent feeling it would get ‘a lot better’ and 33 per cent saying ‘a little better’. 

According to GE, the most common reasons provided for this cautious optimism were exports to non-Eurozone countries, cited by 58 per cent of respondents, followed by the weak pound (46 per cent) and falling inflation (32 per cent).