The unbearable lightness of beam
Network Rail’s multi-billion pound modernisation of the Great Western route includes extension of 25kV ac overhead electrification from Greater London to Newbury, Oxford, and South Wales, using Furrer+Frey‘s new “Series 1” kit.
Series 1 is (supposedly) quicker to install than previous designs, but the programme is running around two years late, and massively over budget. Network Rail is now prioritising completion of a section between Reading and Didcot – encompassing the Goring Gap, and two areas of outstanding natural beauty – for testing Hitachi IEP trains.
But the “huge metal goalposts” intended for installation on multi-track sections have been criticised for their visual impact. Some Goring Gap residents have proposed the use of Mk3-style headspan, instead of the goalposts, but Network Rail have refused to consider the idea.
What isn’t clear, is why Network Rail are using huge castellated and Vierendeel-type beams, instead of less intrusive designs. At present, aesthetics do not seem to figure very highly in the company’s way of thinking.
Even the 1940s / 1950s LNER Woodhead portals – designed for heavier 1500 V dc cabling – seem to have a lower visual impact than those newly-installed in Oxfordshire.