Does the UK have the largest third rail network in Europe/world?

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Up_Tilt_390

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This is actually the most simple question I've asked on the forums. But I ask because I look at countries like France and the Netherlands, and every electrified railway they have is the system AC Overhead wires, whether it be 3kV or 25kV wires, and third rail is mostly limited to smaller systems.

For example, even Paris' RER Rapid Transit system is powered by overhead lines, and the only third rail powered system I've seen in France is the Paris Metro. Metro systems seem to be the only time third rail is used in Europe to my knowledge. On the contrary, pretty much all of the electrified railway in the south aside from HS1 is powered by third rail, and Merseyrail of course.

Am I seriously wrong and missing a lot of systems, or does the UK really have the largest third rail network in Europe/world?
 
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HSTEd

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A very large fraction of all the [heavy rail] third rail equipped railways in the world are in Britain, yes.
 

edwin_m

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Third rail is used on most of the Long Island Rail Road (remaining bits still diesel worked) and the section of Metro-North Commuter Railroad through the tunnels into Grand Central Station (rest of the network uses OLE or diesel).
 

broadgage

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It could be argued that the UK third rail system is not only the biggest* in the world, but is also much bigger than is or even was ever sensible.
I do not think that it was ever planned in the accepted sense of the word but that it "just sort of grew" by piecemeal extensions of an intensively used inner suburban system, for which conductor rail was a fairly sensible choice.

I doubt that we will see any more conductor rail electrification, except for very small additions and extensions to existing schemes.

*there is more than one definition of "biggest". Route miles, track miles, train miles run per day, millions of passengers carried per day, area served, and so on. By most of the above definitions, the former southern third rail system if considered as a single system, is the largest third rail system in the world.
There are of course other third rail systems in the UK but these are much smaller and can not logically be considered part of the former Southern system.
 
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zuriblue

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Third rail is used on most of the Long Island Rail Road (remaining bits still diesel worked) and the section of Metro-North Commuter Railroad through the tunnels into Grand Central Station (rest of the network uses OLE or diesel).

Amtrak into Penn Station coming from the Hudson lines (Empire corridor towards Albany) as well (the trains run over Metro North metals)
 

edwin_m

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Amtrak into Penn Station coming from the Hudson lines (Empire corridor towards Albany) as well (the trains run over Metro North metals)

I know they used electro-diesels when they ran into Grand Central - do they still do that into Penn?
 

GRALISTAIR

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On the contrary, pretty much all of the electrified railway in the south aside from HS1 is powered by third rail, and Merseyrail of course.

Am I seriously wrong and missing a lot of systems, or does the UK really have the largest third rail network in Europe/world?

Yes - Merseyrail + South + shear volumes and intensity makes the UK largest. OT but IMHO unless serious renewal is needed, I hope 25 kV AC OHLE is priority for where lines are currently un-electrified and that huge resources are not drained to convert 3rd rail - apart from the spine of course.
 

Western Lord

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This is actually the most simple question I've asked on the forums. But I ask because I look at countries like France and the Netherlands, and every electrified railway they have is the system AC Overhead wires, whether it be 3kV or 25kV wires, and third rail is mostly limited to smaller system.

Just to clarify, not all overhead systems are AC. The 1.5kV and 3kV systems across Europe are DC.
 

Geeves

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In the past you also had the Newcastle area third rail lines and the Bury line but I would say the Southerly expansion of the Southern system and the Merseyrail to Chester and Ellesmere Port from Rock Ferry probably covered those bits.
 

anti-pacer

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In the past you also had the Newcastle area third rail lines and the Bury line but I would say the Southerly expansion of the Southern system and the Merseyrail to Chester and Ellesmere Port from Rock Ferry probably covered those bits.

Was the Metro initially 3rd rail then?
 

HSTEd

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Was the Metro initially 3rd rail then?

There was a whole system of third rail powered railways on Tyneside commonly referred to as the Tyneside electrics.
The system was deelectrified and mostly dismantled in the 60s before rising from the ashes as the current Metro system.
 

anti-pacer

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There was a whole system of third rail powered railways on Tyneside commonly referred to as the Tyneside electrics.
The system was deelectrified and mostly dismantled in the 60s before rising from the ashes as the current Metro system.

Well I never knew that. :shock:
 

HSTEd

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There was third rail all over the place.
Probably came pretty close to adopting it as the national standard really.
 

edwin_m

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Well I never knew that. :shock:

Very similar to the eventual Metro network in fact - round the loop to the coast and to South Shields. But also the Riverside Line (north bank of the Tyne, mostly for shipyard workers at shift change times) and obviously going via Manors into Central station instead of tunnelling under the city. The South Shields route was a bit different from Metro and the main line was electrified from Manors to Benton to allow fast workings to the coast.

Parts of what became the Bank Foot branch were proposed to be included but I don't think they ever got any more than a steam railmotor and empty stock for Gosforth depot. It was also going to go northwards up the coast towards Seaton Sluice (to be renamed Colywell Bay) but WW1 forced that to be abandoned.

The last batch of units were very similar to those supplied to the Southern about 1960 and joined that network after the Tyneside one was de-electrified. Even after the opening of Metro a few sleepers still had the fixings for the "pots" supporting the third rail.
 
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Deepgreen

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There was a whole system of third rail powered railways on Tyneside commonly referred to as the Tyneside electrics.
The system was deelectrified and mostly dismantled in the 60s before rising from the ashes as the current Metro system.

One consequence of the de-electrification was the re-allocation of the 2EPBs that had been used there to the Southern Region. They were unique in their Tyneside days for having a single first class compartment. They also had an extra-large luggage van area (with a small window between the double doors and the passenger section), which made them easy to identify once on the southern. A (poorly-scanned) picture is attached.
 

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furnessvale

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Yes - Merseyrail + South + shear volumes and intensity makes the UK largest. OT but IMHO unless serious renewal is needed, I hope 25 kV AC OHLE is priority for where lines are currently un-electrified and that huge resources are not drained to convert 3rd rail - apart from the spine of course.

I believe the spine is dead in the water.
 

The Ham

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OT but IMHO unless serious renewal is needed, I hope 25 kV AC OHLE is priority for where lines are currently un-electrified and that huge resources are not drained to convert 3rd rail - apart from the spine of course.

Although there was the argument that it is cheaper to run a OHLE system compared to a third rail system and so if the costs to replaces are broadly the same (and for the spine where it has mostly been recently cleared for freight a lot of the upfront costs in bridge clearances will have been done) then it would make sense to replace third rail with OHLE.

Given that Basingstoke to Salisbury will be OHLE as will Salisbury to Southampton (as there is unlikely to be much more third rail built) there is little stopping Basingstoke to Southampton being converted.

Inwards from Woking would likely stay third rail for a very long time but outwards from there could be converted over time as sections become life expired.
 

GRALISTAIR

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I believe the spine is dead in the water.

For the next few years of course. But substantial parts of it will get done. As an example the MML, Reading - Oxford. I am sure this will make the case stronger and thus I believe the spine is not totally dead in the water.
 

341o2

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There was third rail all over the place.
Probably came pretty close to adopting it as the national standard really.

Yes, I tought of Manchester - Bury the Liverpool overhead railway, Southend pier railway all once third rail

Other current lines include Glasgow subway, Volk's railway, Docklands light railway, Hythe pier railway.

I'm sure others can come up with more examples. Third rail is cheaper to install than OLE, but it needs mmore substations and more at risk from disruption due to ice on the rails
 

6Gman

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Yes, I tought of Manchester - Bury the Liverpool overhead railway, Southend pier railway all once third rail

Other current lines include Glasgow subway, Volk's railway, Docklands light railway, Hythe pier railway.

I'm sure others can come up with more examples. Third rail is cheaper to install than OLE, but it needs mmore substations and more at risk from disruption due to ice on the rails

Though third-rail rarely blows away in high winds.

:D
 

30907

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One consequence of the de-electrification was the re-allocation of the 2EPBs that had been used there to the Southern Region. They were unique in their Tyneside days for having a single first class compartment. They also had an extra-large luggage van area (with a small window between the double doors and the passenger section), which made them easy to identify once on the southern. A (poorly-scanned) picture is attached.

I remember them having deeper bench seats and less leg room in the compartments when they arrived on the Southern.
 

furnessvale

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For the next few years of course. But substantial parts of it will get done. As an example the MML, Reading - Oxford. I am sure this will make the case stronger and thus I believe the spine is not totally dead in the water.

Only quoting the Rail Freight Group.
 

AM9

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Though third-rail rarely blows away in high winds.

:D

Nor wll OLE suffer in anything but the most extreme winds once the inferior MKIIIb system installed in the 1980s is replaced. By the time that HS2 phase 1 is complete, MKIII OLE with its cheapest up-front cost will be in a minority compared with systems designed for lowest through-life cost like Series 1&2 and the HS1 & HS2 designs.
 

HSTEd

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Designed for lowest through-life cost but whether that is actually true is another question.

And its all right having the lowest life cycle cost installation but if its so expensive up front that the electrification programme collapses as a result (as it is doing now) then its not really worth anything.
 

Busaholic

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So will Crossrail 2 take over the SW third rail system or introduce overhead?
 

61653 HTAFC

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Just a small correction to the OP, Paris isn't home to the only third rail use in France. The metre-gauge Cerdagne line (better known as Le petit train jaune or The Little Yellow Train, is electrified at 650v DC and runs from Villefranche-en-Conflent to Latour-de-Carol-Envietg on the Spanish border (the only place where standard, Iberian and Metre-gauge routes meet). The line also includes the highest station in France at Bolquère-Eyne. I'd thoroughly recommend a ride if you get the chance.
 

AM9

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Designed for lowest through-life cost but whether that is actually true is another question.

Well that applies to anything that involves a cost benefit decision. The F&F systems are, however derived from designs that have been proven in in Switzerland and elsewhere. What is true is that MKIII designs including headspans have demonstrated that flimsy catenary support has large service and maintenance costs throughout their operational life. Although the cost of having all four tracks of the ECML or southern MML out of use for a single pantograph/contact wire failure is more visible with the delay repay process, failures in the 80's and '90s' usually generated a cost of repair activities, but rarely would the cost of disruption be visible.

And its all right having the lowest life cycle cost installation but if its so expensive up front that the electrification programme collapses as a result (as it is doing now) then its not really worth anything.

The choice of actual OLE system chosen probably has relatively little impact on the overall cost of electrifying a line. Given the drivers in the latest systems' design, i.e., a minimum number of unique parts reducing inventory, delivery times, engineer training, safety provision and comissioning times, the prospect of keeping the OLE installation part of the programme in budget is probably much better than the horrors of men on 25ft ladders manually rigging fixings.
I'm sure that the electrification engineering experts on this forum can give a more detailed response to your assertion that the OLE designs used on current electrification projects are the major reasons for overspends.
 
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