How ‘make do and mend’ could reduce waste once again
"Although Britain has left the EU, I hope that the IMechE will give its support and join in the debate about the proposed Repairability Index that will tell consumers how easy it is to repair domestic products. Billions are wasted every year because items like electric kettles, washing machines and lawn mowers have to be thrown away. Either spare parts are not available or it is impossible to get into the damned things. I have just had that problem with a hot-air blower, where I know that a wire has come adrift.
"Good repairability is vital in household items, where many different materials are used in manufacture, making recycling difficult. Landfill is what awaits. Good repairability, enabling equipment to be broken down into its separate parts, will give us an even better route to a greener economy. What about the IMechE putting together a panel to come up with recommendations that industry, the consumer and the Health and Safety Executive could feel comfortable with?"
Dr Fred Starr, London
Reactors could grow exports
"I would like to compliment Hugh Mattos on his letter as to the benefits of small, modular nuclear reactors over the huge gigawatt reactors currently under consideration.
"Rolls-Royce are ideal for such a project because, not only do they have experience with small reactors, they also have many years’ experience in building modular generator sets using their gas turbines as main drivers.
"I further concur with Hugh that this is an ideal opportunity for generating exports to smaller countries that cannot afford large nuclear plant."
Ivan Taylor, Manchester
We already have the solution
"Following on from the excellent article by David Shirres, it seems strange that the government are “waiting for innovative solutions” as an alternative to railway electrification.
"What “innovative solutions” are they waiting for? Apart from hydrogen and batteries, both covered by Shirres, there is nothing else on the horizon.
"Every other country understands that wide-scale railway electrification is the only alternative to fossil fuels, but not ours it seems.
"I suppose the vast cost overrun on the Great Western main line has coloured their judgement, but now with better cost control and management it is unlikely to be repeated. When will they wake up to this fact?"
Steve Beck, Charing, Kent
Giving a boost to battery trains
"David Shirres is correct to highlight that electrification is the best way to decarbonise the vast majority of the rail network.
"An electrified railway system using trains powered directly ‘off the wire’ or via a conductor rail is the best value for money in terms of whole-life costs.
"But, as Network Rail’s Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy concluded, there will always be a percentage of rail routes where electrification will never be commercially viable. That is where alternative means of self-propulsion come into their own.
"There are only two real contenders at present for zero-emission alternatives to diesel traction: batteries and hydrogen. Shirres states that the range of battery trains is limited to about 100km. But this overlooks the fact that intermediate charging stations can give battery trains an almost unlimited range.
"Vivarail, an innovative British company, has designed, developed and tested a fast-charging system which can automatically recharge a battery train within 5-10 minutes, depending on the operational scenario.
"Battery trains equipped with fast charge offer advantages over their diesel or hydrogen contemporaries in that they don’t need to return to a depot for refuelling.
"Vivarail’s fast-charging technology is here and now. It is soon to be approved for use on Network Rail and a trial is expected to begin in 2021-22. It offers an immediate solution for decarbonisation of railway lines that may never be electrified. It has potential for application in both new fleets and older fleets in helping to achieve a zero-carbon railway. Consider battery trains and fast-charge as electrification by other means."
David Horton, Vivarail
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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.