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Digicam report (8): Electricity
Page first written 17 February 2003
Last updated 8 August 2011

"The Usage of Electricity"

Digital Camera Report from Birmingham No. 8


TV pick-up is a phenomenon seen when an extremely popular TV programme comes to an end and a large number of people start doing something simultaneously. "Something" is, in this case, to make tea, and this tends to result in sharp increase of electricity demand because most people switch on the electric kettle. Compared to Japan, the price of electricity is extremely cheap in UK. The record of TV pick-up is not Eastenders, but the World Cup Football semi-final match between England and Germany in 1990, and the variation in power demand observed when it was broadcast was 2.8 megawatts, twice as much as the rated output of a most up-to-date atomic power plant.

On the contrary, railway electrification is not at all in good progress in UK, where the rate of electrified route length is only 30 per cent -- this compares to 63 per cent in Japan, which is still not high enough. 750V third rail electrification is widely in use in commuter lines in southern London, and some near Liverpool. The rest of the main line railways are to be electrified by 25kV 50Hz, but only East Coast and West Coast lines and their subsidiary lines have been electrified. I believe that the success of HSTs, introduced in 1976, is one of the causes for this. HST, with two Diesel electric "locomotives" on both ends of the train, runs at the maximum speed of 125mph (201km/h), and even now there is (officially) no train doing revenue service over that speed.

Chiltern Railways, the only successful train operating company in the privatised British railways, uses Marylebone station as its London terminus. This company runs trains linking London and Birmingham terminals, namely Snow Hill and Moor Street stations. Marylebone is the only terminus in London which is not electrified; Chiltern runs its fleet of Class 168 "Clubman" trainsets, which is certainly nice and comfortable. However, it is in one way sad to see Diesel trains still on the lead; there seems to be no strong move towards electrification, even if there is sufficient traffic to justify it (e.g. Stourbridge to Birmingham Snow Hill).

The electric kettle and the electric hob
Electric storage heater
  • Electric storage heater
    [Photo 159] Date this photo is taken: 23 July 2002
    (Page published 31 Jan 2003, last updated 12 Feb 2003)

Class 323 electric multiple unit train, running along Worcester and Birmingham Canal
Diesel train running on the electrified section
London Marylebone Station
Clubman Diesel multiple unit of Chiltern Railways
The interior of
  • The interior of "Clubman"
    [Photo 175] Date this photo is taken: 21 September 2001
    (Page published 15 Feb 2003, last updated 17 Feb 2003)

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