Britain’s Digital Railways

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How to run more trains on the UK network: Is it possible for trains to go faster?

Dan and Bex from Fun Kids find out!

One way we can get more trains running on the tracks by helping each one to go faster.

As well as running trains closer together, faster speeds can help grow capacity.

Trains have speed limits to keep them safe and they have different speed limits depending upon the type of train they are and where they are.

As Bex has said, trains might have to slow down to go round curves, especially when they are really twisty.

But, if we can travel faster, more journeys can be made and more people can use the railways.

If trains could travel in straight lines all the time and without any dips and bumps, then higher speeds would not be a big issue but Victorian engineers often worked with the landscape when building the railways, following the route of valleys as that was cheaper than digging expensive tunnels and building viaducts…

Engineers today look to straighten parts of the track where they can. This might mean buying some land and demolishing some buildings to create a clear way.

But you can’t straighten track everywhere, especially in hilly parts of the country or in built up areas or indeed underneath the streets of London.

Engineers can also help speed up trains by removing bottlenecks – that might be an area through which lots of trains need to travel in different directions, crossing the path of other trains which means everyone needs to slow down to take their turns through the signals.

By building flyovers, a line can cross above other tracks than across them.

It takes a lot of power to travel at high speeds – that means more fuel is needed.

As electric trains take their power from a rail or overhead line, they don’t need to carry their own fuel. This makes them lighter and able to both accelerate and brake faster than diesel trains.

Electric trains are more cost effective, more environmentally friendly and quieter.

Using modern technology, computers can optimise how trains accelerate and brake. Using train management systems, trains will know how far trains ahead of them are, and apply the brakes more efficiently to maximise its speed.

Now trains are not going to take risks, but using technology, trains know better than a human exactly where and when to brake. And with modern technology, the process of braking can create power that can be used by the trains to move – just like a hybrid car!

Find out more about Britain’s railways!

Bex and Dan from Fun Kids learn all about the future of Britain’s railways, from signals to trains and tracks, in this new podcast series!

Click here to find out more!

MOBILE: Kids Guide to Transport: Rail and Road

Bex and Dan learn all about the future of Britain's roads and railways!

Explore all the free Fun Kids podcasts!

Download a series to listen to on your phone, tablet or in the car!


Britain’s Digital Railways, in association with the Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious scheme

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Britain’s Digital Railways

Find out about Britain's railways - from signals and trains to tracks and safety!

More From Britain’s Digital Railways