Timeless Tramways and New Technologies


Posted on 16th April 2019

Since its opening in 1884, the Alford and Sutton tramway was the first of its kind and has paved the way for the dozens of tramways that followed in the years to come.

The once expansive steam and electric network have since reduced to eight cities, which is a stark contrast to the dozens within the UK in the 19th and 20th centuries. The decline in services was largely due to the aftermath of the first and second world wars, which severely limited passenger demand.

Fast forward to the present day, where vintage remnants of a previous time remain on display in museums across the country and our eight networks are running totally on electricity. The networks within London, London Docklands, Tyne & Wear, Sheffield, Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester and Blackpool serve as integral components of their transport infrastructures. These eight systems saw a combined 267.2 million passenger journeys made between 2017 and 2018. With advancements in technologies currently in the pipeline, this figure is only set to rise.

As the iconic method of transportation undergoes upgrades with the acquisition of new technologies, companies within the supply chain must follow suit. Implementing new safety protocols, passenger comfort facilities and electrification need to be supported by key companies within the light rail and tram industries.

Cutting-Edge Technology in a Vintage Industry

With this in mind, it is important that the latest technologies are implemented for total accuracy. To guarantee total accuracy is maintained, using the correct measurement tools is essential. To ensure the measuring tools are outputting the correct measurements, they need to be calibrated each year. CoMech Metrology is a UKAS accredited laboratory capable of calibrating a wealth of measuring instruments including temperature, electrical, mechanical, dimensional and more.

There has been a growing number of trams on the network. However, it has unfortunately increased the number of incident injuries obtained. A notable incident being the Croydon tram derailment, which tragically killed seven passengers and injured 61 more in 2016.

Since this incident, calls for tougher glass have been made, and gaps in safety measures have been bridged. The incident created ripples throughout the industry and only highlights the importance of increased maintenance and safety of our trams.

Changing Technologies, Changing Times

Tram wheels degrade over time, and it can be problematic to keep up with tracking associated data and trends. The MiniProf Lightrail Wheel calculates wear parameters of tram wheels while documenting any trends regarding their wear patterns.

Innovative technology within the Lightrail Wheel such as the magnetic full-contact measuring wheel, optical encoders and Bluetooth connectivity all contribute to the accurate recording of tram wheel profiles with an accuracy better than 9µm. The Lightrail Wheel works by using the 100mm backplate to magnetically attach to the tram’s wheel before using the contact point to take the required measurements.

While technologies and equipment such as the MiniProfs are changing to adapt to the increase in demand, passenger experiences are also changing for the better. Between 2017 and 2018, the passenger satisfaction of light rail and tram journeys increased overall. This only strengthens the natural progression of the industry, while securing its relevance and importance in the country.

New Technologies on Show

On April 30th, prominent names from the light rail and tram industries will come together to discuss their day-to-day operations, procurement, technology and maintenance. CoMech Metrology will be attending the LRT Engineering Excellence Day to demonstrate the MiniProf Lightrail Wheel’s capabilities, alongside our asset management software TrackRecordPro, which manages and tracks assets due for calibration.

Visit CoMech on April 30th in the 1862 Suite between 08:00 and 17:00 at Notts County Football Club.

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  • Calibration
  • Innovation
  • Design
  • Supply Chain
  • Technology