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An alternative to HS2


Why HS2 is the wrong technology for our future transport needs.

(i) In the ten years since politicians first became excited by the prospect of HS2, a new option for long distance commuters has emerged; driverless cars.

The car makers predict that driverless cars will be on sale sometime between 2020 and2025. HS2 will not reach the north of England until 2033.

By the time HS2 reaches the north, it will be easier to step into your driverless car and be chauffeured to your final destination, rather than using public transport and busy railway stations. [Your car will drop you off at the door and drive to the car park itself.]

(ii) Trains provide a public space for non-verbal office work, but driverless cars offer a secure environment for private conversations.

(ii) Essentially, HS2 is copying railway technology invented by Japanese engineers half a century ago. It was developed to shift large numbers of commuters between a few big cities.
We suggest that Britain needs a more versatile railway solution that works for the majority of commuters. Ideally, it would improve the commuting experience for people travelling between all 2,552 stations on the UK network.


The unintended consequence of driverless cars:
Why a network upgrade should take priority over building HS2.

You can't work efficiently in an overcrowded train, but you can work very productively in a driverless car stuck in a traffic jam. (The boss won't come knocking on your car door!)
If we don't address the problem of overcrowded trains across the network, desk working commuters will vote with their wheels and turn to driverless cars.
For them, this is just a change in office location. But for all other road travellers, it means an increase in road travel times. For the emergency services, this is a particularly serious threat.


 There are two articles on this page.

The first article explains how we can increase the capacity of the UK railway network by upgrading the existing tracks and employing electromagnetic brakes.

The second article explains how the upgraded rail track can be used as the basis for a revolution in how we propel trains.


First article

Solving the railway capacity problem in five years
building HS2


1  The engineering problem to be solved

Railway train wheels have a poor grip on steel tracks, compared with rubber tyres on roads. This severely reduces the ability of trains to brake rapidly during an emergency.

For example, at 80 miles/hour, the braking distance for an eight carriage passenger train is sixteen times the braking distance for a car travelling along a dry road at the same speed.

In the era of driverless vehicles, the “thinking distance” will effectively be eliminated. This will make the contrast between road and rail breaking distances even greater.


To meet an increased demand on the national railway network, we can either

(a) Stick with our Victorian era friction braking systems and build more tracks to increase capacity. - This is the HS2 approach.


(b) Employ a powerful frictionless braking system that will allow more trains to travel safely along our exiting tracks. This would allow the whole of the UK to benefit from improved rail communications.

The powerful brakes we need are are already up and running in Germany. They are called eddy current brakes.


If you want to skip the technical details, scroll down to

Section Four, A Summary of comparative costs


Eddy current brakes –a short primer

Roller-coasters and German high speed trains have an important feature in common. They both use eddy current brakes to slow them down.

The principle behind eddy current braking is that when a metal object, for example a metal bar moves through a magnetic field, swirling electric currents called eddy currents are generated inside the bar.

There are two consequences that you need to know about:
(i) The eddy currents heat the bar so that it can become very hot,
(ii) The bar experiences a backwards force that tries to slow it down.

The engineering appeal of eddy current brakes is that they convert the kinetic energy of a moving train into heat without the moving parts coming into physical contact. So there is no wearing out of the parts due to friction.

As a bonus, ice and wet leaves on the track do not impair braking.

An eddy current braking system for trains has two essential ingredients: a set of magnets suspended from the train to create the magnetic fields and bars or rails along the track to host the eddy currents.

The German high speed train system uses the track that the trains run on for eddy current braking. Unfortunately, the heat generated during braking causes potential buckling problems. The Germans have got round this by laying new tracks, where the heating is allowed for.

We propose a quicker and cheaper retro-fitting solution to the problem; laying a second set of rails on the existing sleepers, purely for hosting the eddy currents.

As you will discover in the second article, laying the additional rails could be an excellent long term investment for the UK economy because they will become the foundations for a revolutionary new Transport Internet based on Magtrac Technology.



2  How the improved British braking system will work

In addition to existing brake systems, each carriage will be fitted with eddy current brakes that automatically slow the train down if a dead man’s switch is operated. Permanent magnets that drop down into their operating positions during emergency braking can be used. But we will describe an electromagnet option because electromagnets are more powerful and can be used for routine braking as well.

We recommend that the new “braking rails” are made from iron, so that the track is ready for running Magtrac trains at a future date.

Figure 1. For routine braking, the electromagnets can be powered by an onboard generator. But for maximum protection, backup batteries would be provided. Each magnet would be serviced by its own battery.

The total braking contribution made by the eddy current brakes increases with the number of magnets.

Sufficient magnets could be added (for example), so that, with 50% redundancy, the train carrying capacity of the line could be doubled without compromising braking safety.

Anti-fouling measures
(i) The working height of the magnets is fixed relative to the (non-rotating) axle casing rather than the chassis. This decouples the magnets from vertical movements of the chassis.
(ii) The magnets are positioned higher than the running rails and there are no eddy current braking rails in the vicinity of junctions, points or level crossings.
(iii) For the proof of concept (i.e. very basic) model, there is good clearance between the magnets and the iron rails.
(iv) Also for this model, the width of the iron rail can be reduced on bends to allow for lateral movement of the magnets as the wheel flanges butt up against the outer running rail.
(v) The commercial model will include additional anti-fouling measures that also minimise the air gap between the iron rails and the magnet pole faces. The commercial model remain secret for intellectual property protection reasons.

Keeping the rails clean
scavenging electromagnets and brushes ahead of the brakes would keep the iron rails clear.


3  Delivery time
Eddy current braking is a well developed technology, so R&D time will be minimal.

Time will be required to lay the iron rails and build new rolling stock fitted with eddy current brakes.
The first improved capacity lines could be ready within five years.

  • Eddy current braking systems will provide a boost for the UK economy a decade earlier than HS2.

  • They will be greener and be more politically acceptable than HS2.

4   Summary of comparative costs

The costs of HS2 and an eddy current braking upgrade compared


HS2 needs

Eddy current braking upgrade needs

New rolling stock. New rolling stock.
But this could be introduced in stages, in response to increasing passenger numbers. Initially, only the engine units would need to be fitted with eddy current brakes.
Completely new tracks. Additional rails on existing tracks.
20 - 30 years wait for a seven English city roll out. 10 – 15 years wait for a UK national roll out.
Confidence in making transport network predictions
30 - 50 years
into the future.
 Confidence in making transport network predictions
10 - 30 years
into the future.
Acceptance of imported high speed train technology that is unlikely to lead to export opportunities. Enthusiasm for new variations on eddy current braking that could  lead to massive  British engineering export opportunities.
Acceptance of a bland vision that road and rail transport are forever different. Acceptance of a bold vision that road and rail transport can be integrated to create a world leading Transport Internet.
Acceptance that HS2  cannot reduce travel times on commuter routes involving multiple station stops. Recognising that improved braking can reduce travel times on commuter routes involving multiple station stops.
Redesigned road networks around stations to prevent traffic jams at busy commuting times.  



No comparable needs

Acceptance of the KPMG report "warts and all", relating to economic loss for some UK towns and cities.
Acceptance  of a net long term balance of trade deficit to China, if the Chinese invest in HS2.
There is no such thing as a free Chinese meal.
Compulsory purchase of green land for industrial use.
Funding for new embankments and cuttings.
Funding for new viaducts and tunnels.
Compensation for evicted home owners.
Compensation for evicted businesses and the destruction of Camden market.
Relocation of wildlife sanctuaries.
Destruction of ancient woodlands.
Acceptance of damage to The Chilterns and other rural tourism attractions.
Payment of lawyers for fighting most of the above.
Chance taking MPs who recognise that voting for HS2 will gain them some votes, but probably lose them more. Cautious MPs who demand an independent engineering investigation into the improved braking option before voting on HS2.


Q. Is it possible to draw off the electric currents generated during normal train braking?

A. Yes, brushes could be used to complete an electrical circuit between batteries on the moving train and the iron rails. In essence the system would become a linear version of a Faraday Disk. To improve efficiency, the electromagnets would be placed in linear arrays. (Several weaker magnets would replace each powerful magnet.)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homopolar_generator
To minimise wear, the contact points on the rails could be graphite coated and the brushes  swung into their operating positions when the braking electromagnets are activated. The system would default to eddy current braking if the contacts failed.

This current capturing feature is a green energy bonus, but is not required for braking.


Additional braking safety measures
Driverless cars are currently  being developed to reduce human error in driving and "smart" CCTV has been used to monitor traffic flows for many years. These technologies are likely to be adapted by all railways in the next few years. In fact their reliability will be higher than for road traffic because with a few exceptions such as level crossings and scheduled maintenance, all objects and movements on the line will be treated as potential threats demanding defensive braking.


Three environmental disasters posed by HS2

(i) HS2 will act as a migration valve, sucking people into the south.

Commuting from the North where house prices are relatively low to the capital where salaries are high makes financial sense.
But turning down a London pay rate job in order to commute from expensive accommodation in the capital to an equivalent lower paid job in the north would be slightly bonkers.

As northerners tire of their daily journey, feel the pain of the HS2 train fares and build up friendships in the south they will be motivated to move there. This will increase pressures on the green belt making the Chilterns and other desirable areas of the south into commuter suburbs for London. This in turn will lead to calls for new motorways and roads in the south.

Illustrative example: The NHS pays an Inner London supplement of 20%.
So an NHS worker using HS2 to commute into Inner London to a new job will effectively gain a pay increase of 20%, while one commuting out of London to a new job will suffer a pay drop of 20%. Over time, the HS2 migration valve will build up population pressure in the capital. This means that the Inner London supplement is more likely to increase than decrease, attracting yet more commuters into the capital.

Figure 2. People will be prepared to pay high HS2 rail fares to travel south to better paid jobs, but few will want to pay high fares to travel north to lower paid jobs.

Skilled labour will flow in into the capital, increasing its prosperity, but the north will be drained of wealth creating talent.

Instead of HS2 we need better rail connections within the north so that its becomes a mega-city to rival London.



(ii) Higher speeds cause a massive jump in carbon footprints

Technology fact: Fuel consumed doing work against air resistance increases with the speed of the train raised to the power of three.

This means that increasing average top speeds from 125 miler per hour to 225 miles per hour increases the carbon footprint per passenger for a similar sized train by a factor of 5.8. [ 5.8 = (225/125)3 ]

The difference in carbon footprints is even greater if we compare HS2 with a 70 mph commuter train.
Here the carbon footprint increases by a factor of 33.2. [ 33.2 = (225/70)3 ]



Figure 3. The amount of fuel that needs to be consumed to overcome air resistance increases rapidly as train speed increases.

Engineering cannot overcome this problem, except by using an exotic and expensive hyperloop system.


(ii) Eddy current braking removes more car pollution

Increasing the United Kingdom railway capacity by reducing the braking distance for trains on all routes will take far more drivers off the roads than a single new route that connects a few English cities.


Which option would Isambard Kingdom Brunel and our Victorian forefathers have chosen?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The improved braking system described in the first article is intended to double the capacity of the whole of the UK rail network within 10 years.

The Magtrac upgrade described in the second article is primarily intended to reduce travel times and improve all weather reliability on inter-city routes.

They both employ an identical second set of soft iron railway lines, allowing the Magtrac upgrade to be made whenever passenger numbers justify the investment.

Where do we start?

Bill Courtney is a Manchester man who supports the idea of a northern powerhouse. He suggests that we learn our new track laying skills on a relatively quiet northern line, for example the one between Chester and Manchester.
[The journey from Chester to Manchester includes 15 station stops. So, if improved brakes cut 30 seconds off the average traveling time between each station, the full length journey time would be reduced by 7.5 minutes. In general, commuters would see their travel times reduced, without the trains having to travel any faster.

We could then give a rocket boost to the north by upgrading the trans-Pennine route from Liverpool to Hull in two phases.

The worlds first passenger train powered by "Rocket" started in Liverpool and ended in Manchester. It would give a great lift to British engineering if we Brits launched a new Rocket 2 railway age.


Lets go for it!


Second article

Building on the investment made in installing the iron rails

(i) Magtrac

If the electromagnets used for eddy current braking are replaced with a more advanced design of electromagnet, a whole new railway traction and braking system becomes possible. We refer to this as Magtrac.

Magtrac offers the following advanced features:

  • Braking of a similar standard to eddy current braking, but with the energy extracted during braking being recaptured as electricity, instead of being lost as heat.

  • A powerful contactless traction system that works efficiently, even when there is ice or wet leaves on the line.

  • An ability to climb steeper inclines than conventional trains.

(ii) A Transport Internet

The improved network capacity offered by eddy current braking and Magtrac systems will open up new possibilities for moving battery powered cars piggyback on trains.  This will make battery powered motoring affordable to more drivers because electric vehicles will be able to travel long distances, without the expense and weight of massive onboard batteries.



In Part One of this article we will explain how Magtrac technology works.
We will also argue that the huge investment required for HS2 to deliver benefits to a few English cities would be far better spent creating a Magtrac system serving the whole nation.

In Part Two we explain how Britain could lead the world in creating a Transport Internet.

In the Appendix we reveal how a radically new design of power generator could be used to produce liquid hydrogen fuel for Magtrac trains. A government agency, Innovate UK has awarded us £200,000 to build a prototype generator according to this design.


Part One - Magtrac


Interested in the business argument for Magtrac?

If you want to skip the technical details, please scroll down to
Section 9 titled

The Business Argument: Magtrac vs. HS2



A brief history of electromagnetic railway systems

Maglev trains are hover trains. They were invented in Britain in the 1960’s by Professor Eric Laithwaite and are now running in China.
They offer several advantages: Wear on the track is minimal and acceleration, braking and fuel economy all improve,
these benefits are outweighed by the high track building costs.


Figure 4. Maglev is an engineering marvel, but very expensive to build.


Magtrac is simpler and cheaper than Maglev.

Our breakthrough:
We reduce costs by mounting the electromagnets on the trains instead of the tracks.

The electromagnets are suspended under the train and interact with soft iron rails mounted on the existing railway track sleepers. 
("Soft" is used in the electrical engineering sense, meaning the rails are easy to magnetise and demagnetise.)

The braking and acceleration benefits of Maglev are maintained, but Magtrc’s levitation effect is not sufficient to support the weight of the train.

Figure 5, Magtrac.

Q. Why are iron rails required instead of steel?
A. Iron rails are better at amplifying the strength of the electromagnets but they rapidly lose their magnetism when the train passes. This eliminates the problem of steel cans and other ferromagnetic junk sticking to the rails.


1          HOW IT WORKS
            We will build the Magtrac principle up in stages

1.1 The key concept
First we consider what happens when an electric current is passed through two solenoids resting on a soft iron bar.
[A solenoid is a cylindrical coil of wire that acts as a magnet when an electric current passes through it. The magnetic effect is weak if the interior of the solenoid is filled with air, but strong if the air is replaced by iron.]

The solenoids become electromagnets and either mutually attract or repel, depending on their polarities.

Figure 6. In addition to attraction or repulsion between the two solenoids, each solenoid experiences a repulsive force between itself and the enclosed soft iron bar. This provides a small levitation effect.

The law of conservation of energy has to be respected so we do not get "free" energy out of either of these arrangements. For example in Fig. 6 (a), after the solenoids have moved together, work has to be done against the magnetic attraction, to restore the magnets to their original positions.
We can't cheat nature by switching the magnets off and then moving them apart because when we switch the magnets back on again work has to be done against the back EMFs as the magnetic fields are rebuilt.


1.2 A load carrying platform

Plan view:

Figure 7. To move a lightweight platform along a short length of track, the soft iron bar needs to be bent into a U shape.

1.3 A practical traction unit

For the platform to move along a track of indefinite length:

(i) A long chain of U shaped iron bars is required.
(ii) “Half solenoids” that can “jump” from one iron bar to the next are used.

Figure 8. The platform and supporting half solenoids can move along an indefinite length of track

Figure 9. This is a “half solenoid”, with all of the windings connected in parallel. When an electric current flows through the windings, a magnetic field similar to a full solenoid is produced. But its asymmetry results in a net upward force when it rests on a soft iron bar.

Figure 10. An alternative, series winding. The neutralising effect of the upper half solenoid is minimal, because of its greater distance from the soft iron rail.

Figure 11. Further details of the electromagnetic coupling.
The upthrust is a useful bonus but it cannot be relied upon to support the weight of the train because it varies with the current passing through the half solenoids.
The upthrust on the train produces an equal and opposite down thrust on the iron rails. This improves the friction grip between the rails and underlying sleepers.

We will refer to the activated half solenoids as runners and the lengths of soft iron tracks as stators.

It is not necessary for the runners to be in close contact with the stators and large clearances between them are possible to avoid fouling by small items of debris. (Large clearance gaps require large diameter half solenoids. So the total length of conducting wires generating the magnetic flux increases, compensating for the larger air gap.)

Large clearances will allow wipers to be added, to periodically clean the under surfaces of the runners.

The conducting wires can be made from superconducting material and the half solenoids immersed in very cold chambers protected by Dewar insulation.


Skilled engineers will recognise that some technical details relating to back EMFs, current changes and the fate of kinetic energy lost during emergency Magtrac braking have been omitted. Nor has the configuration for regenerative Magtrac braking been revealed.
This secrecy is for intellectual property protection reasons.


1.4    Explanation: Why the size of the air gap, ice and leaves on the rails do not affect performance

Figure 12.
Icing of the iron rails will be a rare event because Magtrac has a built in de-icing mechanism.
When an iron rail goes through a magnetisation-demagnetisation cycle, a small amount of heat is generated. (Hysteresis loss.) This will help to melt any ice or snow in winter.

The only downside of a large air gap is that the half solenoids are slightly bulkier, heavier and more expensive to build.


Q. How effective will Magtrac braking be?

A. Braking and traction increase with the total number of turns in all of the half solenoids, the currents passing through the wires and the cross section area of the iron rails. In principle, Magtrac braking could be as efficient as the braking on a Formula One racing car. In reality, a far more modest braking system should meet commercial, safety and customer needs.

Drop down eddy current braking using permanent magnets and activated by a dead man's switch will also be installed as as a fail-safe backup.

2          Reducing stray magnetic fields

Stray magnetic fields can attract ferromagnetic debris such as nuts, bolts and nails. A number of steps can be taken to design this problem out of the system.
2.1      Superconducting shields
For superconducting systems the runners are lodged in cold chambers. Magnetic flux cannot penetrate a sheet of superconducting material, so by lining the out facing walls of the cold chambers with superconducting material, magnetic flux shields can be created.

Figure 13. Superconducting shielding.

To prevent the outer faces of the Dewar flasks icing up in winter they can be fitted with heating elements to keep their temperature just above 0oC.


2.2      Bury the poles of the soft iron magnets

Figure 14. A vertical cross section at track level.

Additional measures to prevent damage by small items of debris include mounting miniature "cattle fenders" and scavenging electromagnets ahead of each item of rolling stock.


3          Keeping the runners and flux shields cold

Runners and flux shields can be chilled using liquefied gases or dedicated refrigerators. A combined system may be best.
New designs of cryocoolers (low temperature refrigerators) created for use with rolling stock are published on our superconductors and cryocoolers web page.


4          Powering Magtrac trains

Don't get can carried away with the idea of a free ride. If the electromagnets are superconducting there are no heat losses but energy still has to be expended driving the electric currents against the back EMFs produced as the train moves.

Electrification using overhead power cables is one option. But upgrading existing diesel lines is very expensive because bridges and tunnels have to be modified to allow extra height for the electricity cables.

Magtrac can eliminate this cost by using onboard liquid hydrogen as the fuel, with the fuel being used twice. First in liquid form, as a superconducting cable coolant; then as a fuel to generate electricity.

To burn the hydrogen fuel efficiently onboard, fuel cells, four stroke engines or Latent Power Turbines can be used.

Hydrogen fuel safety
The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell SUV runs on liquid hydrogen. It has successfully completed legislative crash tests. https://www.hyundaiusa.com/tucsonfuelcell/


5          The copper alternative to superconducting windings

The argument in favour of superconducting windings is that they eliminate electrical resistance (Joule) heating losses. Copper is not a superconductor at liquid hydrogen temperatures but its resistivity is les than 5% of its value at UK average weather temperatures. If copper is used for the windings there will still be some Joule heating losses at low temperatures but the thermal energy can be used for warming the hydrogen prior to its use as a fuel.
Copper is easy to handle when manufacturing the half solenoids and has the safety bonus that it can still be used for effective braking, even if the hydrogen cooling system fails.


6   "Belt and braces" braking systems

6.1 Friction brakes would still be used as a backup and to prevent stationary trains rolling down hills.

6.2 Each carriage could have wheel axles coupled to motor/generators, to provide part of the regenerative braking during normal journeys. This energy could be stored in lithium batteries.

6.3 Each carriage would also be fitted with its own Magtrac electromagnets. In the event of the principle Magtrac power supply failing, power from the batteries would be used as a backup.

6.4 Remote braking On the approaches to potential accident spots such as railway crossings, active Magtrac rails can be installed. These would include externally powered solenoids that converted attraction into repulsion. This would allow remote braking by an external operator or an intelligent CCTV system.

Figure 15. Active Magtrac rails include current carrying solenoids that can be switched on remotely. These instantly convert traction power into braking power.

Braking solenoid off: Axle casing mounted N attracts second 1/2solenoid axle casing mounted S. Traction power is generated.
Braking solenoid on: Axle casing mounted N repelled by Magtrac rail mounted N. Braking power is generated.

If the track based system detects that the trains half solenoid currents have been changed to initiate braking, the track solenoid current can be switched off.

The UK mainline Health and Safety report for 2012 records four pedestrian and five car deaths on level crossings.

Protection for maintenance staff Portable half solenoid versions of the the remote braking system could be installed on lengths of track where maintainable work is being carried out while the track is still in use.


There would be no Magtrac iron rail in close proximity to points. If necessary, axle coupled motors would be used to shift stationary trains away from these sections.


7   Noise reduction bonus
The elimination of friction as the primary source of braking, combined with the reduced wheel on track loading, thanks to the Magtrac up-thrust, will significantly reduce train noise.
Magtrac and eddy current braking both eliminate the squealing of friction brakes and the vibrations caused by uneven wear on the steel tyres resulting from friction braking.


8 Dissipation of kinetic energy during braking
Under normal braking conditions, the kinetic energy lost as the train slows down would be used to generate electricity and then stored in batteries, super-capacitors or flywheels. During emergency braking, the electricity could be used to boil water, which would then be vented off as steam.


The Business Argument: Magtrac vs. HS2

9.1 Time saving for commuters
Magtrac will only shave a couple of minutes off journeys between two successive stations. But for commuter journeys involving several intermediate stations, the time savings will be significant.
does not offer any comparable benefit for commuter travellers.


9.2 Outline timetable for decision makers

A two stage plan:

(i) The Magtrac rails can be used for eddy current braking, as described in the first article. If we act promptly, better brakes could improve network capacity and deliver real improvements for rail travellers in five years.

(ii) The suggested timetable below relates to the more advanced full Magtrac system.

 A full Magtrac system

Within six months
An industrial research lab completes the basic proof of concept experiments as illustrated in Figure 6 above. The experiments are repeated using half solenoids.

Eighteen months
A copper wire based Magtrac locomotive unit is running on a short length of narrow gauge rail.
Preliminary estimates relating to the design and costs of the iron rails are made.

Three years
A hydrogen cooled and fuelled system is operating and the locomotive unit is running for long periods on a closed loop of narrow gauge track.
Iron rail laying and other costs are firmed up.

Eight years
A demonstration full scale Magtrac public service is in operation.
Perhaps Manchester to Liverpool....?

Twelve years
London to Birmingham line upgraded.

Fifteen years
Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds lines upgraded. Followed shortly afterwards by upgrades to extensions to Glasgow and Edinburgh.

All major UK and Northern Ireland rail routes upgraded to increase their passenger carrying capacity. The Republic of Ireland adopts Magtrac, building stronger trade relations across Ireland.

This timetable is flexible
The rail routes that are currently experiencing the greatest capacity problems can be upgraded first.

"According to Network Rail figures produced two years ago long distance trains coming into Euston are only 60% full during the morning peak. This contrasts with Paddington, where trains are 99% full and Waterloo, where the figure is 91%." (Daily Telegraph 10 September 2013.)


9.3 More people and businesses will benefit

Figure 16. At its best, HS2 will bring prosperity to a few English cities by 2032.
                But, the nation as a whole will be paying taxes to fund this.


Figure 17. Magtrac is a far cheaper alternative per mile that will help to stimulate the whole UK economy.

9.4 The manufacturing & export bonus
HS2 is an engineering dead end because we will be copying high speed systems developed abroad. In contrast, Britain will be the world leader in developing Magtrac. This will generate massive engineering export opportunities for the UK.


Attracting young people into engineering

The Japanese bullet train was running two generations ago, so HS2 is "ancient" engineering in the eyes of youth. In contrast, Magtrac is new and British.

The development of Magtrac falls into a series of short visually interesting steps. The R&D project could have its own website with videos of test runs being posted on U-Tube. Young British engineers [hopefully having a representative gender and ethnic mix] would be used as the media face for the project.

An engineering science teacher should form part of the team. They would pose engineering problems and suggest student projects linked to the Magtrac development. Links to relevant project equipment suppliers would be provided.




Second article, PART TWO

A transport internet for the 2030's

Motorists will not be cajoled into giving up their cars in order to save the planet. Battery powered vehicles may be part of the solution, but battery capacity limits the distances that can be covered on a single charge. Hopefully, the range problem will be solved within a decade. If not, a Transport Internet could be the answer.

In a Transport Internet system, trains would be used for moving vehicles over long distances, with vehicle power being used for short journeys.

A three stage development plan

STAGE ONE Existing Magtrac and eddy current braking improved railway routes that are running under capacity could be used for carrying vehicles.
The whole of the network is likely to have spare capacity at night.)
To speed up loading and unloading vehicles “Intelligent” front wheel trolleys would manoeuvre vehicles on and off the trains.
Second generation electric vehicles would have built-in automatic manoeuvring systems, to eliminate the need for trolleys.

 This will only be required if there is a significant increase in people and goods movement
An additional capacity line would be built between two major cities about 100 miles (160 km) apart, e.g., in the United Kingdom; between Birmingham and Manchester.
Magtrac trains will be able to climb far steeper gradients than existing trains, allowing the
new train line to be routed over existing motorways, climbing higher to clear bridges and other civil engineering features that straddle our motorways.
[For a solution to the high wind problems on exposed platforms, have a look at how we suggest they can be solved for a Hyperloop system.]

STAGE THREE If the overhead demonstration line takes sufficient road traffic off the motorway, lanes could be removed from  existing motorways and converted to Magtrac. The new rail routes would be used by freight and foot passenger trains, further reducing the pressure on motorways.


If required, Stages Two and Three could add 2,000 miles of extra track to the UK rail network without building on large tracts of extra land.


Benefits of a Transport Internet

(i) Motorists would be freed up during the train journey to do remote office work, relax or entertain the kids. Meanwhile, car batteries would be recharged to increase road travel range.

(ii) A trainload of say 30 vehicles would offer less air resistance and consume far less fuel than the 30 vehicles travelling at the same speed individually.

(iii) The existing internet has brought down the cost of telecommunications by using routing software to make the best use of international communications networks

The same thinking can be applied to transport systems.

The following example suggests how a battery powered car could use the Transport Internet to travel from Crieff in Scotland to Swansea in Wales

Figure 18. A motorist using the Transport Internet to travel from say Crieff in Scotland to Swansea in Wales might have the choice of two embarkation stations, Perth or Dunblane and several routes through England. The routing software would suggest fastest and lowest cost options. The computer analysis would be utilitarian; offering the fastest/cheapest services to the greatest number of travellers.

Freight Containers would make transitions between trains on battery powered wheeled pallets.
The bulk of domestic and European freight could be shipped overnight via the Transport Internet. Drivers would only be required for short distances along roads at the beginning and ends of journeys.
Freight trains could be fitted with more powerful half solenoids, allowing them to have similar acceleration and braking performance to passenger trains.
The tyres and suspension units on the pallets would help to reduce ground vibrations when passing through populated areas. Our basic SALi suspension unit that is currently being investigated by a PhD student at Cardiff University would be ideal for this purpose.

Reduced freight costs will bring down the retail cost of food and consumer goods.



Refrigerators and Isambard Kingdom Brunel - The  inspiration behind Magtrac

In the early nineteen nineties there was a need for new refrigeration pump designs that were ozone layer friendly and could be used for cooling the recently discovered “high temperature” superconductors.

In 1993 and 1995 Bill Courtney filed patent applications describing displacement pumps incorporating solenoids moving over soft iron runners. (GB 2273133  and GB2306580). These were intended to form the basis of a new class of Stirling cryocoolers.

Transferring the technology
Bill has been intrigued by Isambard Kingdom Brunel's atmospheric railway since childhood.

So he tried to figure out a way of using his new pumps as the basis for a modern atmospheric railway. Then, while drawing up his 1995 pump patent, the penny dropped: It was possible to eliminate the air leakage problems, by using the pump motor to drive the train directly, instead of pumping air. With Magtrac, the iron rails replace Brunel's pneumatic pipe.

Figure 8 above is based on his patented pump designs.

Appendix 1 below provides evidence of the 195 origin of the Magtrac concept.

British innovation inertia

The solenoid and iron runner designs were exhibited at four invention fairs in the nineteen nineties. In those years engineering was seen as an outdated wealth generator and there was no commercial interest.

During his years as a research fellow at Manchester University, working on his transport inventions, Bill asked for support from fellow engineers in bidding for funds to develop his pump, refrigerator and Magtrac designs. But they were reluctant to step outside their comfort zones by exploring radically new engineering ideas. There was also some resentment that a mere "Mr" Courtney was offering more engineering solutions than University  "Doctor's" of Engineering. Later, he became alienated from his colleagues because he refused to keep quiet when he discovered research fraud. By 2003, all hope of developing his inventions at Manchester University had been crushed by mischief and academic jealousy.

The negative spinoff from the Manchester research shenanegons

By 2016 a completely new form of green transport system could have been linking the whole of the UK to similar systems in Europe.

Instead, we are squabbling about HS2, a fifty year old high speed train technology developed in Japan.


Are the disagreements over HS2 a political "cockup"?

 We should be wary of blaming the politicians; they have to trust the scientists and engineers

In Bill's experience successive UK governments  have been bolder and sometimes more ethical than his academic partners.

Examples of bad academics foiling good political intentions.

(i) Manchester University and road transport.

Government agencies awarded Bill and his Manchester University partner a total of £300,000 to develop his road transport related inventions. CrashSALi and PedSALi. . But petty academic jealousy resulted in the funding being wasted.

(ii) Manchester University and green energy.

In the wake of Bill's refusal to collude in hiding fraud, he wad branded as a "trouble-maker" and  Manchester University turned down his power generator collaboration proposal.


(iii) Lancaster University and green energy.

Lancaster University received £80,000 to test Bill's radical power generator concepts. But the PhD qualified Lancaster  research assistant was uncommitted and eight months into a twelve month contract had to be replaced by an undergraduate student. (Allthough paid for eight months work by the University, she was seven months behind schedule.) 

The tax payer funded a years worth of post doctorate research but only received the equivalent of two weeks undergraduate work.

Some good news

(i) Based on the small amount of excellent work done by the Lancaster undergraduate, we have obtained funding to work with a private industrial research company C-Tech Innovation Ltd. Their work for us is highly professional and deserves a closer look from politicians wishing to invest in British innovative talent.

(ii) Bill is deeply concerned that a failure to tackle poor academic behaviour could undermine the promise of a Northern Powerhouse and UK economic revival in general. Based on his experiences, he offers a number of proposals for reviving British research integrity on this linked page.

(iii) On this likned page we make a funding proposal to encourage academics to move away from their narrow fields of specialisation.(Section 2: Agile academic fellowships.)






A1-  Supporting evidence for the 1995 origin of Magtrac

A full copy of Courtney's 1995 patent, "Improved dual chamber displacement pumps" can be found at


The driving mechanism for this pump is based on the same principles as Magtrac. Here are two images from the patent document:



What follows is all highly speculative stuff, but it highlights some of the ways in which Britain could regain its position as a world leader in engineering.


A2 - Low cost production of hydrogen fuel

Hydrogen can be manufactured by using electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. We envisage Latent Power Turbines being used to generate the required electricity. These turbines have the capacity to extract heat from mild atmospheric air at 10oC or warmer and convert it into electricity. No toxic chemicals or high gas pressures are involved.
We provide a detailed description of LP Turbines on our LP Turbine theory page.

Here is a sketch of the demonstration LP Turbine that we planning to build at Capenhurst during the coming months. The diagram explains how heat is extracted from the atmosphere and converted into electricity.

Figure 19. This is a sketch of the demonstration Latent Power Turbine that we will build during the next few months.
air will travel through the turbine blades at three times the speed that it passes through the fan. As a result, the turbine will generate more electricity than is required to operate the fan. The law of conservation of energy tells us that the air has to cool, to offset the electricity generated.

The Innovate UK has invested £200,000 British taxpayer funding to help build the prototype LP Turbine.

Here is a photograph of our current test rig:


A3 -  Low cost  liquefaction of hydrogen fuel

The boiling point of hydrogen at atmospheric pressure is -252.9 °C  . Using current refrigeration techniques, cooling hydrogen to this temperature requires a significant input of electricity. However, by using LP Turbines for the liquefaction process, the heat extracted during cooling can be converted into electricity, to generate additional hydrogen.

Our power generating liquefaction process is explained in Section 5 on the LP Turbine theory page. You will need to read down as far as 5.4 before a reference to hydrogen liquefaction is made.


A4 - Reducing the cost of iron rail manufacturing

Converting iron ore into commercial grade iron or steel is a very energy intensive process. Most of this energy ends up as low grade heat that is dumped into the environment.

Latent Power Turbines can be used to cut iron making costs by capturing this thermal energy and converting it into electricity. Our process is inspired by pioneering work done by British researchers in the nineteen eighties1.

Hopefully, this time round, British inventiveness will not be wasted.

 Please contact us for details of the new process.

1Pickering et al, New process for dry granulation and heat recovery from molten blast furnace slag, Ironmaking and Steelmaking 1985; 12;14-21. Compendex.


A5 -  Hovercraft/airfoil tilting for high speed bends

5.1 Hovercraft lift: To gain hovercraft type lift, downdrafts of air would need to be generated beneath the carriages and skirts added to ensure that the air only escaped horizontally when it was close to the ground.
A fan and motor unit would be used to draw in the air. The heat generated by running the motor and compressing the air would be used to warm up the hydrogen, in preparation for its use as a fuel.

The cushions would be partitioned longitudinally, so  that two adjacent cushions run the length of each carriage. On bends all of the incoming air would be diverted into the cushion on the outside of the bend. This would reduce the tendency of trains to roll over when taking a bend at speed.

For single carriage trains, the simplest hovercraft system would require the existing streamlined nose to be replaced by a wedge shaped cavity tapering inside the body of the train. The upper surface of the wedge would slope downwards and the lower surface would be horizontal.


5.2 Roof mounted airfoils:  Each roof mounted airfoil would be split into two hydraulically adjusted wings. On bends the wing on the inside of the bend would be tilted to produce a net down force, with the wing on the outside of the bend being tilted to produce a net up force.

5.3 Combined airfoil and hovercraft action: If the airfoils are close to the carriage roof, the air deflected under the airfoils can be harnessed by channelling the down flowing air into the fan assisted air cushions under the carriage.





Click to read about other engineering alternatives to HS2.

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