Tuesday, 9 June 2015

There's a Mole in Alconbury...

... or even in Northampton.
Strange stories come fbb's way from time to time; this from Alan in Northampton. It concerns a company called Mole. The idea being promoted by the company is simple and possibly crazy. Why not, says their promotional publicity, carry freight in tubes underground?

See if you can work this one out.
Agreed, running a mole tunnel system would be cheaper than building new roads; but freight travels, largely, on existing roads. Mole's tunnels would have to be extensively (and expensively!) constructed from scratch. And how would the system compete with a parcels lorry, for example, capable of delivering to any address? Maybe using it for bulk conveyance to a central point might be of help in some locations.
But a test track is up and running in Alconbury in Cambridgeshire.
Now when Alan read his news item, a thought crossed his agile mind. Was there not a system for transfering freight across London in driverless trains? Did not this underground driverless freight tube start operating in 1927? (click on the map for an enlarged view)
Note that the early proposals had this little line being extended throughout the City; namely the dotted lines on the map.

Yep, the Post Office had a Mole type railway up and running nearly 90 years ago! So what's new, pussy cat? What's new members of the Talpidae family?
Mail Rail closed down in 2003 when mechanisation and larger suburban sorting offices replaced much of the central London infrastructure. 
And, generally, it was found that transporting mail by lorry was more efficient and less costly. Current proposals are for a section of the system to re-open as a visitor attraction.
But, hang on a minute, thinks our intelligent readership. What, under the earth, has this topic got to do with fbb's Northampon correspondent?

This is an extract from an on-line "trade" article announcing the Mole plans.
An innovative underground urban freight system could make its debut in the UK after an engineering company was awarded a feasibility study grant by the Department of Business. Mole Solutions will test the viability of driverless freight pipelines that could replace town centre truck deliveries.

The UK firm has developed a system it claims could reduce the use of road freight within urban areas by using freight pipelines carrying goods in capsules to link edge of town consolidation centres with strategically placed inner town nodal points.

The company has now teamed up with researchers from the University of Northampton to survey interest from businesses in Northampton.

So far, so good. But we read on:-

The Midlands conurbation is deemed to be particularly suited as a pilot project site as there is a disused underground rail line between Brackmills Industrial Estate and the town centre.


Once upon a time there was a railway from Northampton to Bedford. Originally terminating at Northampton St Johns Street ...
... it latterly became a siding to serve the then-new industrial estate at Brackmills.
There it is, passing from upper left to lower right. And here is the level crossing on Burryport Road ...
...but most definitely disused and overgrown.

And fbb has sad news for Mole, Northampton University and the journalist (?) who penned the article. Look closely and you might be able to spot that it is not even very slightly underground. And more bad news. This, ...
... the site of Bridge Street level crossing and station, is the closest that the present disused tracks come to the town centre.

Unless there is something down there which we have never been told about.
Hence the picture at the top of this blog.

 Next rail blog : Wednesday 10th June 

1 comment:

  1. The BBC article I read about this was suggesting the use of disused tunnels already existing under London.
    And of course, congestion has got far worse since 2003.