This article is a follow-up to our original article about a dedicated active travel scheme through the heart of the BCP along the railway line. We recommend that you read that article first before reading this one. In this article we’ll explain why we think this idea is — in reality — a no-brainer, and what potential opportunities it could open up for the BCP.
Why does the BCP need a project like this?
The BCP is a sleepy backwater conurbation on the south coast of the UK. It relies heavily on tourism for its economy to function, which is a highly volatile industry, as we can see clearly from the current beating it’s taking from the COVID pandemic. The BCP needs to diversify its economic offerings into other industries in a big way, but for that to happen the conurbation needs to appear to be a progressive location that is enticing for businesses in those industries.
In the 21st century, the Information Age if you will, there is so much information thrown at us from all angles, that most gets lost in the ether. To succeed in this day and age you must create landmark or marquee projects that are big enough and innovative enough to attract people’s attention.
With enough marquee projects across a variety of industries and concepts happening within a given time-frame, the BCP can get enough traction to showcase itself as an upstart forward-thinking community and conurbation that attracts the right kinds of businesses.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that BCP Council would pay for a scheme like this. It’s probably not that they wouldn’t, it’s just that they can’t afford it. So funding from other sources is the only option. If you’re moving towards the frame of mind of thinking “So it’s a nice idea, but we can’t afford it, so let’s move on.” it’s time to change your approach.
There are 3 main organisations who we’re looking for funding from for a project like this; Central Government, Network Rail & South West Trains, with a contribution from BCP Council as well.
Why the Central Government
We have to delve into the murky world of politics for a moment to understand this. It’s a simple step-by-step process. Governments want to stay in power, to do that they have to get votes. To get votes they have to prove (or attempt to prove) progress and achievement. Landmark projects on trending (but also necessary) topics achieve these aims. In a post-Brexit world the UK’s central government is hungry for projects it can hold up to the world and say “This is what post-Brexit Britain is all about.”
Why Network Rail
The railway line is owned and operated by Network Rail. They are actively looking for ways to reduce the running costs of their infrastructure, and are trying a number of different methods to achieve that.
There is a push to electrify the railways across the country, and the stretch of track we’re suggesting this project for hasn’t been done yet. The project would give them the opportunity to do that at the same time.
Network Rail are also very interested in direct renewable energy generation. By this we mean generating renewable energy that directly powers their infrastructure, not indirectly via the National Grid. They tested a project in Hampshire with solar panels in 2019, and let’s not forget the landmark project of converting Blackfriars Bridge into a solar tunnel back in 2014. If you notice, the project we are proposing is conceptually a carbon-copy of the Blackfriars Bridge project, except we’re advocating wind energy (amongst others) over just plain solar.
Network Rail’s HS2 project is underway at the moment. It is incredibly controversial and is generating a lot of negative PR and press for the organisation. Any projects they can lay their hands on to counteract this are desirable.
Why South West Trains
South West Trains are the local train operating company for our region. The reasons given for Network Rail work equally well for South West Trains. We are suggesting that harvested renewable energy be utilised to directly power both Bournemouth station and Pokesdown for Boscombe station. These two stations are owned by Network Rail, but they are managed by South West Trains. It is in their interest to reduce their costs.
It would also give them an opportunity to retrofit both stations with some innovative renewable energy systems of their own to increase the yield. Furthermore it would serve as an aesthetic beautification opportunity to give both stations, which are very shabby-looking, a much needed face lift.
How to convince Network Rail to pay for an Active Travel Scheme (ATS)?
If you think that Network Rail and indirectly South West Trains are going to jump at the chance to fund an ATS it’s time to bring your head back down from the clouds. Asking them to fund an ATS would be like asking JD Rockefeller to pay for electricity cables back in the 19th century. If you don’t get the reference, the short story is it’s 99% impossible to convince a business to fund its competitor. Make no mistake, Active Travel is a direct competitor to the railways. If you’re walking or cycling you’re not buying a train ticket, so that’s lost revenue for them.
The project needs to be positioned from a different perspective to gain any chance of success. We’re not selling an ATS, we’re selling a Renewable Energy Generation Scheme, that just happens to have an ATS on top. Let’s say that again because it’s important to remember.
We’re not selling an ATS, we’re selling a Renewable Energy Generation Scheme, that just happens to have an ATS on top.
How to build our tunnel
Let’s get down to the exciting stuff, building the tunnel!!! To start with, let’s think about materials. Most railway tunnels need to be incredibly strong and durable because of the potential weight going over them. It’s either trains going over roads, or cars, lorries and buses going over railways. Luckily for us, neither of these situations is the case. We’ve only got pedestrians and cyclists on top, so the weight differential is much less. Hooray!
Steel is our friend
Since our surface weight ratio is drastically reduced we could most likely construct the tunnel using a steel framework. This is much cheaper and quicker to do, so the project is already saving money and disruption time.
Steel structures are also incredibly versatile and easy to work with. We can clad them (inside and out) with whatever material we like, which gives us a lot of space to run cables, drainage and all sorts of other innovative bits and pieces that would be incredibly difficult to do with concrete.
A modular design
Modular is all the rage, and there are a number of reasons for that. One of the best ones is the speed with which a structure can be built. It also provides an easy method of refurbishment or renovation to a structure without having to rethink the entire building.
The tunnel would be made up of a number of individual parts that fit together to form the whole structure. Since we’re using steel, it’s a simple case of bolting them together once they’re lined up properly.
For this method to work, you need a nearby location to handle assembly of the individual parts that can then be easily put onto the site. Lucky for us we’ve already got one.
The coal yard for the previous Boscombe station provides us with the perfect location for modular assembly. It is currently unoccupied, directly adjacent to the project site and large enough to be utilised.
From this location completed modules can be craned onto the railway and then pushed along guide rails into place. This is a brand new engineering technique for reducing time spent constructing tunnels along transportation links. In fact, Network Rail have just used it up near Peterborough for HS2.
Two tunnels not one
We’re advocating the use of wind turbines all the way along the inside of the proposed tunnel. Wind velocity is faster in narrower tunnels. We’re talking a little bit about fluid dynamics here, so let’s think carefully what we’re designing.
We have two tracks along this stretch. Thankfully each one goes in a single direction, so positioning wind turbines becomes much easier as we don’t really have to account for wind coming from both directions.
If we just had one tunnel with wind turbines along both walls, we would not be maximising our energy generation. When a train went through the tunnel the turbines on the side of that track would work well, but the ones on the other side would not. This is a lost opportunity. Even worse is when two trains met inside the tunnel, their respective wind flows would smash into each other sending wind all over the place. This is turbulent air, and is the evil enemy of wind turbines.
Two tunnels, one for each track, with turbines in all 3 walls (2 outside walls, 1 1 partition wall) is the solution. This method gives us perfect laminar flow for our wind, which is the optimum desired flow for wind turbines. We will also generate a heck of a lot more energy as a result.
Wind turbine design
You’d be forgiven for thinking we’re suggesting putting wind turbines along the ground on the inside of the tunnels between the passing trains and the walls. This is a waste of space, and we don’t have much of it to play with.
Remember that we’re building out of steel not concrete, so our walls are essentially hollow. You’ve guessed correctly, our wind turbines actually go in the walls! Why is this the best way to do this? Here’s a few reasons.
In a project that has a site area approximately 10m in width, conserving space is crucial. But integrating our wind turbine system into the walls instead of between the train and the walls we save a lot of space.
We need to think about aerodynamics here. When wind hits a turbine the laminar flow reduces and turns into turbulent flow. (No points for guessing why it’s called a wind turbine) To increase our energy harvesting opportunities any wind that hits a turbine needs to be laminar. So having a row of turbines along the ground that each get hit in turn by the output of the previous one is not effective.
If we only place turbines along the ground we are only harvesting energy from wind at the bottom of the tunnel. The wind is flowing at every point along the vertical axis so we want to harness it at every point.
To expand on our aerodynamic thinking we need to appreciate that wind running directly along a flat surface (the walls of the tunnel) will be faster and smoother than wind running in an open area. By utilising curved corners just before our regular banks of turbines we can essentially feed the wind into the turbines in the best way. We’re talking about the concept of the path of least resistance here.
So, we want the following:
- Vertical banks of wind turbines along the insides of our tunnels.
- We don’t want these turbines to affect the flow of other banks of turbines.
- We need to vent the wind out of the system from these turbines somehow. It can’t just hit a wall and dissipate, because it will mess up the flow.
- We also want to hopefully try and harness this spent wind again in a “2nd wind” theory.
Now forgive our terrible 3D modelling skills, we only had a few minutes to knock these up, but hopefully they give you an idea of the concept.
The above images hopefully give you an artistic representation of how to effectively achieve the list of requirements mentioned above.
Each of the “Archways” is a bank of turbines built into the walls of the structure. The design allows for every turbine to be hit with clean laminar flowing wind. Any wind that doesn’t feed into a bank of turbines continues along the tunnel to be fed into the next bank and so on maximising harvesting potential.
Banks of turbines are vertical in nature so that we harvest the wind at every point along the vertical axis, not just at ground level.
The venting of the wind that has gone through a bank of turbines is achieved by forcing it into a communal tube that rises up above the surface of the structure and back down onto itself. This is important, because it provides us with our 2nd wind opportunity. Spent wind hits its turbines again. To achieve this we need to think about distance, flow and velocity. By using a communal tube for a bank of turbines we reduce the space for the wind. A smaller space for the wind to travel through will allow it to maintain some of its velocity, so that it will reach the turbines again before dissipating.
To make this process even more streamlined and effective the inside of the tubes in the Archways could be rifled. If you’re not familiar with the technique it’s what they do to the barrels of guns to make bullets go faster, further and be more accurate.
One of the added benefits of this setup is that the archways within the partition wall between the two tunnels can act as part of a central reservation between the two routes along the ATS on the surface. There are more benefits we’ll mention a bit further on.
Tunnel entrance design
The tunnels along this project are designed to be wind tunnels. As such their entrances should be considered to maximise the amount of wind that gets dragged into them when a train goes through. Flat surfaces with sharp, hard angles are not a good idea. The entrance design should be curved to make it easier for wind to enter the tunnels. The supporting image of how a black hole appears can give you an idea on how to go about this.
Point of most energy harvesting
There are two types of trains that run along this stretch of track. Local trains stop at both stations, the higher speed trains only stop at Bournemouth. The energy derived from local trains going through the system will not be substantial, but it will be something. The major harvesting will come from the higher speed trains.
The section of track nearest to Pokesdown for Boscombe station will generate the most energy because it is where the higher speed trains will be fastest. Those coming from the direction of London will already be at high speed going into the tunnel, and those coming from Bournemouth will have reached maximum speed by this time. The following image explains this. Bournemouth station is on the left, Pokesdown for Boscombe on the right.
Carbon-cutting & energy generating opportunities for the ATS
This project is all about cutting carbon footprints, through a mixture of active travel and renewable energy generation. We’ve talked about how to harvest wind energy within our tunnels, so let’s talk about how we can harvest energy from the surface.
We mentioned piezoelectricity in our first article. To be clear, no one is going to save the world’s climate with piezoelectricity, because on its own it just doesn’t generate all that much energy. However, as part of a broader spectrum of integrated energy harvesting methods throughout the project, it is absolutely worth including.
This project would theoretically see very high usage of both pedestrians and cyclists. As such, there is a genuine opportunity to harvest piezoelectricity along the surface. In Toulouse, France, they power their street lights through piezoelectric harvesting under the pavements.
Archways expanded with solar film
Coming back to our wind turbine archways, we can really go to town on them above ground. We can coat the tops of them with solar film, which is a flexible alternative to solar panels. They are not as effective, but they do work. So let’s say that we cover our archways’ top surfaces with our solar film, we’re probably looking at an overall coverage of perhaps 1/20th — 1/30th of the total surface of the route. Run those numbers in your head and you get 866.66m2 — 1,300m2 of solar film to harvest energy from.
It will work better in summer than winter because for the most part they will be facing directly upwards, so the sun’s trajectory will be higher in the summer. However, because we are using archways the angles can be taken into account as we slide down the sides of them, and we can harvest more energy as we reach further down the sides because we’re closer to our optimum angle (30–40 deg), and our archways are essentially east-west facing so whenever the sun is out some of them will be getting hit.
Archways expanded with green roof style side-cladding
Sorry, we didn’t get time to do a model of this, but you’ll understand what we mean by our amazing and informative description…we hope. We can clad the sides of our archways with curved sheet metal with regular machined holes in. Between the sheet metal cladding and the actual archway structure we can place “cups” (best word we could think of), that we then fill with soil and plant winders/creepers in. After a bit of time our archways are no longer the industrial behemoths that were put in, but beautiful natural-looking structures. The plants will help to capture and convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.
If we really want to get some nature-loving brownie points, we could further compartmentalise some sections of the sides of our archways to be used as nesting spots for birds and other wildlife, that prefer spaces away from the ground.
If we want to get a bit of education on the go, we could even install LED lights on the outsides of the archways that are triggered when the banks of turbines within them generate power. It would provide a fantastic aesthetic feature that would essentially work like a sort of Mexican wave of light along the route. Best to turn them off at late night to avoid keeping the neighbours awake though.
Utilising rainwater effectively
On a 2.6km stretch of track that is approximately 10m wide (yes, that’s 26,000m2 for the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed of you) we should see annual rainfall of approximately 20,982m3. Not sure how much that is? (neither were we) It equates to 8.3 Olympic-sized swimming pools, or for those of you who don’t swim, it’s 52 1 litre bottles of water for every single one of the 400,000 residents of the BCP.
If you, like us, are feeling that there is a massive potential opportunity to harvest that water before it ends up going into some kind of drainage system kindly give us a virtual high-five! That’s a heck of a lot of water, and according to our ethos we should be utilising it at every step of the way before it disappears.The BCP’s sewerage system is pretty overtaxed as it is, so just sending all that water down the drain is not going to help. So let’s get creative!
We can install water tanks (out of sight) along the route that collect nearby run-off. We can then add pedal-powered hydraulic pumps to them from above. Step on the pedal, water comes out, your thirsty doggie won’t be thirsty any more! If you manage to train your dog to step on the pedal itself that’s just viral video gold dust in the making!
If you don’t know about vertical farming, we strongly recommend that you look it up. It is absolutely the future, but it’s very expensive to do at the moment. Besides energy, you also need water to make it happen. The amount of water needed is just 5% of standard agricultural farming, but it still needs to come from somewhere.
Rainwater run-off that is diverted into drainage tubes (think downpipes) that run the length of our route can be designed to output their load anywhere along it. We could provide plenty of water for any nearby vertical farms for free.
Integrating energy-harvesting and aesthetics
If we piped all of our run-off into the two nearby railway stations, we could store it in large tanks on those sites. As the tanks reach capacity they can periodically release their load onto water turbines, which in turn release the water in a waterfall effect into a trough before entering the sewer system. We get direct energy generation for the stations, and a beautiful aesthetic effect for little or no cost.
If we really wanted to be innovative we would shape the trough where our waterfalls land into pyramids with piezoelectric sensors inside so that we generate energy from the downfall as well.
Hang on aren’t we building an ATS here?
OK, let’s get back to that portion of the project! On the surface of the fancypants new tunnel along our route we’re going to plonk an ATS for pedestrians and cyclists, or cyclists and pedestrians depending on your preference.
The ATS should hook up to all 4 existing crossings along the route, because we’re all about progress not regress. Hooking up to existing transport links should go further. There are opportunities along the route to create entry/exit points on other nearby roads that could bring those micro-communities to life. The following image shows some suggested access points.
The suggested additions are for the following roads:
- York Place, Boscombe
- Kings Park Cemetery, Boscombe
- Corner of Tamworth Rd & Somerset Rd, Boscombe
- Corner of St. Clements Rd. & Vale Rd, Boscombe (would require some rejigging)
- Southcote Rd, Boscombe/Bournemouth
Utilising cuttings for social, communal and energy harvesting opportunities
In certain parts of this stretch of track the cuttings are quite wide. Since our ATS is designed to be at “road height”, we can make use of these cuttings to gain more space.
We can have public seating areas along stretches of the cuttings not directly adjacent to residential properties. We could have fixed-in-place exercise equipment that directly powers the system in a variety of different interesting ways. We could extend the BCP SmartPlace project of free public wifi (at Landsdowne) to be offered all along our route. Wouldn’t that be nice?
An idea that we’re really big fans of, is to have various-shaped display cabinets that can be utilised by local artists, fashion designers, upcyclers/furniture-makers, inventors and even the universities to showcase their work periodically.
See the image below showing potential locations of cuttings that could be utilised along the route for these ideas.
Is there more? Yes there’s more
Still awake? OK, we’ll give you the final section of this surprisingly long article. There are a few more things to consider off the back of this project.
Opening up of adjacent spaces for beneficial developments
There is a large urban brownfield site along this route that is just screaming out to be developed. We are, of course, talking about the previous Boscombe train station site. It sits either side of the tracks, and part of it is utilised as an under-developed industrial park right next to Kings Park. You can see the site in the image below.
If you live in Boscombe then you’ll know the one thing that part of the BCP needs desperately is jobs, not houses. People move to areas where there are jobs. No jobs = no people, or transient people. The Old Boscombe Station site is absolutely perfect for an SME/start-up incubation hub. With our proposed ATS going right through the middle of it, it would be incredibly picturesque, making it all the more enticing for businesses. Pokesdown station is an 800m cycle/walk away, just FYI.
Just to drive this point home. When it comes to rezoning land in the UK, it only ever goes in one direction; commercial to residential. Once you put houses or flats on a site it will never change. On a brownfield site like this you’ve got to try commercial first. You can always turn it into residential in 50 or 100 years if it doesn’t work out.
Hooking up to other cycle routes
This proposed route in and of itself is a great idea. We’ve had some fantastic feedback from local residents and one thing that stood out was the concept of circular routes. That is connecting this route up to other routes so that cyclists and pedestrians could do a circuit and end up back where they started.
The map above shows a proposed circuit that integrates this project. There are discrepancies that would have to be worked out somehow, which we’ll list for you.
- We would need to come up with a solution for the stretch of the circuit along Southbourne Rd. down to Fisherman’s Path. If we’re looking for something dedicated to cycling/walking that stretch of road might have to be rethought somehow.
- The promenade is great for cycling in winter, but not in summer. We could utilise the cliff-tops either with a dedicated cycle path or the roads that run along it.
- Somehow we need to come back to our start. Our target should be Landsdowne roundabout, because we can hop onto the upcoming Landsdowne pedestrian section along Holdenhurst Rd. and zip under the Asda roundabout back to our start.
Last but not least…extension!
If this project was successful in generating the amount of energy needed to power the stretch of railway track it covers and the nearby stations (we believe that it could), then it is a success. As such it would be a few things; Firstly the coolest urban ATS by far. It would be the longest tunnel in Dorset at 2.6km, and it would revolutionise the way BCP residents (specifically Bournemouth, Boscombe, Southbourne, Springbourne and Charminster) would think about commuting, but also active leisure and exercise.
If the project is a success then there is scope for extension (or expansion if you prefer that term). To the west of Bournemouth station the stretch of track that runs all the way to Talbot Heath could also be retrofitted with this system. There is only 1 underline bridge along this section of track (which is a bit of a deal-breaker), but other than that it is all cuttings, and cuttings are our friend.
If (big if) this stretch of track was converted and integrated as well, it would create a single continuous ATS through the heart of the BCP from Talbot Heath to Pokesdown at a distance of a whopping 6km. The image below shows the possible extension opportunity as well as possible off-shoot routes into nearby public spaces and educational facilities.
This project is a no-brainer. It would be scandalous to not consider it.
Any and all thoughts, suggestions and ideas about this project for the BCP or any other project are always welcome at our door. You can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading, sorry for the length!
If you’d like to learn more about wind energy generation in railway tunnels you could do worse than read some/all of the following: