Home Environment Electronic scarecrow installed at Longsight depot

Electronic scarecrow installed at Longsight depot

Network Rail has installed a solar-powered scarecrow that mimics the calls of a hawk to ward off birds causing delays to passengers travelling between Manchester and London Euston.

Recently, large numbers of birds have been damaging the pantographs of Avanti West Coast’s Pendolino trains, as well as the overhead line equipment giving them power, at Alstom’s depot in Longsight, Manchester.

Now Network Rail and the train operator have installed the new ‘electronic scarecrow’ which humanely scares the birds away while protecting them from potential electrocution.

Ridding the depot of birds means long-distance trains will stop being unexpectedly damaged, potentially taking them out of service or delayed in the depot while repairs are made.

This will mean better journeys for commuters, holiday-makers and business people in future.

Phil James, Network Rail’s North West route director, said: “As we start to welcome back passengers back on to North West railways, they want to know their services are reliable and on time. Birds at Alstom’s depot have become a real nuisance but this solution is a ‘win win’, protecting both the wildlife and the trains from harm.

“The electronic scarecrow is one of many methods we’re deploying across the North West to make our infrastructure more reliable, so we can deliver on-time train services that people of the North West can be proud of.”

Nick Westcott, operations director at Avanti West Coast, said: “We’re always exploring new initiatives to make our route resilient to various scenarios and customers’ journeys more reliable.

Damage caused to top of train by bird.

“Birds can delay our trains or cause damage to them and the overhead wires, so working with Network Rail to install an electronic scarecrow will help to deter birds from the railway – improving the reliability of our customers’ journeys between Manchester and London.”

It’s thought birds are roosting on top of overhead line equipment and stationary trains because there is a recycling centre nearby. When they fly or drop twigs on to electrical equipment, their wing spans can cause the cables to trip, leading to a loss of power and the bird’s death.

The £2000 equipment was successfully trialled and installed by Network Rail’s Manchester Maintenance Delivery unit team.

Since December last year Avanti West Coast has experienced a total of 20 incidents across the North West relating to birds on overhead lines or being struck by trains. This caused delays of more than nine hours for passengers (a total of 562 minutes).

Nigel Wordsworth BSc(Hons) MCIJhttp://therailengineer.com

SPECIALIST AREAS Rolling stock, mechanical equipment, project reports, executive interviews


Nigel Wordsworth graduated with an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering from Nottingham University, after which he joined the American aerospace and industrial fastener group SPS Technologies. After a short time at the research laboratories in Pennsylvania, USA, Nigel became responsible for applications engineering to industry in the UK and Western Europe. At this time he advised on various engineering projects, from Formula 1 to machine tools, including a particularly problematic area of bogie design for the HST.

A move to the power generation and offshore oil supply sector followed as Nigel became director of Entwistle-Sandiacre, a subsidiary of the Australian-owned group Aurora plc. At the same time, Nigel spent ten years as a Technical Commissioner with the RAC Motor Sports Association, responsible for drafting and enforcing technical regulations for national and international motor racing series.

Joining Rail Engineer in 2008, Nigel’s first assignment was a report on new three-dimensional mobile mapping and surveying equipment, swiftly followed by a look at vegetation control machinery. He continues to write on a variety of topics for most issues.

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