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Following a successful trial of new generation speed probes, Stagecoach Metrolink Limited (SML) is now planning to adopt the new system on its fleet of 26 original T68 trams. The advanced technology speed probes were supplied by rail systems specialist Rowe Hankins.

The need for the new probes was prompted by an alarming increase in unscheduled downtime causing disruption to services and passenger inconvenience. Failure of the original 17 year old probes resulted in an irregular speed signal and loss of slide protection on the affected axle. This was tolerable with a single sensor failure, but if two or more sensors failed then the trams had to be taken out of service. This was required 13 times in the twelve months ending in March 2008.

After an initial six month technical investigation, Rowe Hankins fitted the first of the new probes in December 2008. A second unit was fitted with the new speed probes early in 2009. Both tram-sets were then subject to intensive usage to prove the system and zero failures were reported during this 50,000Km trial. To avoid unnecessary fleet disruption, fitting of the new probes was scheduled to coincide with planned outages for routine servicing. Rowe Hankins engineers worked closely with SML depot staff to coordinate the production and fitting of the new parts.

The Rowe Hankins speed probes are active Hall-effect sensors providing a speed-proportional digital signal. To interface with the driver’s instruments, the original signal processors have been retained but modified and upgraded to accept the new speed signal input.

Previously, two types of sensors were in use. Rowe Hankins replaced these with a standardised sensor, customising the housing to fit the different installation requirements. For future maintenance purposes SML will now only need to hold the one model of sensor in stock.

Tram drivers have reported positively on vehicle performance, since the fitting of the new probes. Speedometer readings are now smooth and progressive and drivers even report that vehicles seem more responsive to the controls. “Rowe Hankins were very positive and proactive in working with SML to produce a cost effective answer to the problem. The Rowe Hankins speed probes are more reliable, give a better quality output and are easier and quicker to install than the original equipment,” commented Clive Pennington, head of engineering at SML.

More Information:

Tim Allard, Tel. +44 (0)161 765 3000 Fax. +44 (0)161 763 1421
E-mail: Web:
Rowe Hankins Ltd, Power House, Parker Street, Bury, Lancashire, BL9 0RJ, UK

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