This week's Bridge News is that the UK is, fortunately, reversing course on a rather stupid plan where they were going to just dump tonnes of concrete under former railway bridges in an attempt, presumably, to make their maintenance easier.
Of course, this is an incredibly foolish way to save a few pounds. Not only is it a massive eyesore, it also completely ruins a still useful right-of-way - sure, there's no railways running under these bridges any more, but former railway routes make excellent walking or cycle paths, due to their relative flatness.
Naturally, it'd be even better if the railways could be brought back - just think of how nice a railway network stretching to every town and village could be - but hey, cycling is good too. Let's just not ruin these perfectly lovely bridges, eh?
Payphones. You might remember them - they put actual phones, in the street, that people put coins into to use! Now, I grant you that many of these concepts - like "coins" and "non-mobile phones" - may seem unusual now, but phones are still a useful thing to have.
Telstra, Australia's national telecoms operator, has run the numbers and figured out that not only is collecting coins from payphones costing them a signficant fraction of what the phones bring in, but the running costs of the entire set of payphones is basically a rounding error in their budget these days, so they've just... made them all free.
This is honestly a great idea and something more countries should do, if you ask me. Sure, not everyone remembers phone numbers any more, but to call emergency services, or for people without reliable mobile signal? Great.
Back in the 1800s the Victorians had a fun idea - why not dig tunnels under London and put trains in them, rather than trying to squeeze trains into an already-crowded city? Many years on, the London Underground is one of the most complex transport networks in the world, but it suffers from a big problem - heat.
See, running electric trains in tiny tunnels, full of people, just dumps out heat. Initially, the naturally colder temperatures of the surrounding soil kept the underground tunnels and stations at a nice, comfortable temperature. Decades of heating, though, has made the conditions underground rather toasty, as anyone who has travelled on the Central Line in summer can attest to.
IanVisits, of London event-tracking fame, has an excellent write-up of some of the approaches being trialled to undo this heating effect - both by pumping heat out of the tunnels (not easy when they're built to small Victorian sizes!) as well as making the trains more efficient in general. It's a long battle, but one that is slowly being won.
Hydroelectric power. It's great - clean, high-output, and generally very predictable. That is, until you enter a historic drought and your reservoirs run very, very low.
California is in said historic drought, and the resulting lack of water is causing a power problem - they're having to turn off some of the hydro plants. Of course, the high heat that accompanies the drought is also causing power draw because of the increased air conditioning usage, among others.
Fortunately, it looks like increased solar installs are helping offset demand a bit, but solar and energy storage are going to need a massive ramp up if this sort of climate is the new normal over there. Solar is great to make power to cool during the day, but it's those hot nights during heatwaves that really cause problems.