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third rail

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Definition of third rail in English:

noun

1An additional rail supplying electric current, used in some electric railway systems.
Example sentences
  • Most of these have existed for some time, and current is supplied through a third rail bringing direct current at about 800 Volts.
  • New Zealand railways are largely powered by overhead electric cables or by diesel, rather than the third rail electrification systems which are widely used in US and European urban rail networks.
  • They scaled barbed wire fences, leaping over instant death on electrified third rails, and running from police.
2US informal A subject considered by politicians to be too controversial to discuss: until very recently, the conventional wisdom said that Social Security was the third rail of politics
More example sentences
  • He is willing to take steps and call for policies that most Japanese politicians look on as the third rail in politics.
  • Talking about cutting Social Security benefits is always the so-called third rail of politics, a lethal topic.
  • In fact I'm astonished by his courage on the issue, as Social Security has always been called the third rail of politics.

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