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02.02.17

Vivarail lays out action plan as faulty repair work to blame for train fire

Vivarail has released its full report on the Class 230 test train fire that took place over the festive period, concluding that the cause of the fire was due to a fuel leak in one of the train’s gensets, likely caused during recent repair work. 

On 30 December, 10 members of Vivarail staff were forced to evacuate the three-car Class 230 passenger train near Kenilworth station after one of its gensets, Genset 4 (GS4), set on fire during a test run from Tyseley to Nuneaton via Leamington Spa, leading to significant service disruption.

Vivarail found that the leak was not spotted due to a lack of “suitable or sufficient test procedures” by the genset supplier after the repair work, with investigators also noting fuel leaks from two other gensets connected with the train.

“The finding of the investigation is that the fire was caused by diesel fuel escaping from the high pressure fuel system and being ignited by a hot body, likely to have been the turbo charger,” said Vivarail’s final report on the incident.

This finding is supported by several pieces of evidence, said the report, such as GS4 receiving recent attention that included the high-pressure fuel lines being disturbed; that there were no other apparent sources of ignition evident during the forensic examination of the genset; amongst others.

Investigators found that the intensity and duration of the fire was worsened for several reasons, including an “ineffective” suppression system and the specific design of the genset, which forced the fire brigade to put out the flames after staff found themselves unable to do so alone.

Despite these findings, Vivarail was pleased to note the effectiveness of its safety measures to protect the car body of the train, finding that “it would have been possible” for passengers to evacuate safely had they been aboard – as the passenger saloon only suffered “very minor” smoke damage.

“We believe that we have found the root cause and a number of contributory factors which prolonged the fire,” concluded Adrian Shooter, CEO of Vivarail, in a statement accompanying the report.

“We are determined that there will never be a repetition and believe that the measures we have set out will achieve that end. As a minimum, they will all be put in hand before the train is put back in service.

“We are continuing to take advice in some areas and may make further improvements.”

The objectives of the test run included testing the reliability of GS4, which had been fitted with a new engine just before Christmas, and to record timing data to support planning activity in relation to proposed passenger operation on the Coventry to Nuneaton (NUCKLE) line.

But the future of the D-Train on the NUCKLE line is now in doubt after local partners pulled out of the project due to the fire, scuppering Vivarail’s chances of completing its trial of the trains before the next West Midlands franchise begins this October.

However, Vivarail has expressed its confidence in the future of the Class 230 as an eventual solution to overcrowding on the route.

Ongoing action plan

To support this, its final report laid out an action plan intended to ensure a fire of this nature never occurs again, as well as to mitigate the impact of any future incident through design improvements to the vehicle and genset.

It particularly wants to strengthen the resilience of the vehicles systems to “allow the vehicle to continue to operate for 15 minutes in a state of fire”.

Going forward, Vivarail will implement an immediate additional test regime to make sure that all gensets are operated at maximum output prior to fitment to guarantee there are no fuel leaks when the engine is running on full power.

It will also conduct a full review of the processes associated with engine work, especially the high-pressure fuel pipe system and post-work test regimes; a review of the genset maintenance and repair practices of Vivarail and its genset supplier; and a design overhaul to the genset in order to address weak points identified by the investigation.

Similarly, the company has promised to evaluate associate vehicle systems and the issues found with the OTDR and CCTV systems with the manufacturer, especially to see if any faults should be shared with the rest of the rail industry.

“Some actions are already underway as this report is completed and all will be completed and implemented prior to the unit being made available for mainline running,” the report concluded.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Jerry Alderson   02/02/2017 at 16:17

A great pity that the trial has been setback and the passengers have not seen a vital increase in capacity because od something so simple and easy to fix. The good news is that the incident proved that everything on the D-Train supported detection, containment and evacuation so well.

@Marshlinktrains   03/02/2017 at 07:08

As we all enginneering issues are found in early testing. Now time to move on would fully support open access trails along Hastings to Eastbourne line which urgently need extra capacity. Unfortunately no support from DFT and Southern who have wasted to much time trying to sort out strikes and million miles away from running any form of decent service yet.

Scottie   03/02/2017 at 14:45

Such a shame that this one Fire has led to the abrupt termination of tests on the "Live" Line as these Trains look like a much better interim solution for passengers than the life expired and unpopular Pacers that still rattle around in many parts of the Country or lines where over crowding is an issue. If I were in management at Vivarail I would enter into Swift negotiations with many of the preserved Heritage Lines we have in order to get ample and robust test data to woo any potential new operators ! I wish them good luck on this venture.

Andrew Gwilt   03/02/2017 at 15:18

The Ford Duratorq prime mover or engine as its now called may cause more fires on the rest of the converted Class 230 D-Trains as Vivarail are to retain 75 of them and to shorten them to 2-car and 3-car multiple unit rolling stocks.

Chris M   04/02/2017 at 00:06

I too hope that this setback isn't terminal and that Vivarail manage to make the power modules capable of running reliably in the harsh environment found under the floor of a railcar. The report indicates a surprising lack of scrutiny of some of the components used (for example basic rubber fuel hose). Perhaps it would have been wise not to have done 60mph running tests on an important mainline route with single line sections....

Henry Law   04/02/2017 at 08:20

The underfloor motor-generator proposal was always a technically risky strategy and I wonder why it was adopted? Less risky alternatives would have been to place the motor-generator set in a compartment, which would have made maintenance easier, or to go for locomotive-operated push-pull operation. In this connection, what seems to have passed almost the entire industry by for the past decade is that steam locomotives have been developed in recent years, designed to fit into the modern railway operating environment. Due to the essential simplicity of the design, with a consequent low parts count, capital cost is than an equivalent diesel-electric unit. External combustion makes it easier to meet emission standards than with internal combustion. The technology has been trialled and tested in service, and all that the manufacturer needs is an order for a minimum production run of 20 units. http://www.dlm-ag.ch

Wimg   04/02/2017 at 18:48

' that the fire was caused by diesel fuel escaping from the high pressure fuel system ' these engines were factory new , so why was it necessary to open-up a HP fuel (booster) system ? I cannot see the need for that , and if it was opened , there has been amateur tooling practice ..

Mark Hare   08/02/2017 at 10:56

Henry Law - not sure how your comment relates at all to this story. You seem to be suggesting that train operators should either be reverting to steam haulage (!) or at best, diesel locos, top-and-tail or with a DVT/DBSO. What Mr Shooter and his colleagues are trying to achieve is a cost-effective alternative to buying new stock (DMU vehicles are at least £1m each) or leasing more expensive stock from elsewhere (assuming any is available) For that, he should be applauded.

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