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.
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