Rail Industry Focus


‘As-new’ trains for a modern railway

Source: Rail Technology Magazine June/July 2013

Bombardier and Angel Trains have completed a pre-series development of Class 317 C6x rolling stock to highlight the potential improvements a larger overhaul could provide; Kate Ashley reports from Ilford depot.

New trains present a considerable expense and can take years of negotiation to be procured, built and brought into service. Upgrading existing rolling stock is one of the best ways to ensure reliable services on trains that continue to meet passenger expectations.

With maintenance techniques and new engineering technology developing all the time, the difference that can be made to an ageing train is remarkable. As such, it is a route many ROSCOs and TOCs are investigating.

RTM visited Bombardier’s Ilford depot in April to see the completion of an overhaul of Class 317 C6x trains, which offer a ‘before and after’ comparison for operators to measure the benefits of a full fleet refresh.

Raj Mehta, operations director at Bombardier Transportation, Kevin Tribley, chief operating officer of Angel Trains, and Dave Adams, general manager of the Ilford site, provided updates on the project and explained how the freedom of working without a specific contract could allow improved design.

Half and half

The project upgraded just half of the carriages to demonstrate what could be done with the fleet. The new franchise for the trains, which has yet to be re-let, will see all carriages refreshed in the same way, depending on passenger response to the new design.

The development is based on expected future requirements for the rolling stock and included paint, corrosion repairs, full door system overhaul, component overhaul, light interior repairs, LED lighting, carpet replacement and continued service operation work.

Adams praised the working relationship with Angel Trains for the project, who he said had a “fix it first” approach, ensuring that the success of the project took priority over any disputes.

He explained: “It’s multi-disciplined. But at the moment it’s working very well with all the parties, pretty much as planned.

“The level of commitment to the project is superb, which makes it all a lot simpler to manage.”

Testing layout

The pre-series trains feature a new 2+2 seating arrangement with perch seating to allow a metro-style layout, freeing up space for passengers to move around the vehicle. It aims to balance an optimisation of the number of passengers that can be carried, with enough seats to secure passenger satisfaction.

In terms of engineering, the trains have undergone a re-traction and refresh, and will be back in service by December this year. The parts are manufactured in Sweden, assembled in Ilford, tested by Bombardier in Derby and put through nonpassenger testing with Network Rail before operation on the network.

Adams told RTM: “If you look at the key systems on the vehicle, traction is probably the biggest single system – if we can deal with that then you’re dealing with the core of the issue straight away.

“From a reliability perspective and an efficiency perspective, it’s then what you do about the other subsystems, braking improvements, and the work we’re doing alongside the refresh, potentially the door systems.”

The lifetime extension it provides makes re-traction worthwhile, although it could take into the 2020s to justify. It is “very likely” to be rolled out across the whole fleet, Angel Trains said.

The Achilles heel

DC motors have been replaced by AC and regenerative braking introduced. The PMS underframe was reconfigured to accommodate a double pair arrangement of filter box and converter boxes.

Tribley said that traction was the Achilles’ heel of the unit, and the new upgrade was a “logical extension” of previous work to increase capacity and maintain services in harsh weather conditions.

The AC motor will make the fleet more efficient and having one powered vehicle per train was more cost effective, he explained.

The whole project offered both the ROSCO and Bombardier an “opportunity to extend life expectancy, and meet the conundrum of capacity”.

Design freedom

Helping the industry to meet capacity is challenging, Angel Trains accepted. But this project was one of “a few rare chances” to design and develop trains without a complete brief from an operator or for a specific purpose.

Adams said there was “most definitely” scope for more use of the design and development approach in upgrading rolling stock. “There’s a whole generation of rolling stock that’s a similar age to the Class 317s, potentially there’s a market there.”

Interior improvements will provide an ‘as-new’ feel for several years, with separate parts upgraded and replaced as necessary.

Unless there was a “step change” in either technology or political will, there may not be as much need to procure new rolling stock, RTM heard.

Big projects such as IEP, Thameslink and Crossrail, and electrification are also set to free up capacity which will allow engineering work on other fleets, improving them in similar ways. Such an approach could have significant value compared to purchasing new trains.

The Ilford site

The depot itself will be undergoing some changes as Crossrail will need the space to build sidings for stabling trains. Relocation of the paint shop and B shop has been agreed with Bombardier, with appropriate compensation, and is expected to be complete in mid-2016.

None of the depot will be surrendered until the lost capacity and capability is recreated onsite, Adams said.


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