Rail Industry Focus


Refurbishing the Mk IIIs

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Jun/Jul 2012

Chiltern Railways Mk III coaches, designed in the 1970s, are among British Rail’s best-regarded engineering accomplishments – and a refurb project that has involved replacing their slam-doors with power sliding plug doors should see them in service for decades to come. Adam Hewitt reports.

The first set of Chiltern Railway Mainline Silver coaches re-entered service on May 28, following an extensive refurbishment.

The most complex aspect of the work was replacing the slam-doors with power operated sliding plug doors – a project which required the roof of each carriage to be raised slightly to allow room for the new doors. Both ends of each car body were removed and reconstructed.

The mechanism used is tried-and-tested, being the same as that created by Siemens for its Class 444 DMUs. It brings the door operation of Chiltern Railways’ Mk III coaches into line with its Class 168, 165 and 172 DMU stock.

Passenger benefits

The new doors meet all relevant standards, improve passenger safety and provide easier access for all passengers, especially disabled people.

The wider doors required more vestibule space, necessitating the removal of some toilets and luggage racks, and the remaining toilets have been upgraded with storage tanks. The doors are also taller than the previous slam-doors.

All the remaining toilets have been upgraded to controlled emission, meaning they have been fitted with storage tanks, and they are also compliant with PRM TSI (the technical specification for interoperability relating to people with reduced mobility).

There are power sockets at each seat, and the lighting in each coach has also been improved. Chiltern says this helps the trains feel even more spacious.

Flexibility and simplicity

In total, 20 Mk III coaches are being upgraded by Wabtec Rail Doncaster, with the rest of the fleet expected to be refurbished and in service by the end of this year. The next set of coaches is expected to be ready in July.

Wabtec is also performing corrosion repairs, while the door system itself is by Rail Door Solutions.

Chiltern Railways described the coaches’ history and the need for improvement by saying: “The coaches were widely recognised at the time as one of British Rail’s greatest engineering achievements, due to the excellent ride, air conditioned environment, flexibility of design and simplicity of maintenance.

“However, the coaches do not meet the needs of the modern day passenger so Chiltern Railways have been revolutionising the Mk III coach.”

The operator’s engineering director, Kate Marjoribanks, said: “This really does prove that you can deliver a first class service utilising older rolling stock. The new power doors and additional features allow us to increase capacity and at the same time meet the needs of our passengers.

“Work continues to take place to deliver three more trains in 2012 and we are currently considering further opportunities for future fleet growth.”

Extensive testing on a prototype coach featuring the new door system showed only slight wear at the end of 20 years of use, Chiltern Railways’ engineers said. The loco-hauled Mk IIIs are used on the operator’s London to Banbury and Birmingham service. This has freed up Class 168s which the operator hopes to use on its proposed Oxford- London Marylebone via High Wycombe service, following track and station upgrades as part of Evergreen 3.

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