A fresh look for VTEC
Source: RTM Aug/Sep 16
John Doughty, engineering director for Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC), talks to RTM about the progress that has been made on refreshing the operator’s 45-strong fleet.
As RTM went to press, VTEC had reached the halfway point of its £21m upgrade project to overhaul its 30 Class 91 sets and 15 HSTs.
Shortly after the twenty-third train to be completely revamped rolled out of the Craigentinny depot in Edinburgh, we caught up with John Doughty, engineering director for VTEC, who was pleased with the progress so far.
“We’re spending a significant amount of money,” he said, “but when you spread it across 45 trainsets, it is not actually a vast amount of money on a per trainset basis for this sort of work.”
The refurbishment programme’s work, which was announced in November 2015, has included the fitting of leather seats and mood lighting in First Class and stunning red cloth seats in Standard. The project has also included new on-board signage, carpets, curtains, tables, and renovated toilets including new lighting and hand dryers.
Material supply consistency
However, it hasn’t all be plain sailing. “There are a few bits and bobs that we didn’t get right on the first sets that we’ve got to come back to,” said Doughty. “But it really is transforming the interior and making the train feel more Virgin and up to date.”
He added that one of the problems has been getting the material supply consistent. Forbo has been the carpet supplier, Sheffield-based Diamond Seating has done the Standard class seats, and the leather seats have come from Camira.
“We’ve worked with various suppliers to get that right to deal with the ups and downs in their production cycles,” explained Doughty. “We have a very tight schedule. It is critical that the materials turn up at the right time.”
Back in the early noughties, Great North Eastern Railway, the then operator of trains on the ECML, embarked on ‘Project Mallard’ to fit new interiors into its fleet of Class 91s and Class 43s.
“Some of the more interesting things we’ve had to deal with has, again, been with the HSTs,” said Doughty. “Two of our sets – EC64 and NL65 – they did not get the Mallard-type interior. They still date back to an old BR IC70- type interior. So the scope of works had to be different. Bits of the design we had to change and do slightly differently on those two sets. Also, on NL65 there weren’t any at-seat power sockets, so we’ve had to put those in.”
The refurbishment work, which is now being carried out in under two weeks for each trainset, has been undertaken at Virgin’s Craigentinny and Bounds Green depots, with agency contract labour coming from two suppliers: Yellow Rail (at Bounds Green) and TXM (doing the sets at Craigentinny).
“They have been terrific,” said Doughty. “When we’ve wanted to change things in the plan or do things differently they have worked with us to achieve that. Typically, there has been between 40-45 people at each depot at any one time.”
Craigentinny depot has carried out all of the HST refurbishment work, whereas Bounds Green has been working on the Mark 4 sets. The last of the HSTs was due to be finished in late August.
As well as the rolling stock refurbishment, VTEC has signed a £16m contract with engine manufacturer MTU to refurbish all 35 of its diesel engines for its HST fleet. The engines are being fitted at Craigentinny, where they are currently serviced and maintained.
“It is not just the engines we’re overhauling. We are overhauling the alternators, and the cool groups, as well,” said Doughty. “The engine is removed, complete with its alternator, at Craigentinny and then sent away to Germany. The engine is overhauled by MTU at its factory at Magdeburg. The alternators are overhauled by another company called AEM – also in Germany. The cooler groups are removed at the same time, and they are being overhauled by Voith down in London.
“That programme is coming up to halfway through. It could be the last major overhaul for the HST engines, I guess; it depends on exactly when they go out of traffic and how many hours they clock-up in the meantime. But, again, that has worked very well.”
Earlier this year, Virgin unveiled its new fleet of IEP trains for the East Coast. The 65 Virgin Azuma trains, which will be introduced from 2018, are capable of reaching 125mph in around four-and-a-half minutes, compared to around five minutes 10 seconds for the operator’s current electric trains and seven minutes for its diesel ones.
Asked what this would mean for the refurbished rolling stock, Doughty said that subject to the right capacity being available VTEC had originally planned to retain six of its Mark 4 sets. But that is subject to review.
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