Elizabeth Line: a greener approach

Source: RTM June/July 2018

Howard Smith, operations director for TfL Rail and the Elizabeth Line, outlines the key features of the brand-new, eco-friendly Old Oak Common depot which recently opened its doors in the capital.

Operations have begun at the new, purpose-built train depot at Old Oak Common which will support London’s newest railway, the Elizabeth Line.

The depot in west London, which is the UK’s first environmentally-friendly train maintenance facility, will be capable of stabling and maintaining up to 42 of the Elizabeth Line’s 70 new trains at any one time. The depot is opening in stages and maintenance started there from March this year. In May, it started operations to support the new TfL Rail services between Paddington (mainline) and Hayes & Harlington run with new Class 345 trains.

The depot will help TfL to reduce its running costs, as well as reducing CO2 emissions by over 500 tonnes each year compared to a depot with conventional infrastructure. The maintenance framework at the depot will play a crucial role in the day-to-day operations of the Elizabeth Line when it launches through central London in December, and the depot operations will really ramp up with more trains arriving in London ahead of this.

Over 30% of the depot’s power will be generated by an innovative renewable energy system, bringing impressive sustainability credentials to the TfL network. A hybrid of renewable sources integrate ground source heating and cooling  from  a  combination of energy piles and 150m deep bore holes, combined with rooftop solar panels providing electricity and hot water to the depot.

The depot was awarded as part of the contract for the new trains being delivered by Bombardier; it was built by Taylor Woodrow, the civil engineer division of VINCI Construction UK. It has 33 outdoor stabling roads and nine additional roads inside the Operations, Maintenance and Control building for the heavy cleaning and maintenance of wheels, motors or other train components. Two on-site train washes will allow each train to be washed every 48 hours.

MTR Crossrail will operate the Elizabeth Line on TfL’s behalf. The majority of its drivers are now based at Old Oak Common, where they are currently training with simulators that replicate a number of real-life scenarios, including adverse weather conditions, faulty signals or passenger alarms on-board. Drivers will be able to familiarise themselves with the trains and the Elizabeth Line route before they go out on the network with passengers.

The Elizabeth Line will transform rail travel in London with quicker, easier and more accessible journeys when it opens through central London. The new trains stabled at Old Oak Common will initially run from Paddington to Hayes and Harlington, with the Heathrow Connect trains continuing to operate to the airport. Testing continues to allow the new Elizabeth Line trains to be able to run into the Heathrow Airport.

Bombardier – which is building TfL’s 70-strong fleet of Elizabeth Lines trains – will operate the depot as part of a 32-yearlong construction and maintenance contract signed in 2014. Bombardier’s latest Automatic Vehicle Inspection System will increase reliability by scanning and analysing trains as they enter the depot, reducing the overall time needed for maintenance. Bombardier currently employs 80 staff at Old Oak Common, including eight apprentices who are critical to train testing and maintenance. This will increase to 110 staff by the summer, with an additional eight apprentices.

The new railway is jointly sponsored by the DfT and TfL with support from London’s business community. It will connect stations such as Paddington to Canary Wharf in only 17 minutes, transforming how Londoners and visitors move across the capital.

Much of the construction has now been complete as we enter the final stages of delivering London’s newest railway. This is no mean feat and brings together the complex challenge of getting all the infrastructure, new track, signalling and trains together. We will have an extensive period of testing and trial operations before the central section opens this December, with the Elizabeth Line then becoming fully operational at the end of 2019.


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