Rail Industry Focus


A depot for the future and centre for excellence

Source: RTM Dec/Jan 17

RTM’s David Stevenson reports from a recent visit to the modernised Hornsey traincare facility.

As you cross the footbridge at Hornsey station to go down to the traincare facility, it is impossible not to notice the vastness of the north London site. 

What’s even more impressive is how VolkerFitzpatrick, which was appointed by Siemens to design, build and commission the new maintenance depot at Hornsey, working alongside Network Rail and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), managed to deliver the complex work package in a live rail environment. 

The new facility is part of a £300m investment by Siemens that includes the Three Bridges depot, which opened in 2015 to service and currently maintain the Class 700 trains in operation on the Thameslink Brighton to Bedford route and Wimbledon Loop.

As well as creating a new state-of-the-art maintenance building, the project has significantly upgraded the existing Hornsey depot. And new mainline connections and integrated signalling systems, with movements monitored by CCTV in the control room, have been installed by Network Rail. 

The project, which has been four years in the making, also included upgrading and expanding the 15 stable sidings. The original depot only had one controlled emission toilet (CET) road, meaning that complicated shunting movements were required. This capacity has now been increased to eight CET roads. 

During our visit to the site, Matt Ghinn, construction manager at VolkerFitzpatrick, told us that one of the early key points to the construction was completing the north end connection. Reiterating the importance of this work, Nick Gray, Network Rail’s Thameslink programme sponsor, said: “Our role in this important work has been to do the connections and the works on the main line to make the depot work in its new format. 

“We have redone the connections into the depot, and there is now a new north facing exit. Part of the rationale behind this was to make life easier in the construction phase, but it also offers greater flexibility for the operator during normal service and when, unfortunately, there are issues.” 

Existing facility upgrades and fleet maintenance 

Over 200 GTR staff work at the original Hornsey building, maintaining a total of six classes of trains – 313, 317, 321, 319, 365 and 387. Going forward, Siemens will maintain the new Class 700 trains, which are due to enter service in this year, in the new three-road shed, located at the north end of the site. It will also maintain the Class 717 Moorgate trains, due to arrive in late 2018 for service in 2019. 

Speaking about the improvements at the existing maintenance facility, which is now fully signal controlled, Dave Poole, GTR depot manager at Hornsey, said the move to being a digitally-enabled depot has led to a number of safety gains and improved the efficiency of the site. 

He added that, over the last couple of years, a lot of work to overhaul line brakes, cam shafts, brake valves, and even fan motors for 365s has also been brought back in-house, allowing GTR to make significant savings. 

“We also now take stock in from other depots to do overhaul work,” he told RTM. One example Poole gave us was the saving with regards to cam shafts: “We used to send them off and that cost approximately £15,000-£20,000. We are now doing it in-house for about £3,000.” 

Over the last two years, a number of enhancements have also been made to the original depot, including a new control room, a second underframe cleaning facility and security upgrades. 

After being given a tour of the existing buildings, which will maintain the Class 387 EMUs GTR is introducing on its Great Northern route between London King’s Cross and Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn, the press delegation was taken up to the new facility.

Asked about the introduction of the new fleet, Gerry McFadden, GTR engineering director, said: “We have just taken out of service Class 321s. These are being replaced with the first phase of the Class 387s. 

“The second phase will come in Easter/May and they will replace the 317s. Later then, in 2017, the Class 700s will come over. Finally, in 2018-19, the Class 313 fleet will be being replaced by 717s. All of that is facilitated by the work provided here. 

“We will have the total replacement of 365s, but will keep 19 in the end. They will run Cambridge and Peterborough services. Nothing will be allowed through the central core without ETCS. 

“The 700s and 717s have been built with ETCS, and the 387s have been built with ETCs facilitation.  We are ready, on this part of the railway, for the next phase of digital railway.” 

Thameslink Hornsey Depot - aerial October 2016 (2) edit

A futuristic facility 

When arriving at the recently completed depot it was impossible not to notice the stark difference between the design and look of Siemens’s new facility, compared to the existing buildings on the site. 

In fact, when you entered the building, it felt almost like walking into a hospital operating theatre, with the brightness and cleanliness of the shed. However, as many joked, it won’t be long before this changes – you just wouldn’t want to be the first maintenance engineer to scratch or spill something. Another key difference was the length of the building as two Class 700s, one in 12-car formation, were on display for all to see.

As we made our way through the futuristic facility, and along the new lightweight Class 700s, we were able to see the new underframe cleaning facilities, two bogie drops and the depot personnel protection system. 

The new depot, which was completed on time and to budget, also features many environmental benefits, with a biomass boiler, rainwater harvesting and water recycling. There are also two carriage washing machines, one near the new depot and one adjacent to the existing site. 

Additionally, on the reception road for the Class 700 fleet, there is an automatic inspection facility, noted Ghinn. “It is a laser array,” he said. “So we take the measurements of the trains as they come in and flag up any maintenance that is required on those trains.” 

Discussing the lightweight trains, McFadden noted that the body shell design has been a big factor for the weight reduction. 

The other factor is the bogie, he said, as we have taken 1.5 tonnes out of each bogie on a motor car. The seats are also a huge weight saver and there was also a significant wiring reduction. 

“From an electrical and underframe point of view the units are symmetrical,” stated McFadden, adding that the universal toilet and the bike storage area is the only asymmetry on the trains. 

According to GTR’s engineering director, the new facility will support the biggest renewal in the history of this part of the Great Northern railway, “and create fabulous new journeys on to an expanded Thameslink network”. 

Asked about the progress of the Class 700s, he said that the trains are doing “remarkably well”, with only a couple of odd faults, including occasionally braking in neutral sections, which have now been rectified. 

“The new maintenance building at Hornsey is a crucial part of the government-sponsored Thameslink programme which will support the exciting new cross-London connections,” he added. “Built specifically for Siemens to maintain our new Class 700 Thameslink trains, the new building complements the improved existing depot where we care for the Great Northern fleet and together they create a centre of excellence in engineering.” 

Expanding on the centre of excellence point, it was announced that apprenticeship schemes will be run at Hornsey by both GTR and Siemens. Up to 20 apprentices will be trained at the facility each year in the maintenance and service of a range of trains. 

Discussing the overall work at Hornsey, Chris Evans, managing director for the civil engineering division at VolkerFitzpatrick, said he was very proud to “have safely delivered this flagship project in a challenging environment” for Siemens, after already completing Three Bridges depot for Thameslink back in 2015.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]



Huguenot   25/01/2017 at 20:27

It's all very well having flashy new trains and depot, but what about the passengers? The seats on the Class 700 are amongst the most uncomfortable on the network -- my local bus seats are better! The seats are hard and without spacers between seat pairs -- too close to the next passenger for comfort. What a let-down after the Class 37x and even the 365s. Cars -- the main competitor for rail -- are becoming ever more comfortable, yet rail passenger comfort is going backwards. I don't fancy a 2hr+ trip from Bedford to Brighton on one.

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