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Desiro UK gets service for life

01 Mar 2005

INTRO: Over the past eight years, Siemens has built up an extensive maintenance operation in the UK, opening new depots based on 'pit-stop' principles

IN OCTOBER 2004, Siemens Transportation Systems was awarded a 19-year contract from BAA plc to maintain the Heathrow Express EMU fleet until 2023, together with a supplementary contract to maintain until 2006 the Desiro EMUs being built for the new Heathrow Connect service. The agreement includes an option to extend the contract for either of the two train types.

The follow-on contract builds on an earlier agreement under which Siemens has been responsible for maintaining the HEx fleet at Old Oak Common depot since 1997, achieving some of the best reliability for modern EMUs in the UK. The original contract was Siemens' first foothold in the UK market, from which its new autonomous Integrated Services business unit has expanded to cover almost 1000 vehicles. Siemens' maintenance philosophy is built around tailor-made maintenance models and new purpose-built depots.

One of the main requirements for train operators is high availability, which can be increased by shortening the time spent in depots through rapid servicing and fast fault rectification. Siemens developed a customised 'pit-stop' maintenance and servicing model that brings to rail the concepts used in motor racing.

The company's initial success at Heathrow Express led to the awarding in April 2001 of a contract to supply up to 1200 Desiro vehicles to South West Trains. Potentially worth up to €2·5bn, the deal included the provision of maintenance services over 20 years, accounting for around one-third of the total contract value. Following amendments to the contract, the SWT Desiro fleet finally comprises 110 four-car Class 450 sets and 45 five-car Class 444s for longer-distance routes.

Building on the experience gained at Old Oak Common, the purpose-built Northam depot in Southampton (RG 3.02 p147) was designed for rapid throughput, aided by the high degree of modularity in the Desiro units which facilitates component replacement. For example, if a drive unit develops a fault during a peak period, the assembly can be exchanged and the car returned to service within 2h.

Each EMU visits Northam once every three weeks, and the four maintenance tracks can accommodate up to eight units at a time, operating around the clock, seven days a week. All trains are equipped with transponders, and strategically-located readers keep track of where each unit is within the depot.

Under Siemens' Full Service Concept, the planning and execution of all maintenance activities is undertaken for a fixed price including the supply of spares and other materials. This approach keeps all risks involved with maintenance and depot personnel with the supplier, and gives the train operator a defined cost framework for the entire contract term. The manufacturer assumes responsibility for guaranteeing availability, planning and administration, and covers the costs of buying and stocking spare parts and replacement modules.

Siemens has also supplied 25 kV 50Hz Desiro EMUs for outer-suburban services from London Liverpool Street station to Essex and Suffolk. Owned by Angel Trains, these 21 Class 360 sets were originally ordered by FirstGroup for its Great Eastern franchise. As part of the transfer of FGE to National Express subsidiary One as part of the new Greater Anglia franchise from April 1 2004, Angel and One awarded a seven-year contract to Siemens in March 2004 covering maintenance of the 21 sets. The deal includes the option of a three-year extension or early termination when the franchise expires.

Greater Anglia is the first UK franchise contract incorporating more stringent requirements from the Strategic Rail Authority regarding train performance and cleanliness. The Class 360s are maintained at the existing One depot in Ilford by Siemens staff, in line with the Full Service concept. Siemens is responsible for planning and undertaking all maintenance activities, and for supplying all materials required. Great Eastern depot staff at Ilford were transferred to Siemens during the start-up phase.

At the end of 2003, the Integrated Services Division won a contract from the FirstGroup/Keolis consortium to maintain the Class 185 three-car DMUs that Siemens is building for the TransPennine Express franchise in northern England. Siemens will assume full responsibility for scheduled maintenance, refuelling and cleaning of the trains, including the supply of spares. Two new depots are to be built in Manchester and York and a refuelling depot in Cleethorpes, creating around 150 new jobs. The trains are scheduled to enter service next year, and preventive maintenance is to begin at the end of 2005. The service contract will run for six and a half years, with an option for a five-year extension.

Another Desiro servicing contract was signed in August 2004, covering 30 Class 350/1 dual-system EMUs transferred from the original SWT order to franchises on the West Coast Main Line. Including the construction of a new depot at Northampton, the Full Service contract runs for 20 years. The new depot able to accommodate up to 25 trains and employing more than 100 people is expected to open at the beginning of 2006.

Northampton will also operate on the pit-stop principle. Each of the five maintenance tracks will be equipped with a wheel lathe, lifting gear for attending to roof-mounted equipment and a controlled-emission toilet discharge system. The depot will also have a train washing plant and a bogie drop table able to replace bogies in less than 2h.

The close attention to servicing and easy maintainability for the Desiro family has helped Siemens to strengthen its presence in the UK market, where the company has won a quarter of all train orders placed since 1996. Welcoming the award of the new Heathrow Express maintenance agreement, the President of Siemens' Integrated Services Division Arne Kleversaat said 'the high degree to which our customer was satisfied with the maintenance work we have performed since 1997 was an important factor in their decision to renew the contract.'

CAPTION: Siemens' Northam depot near Southampton was purpose-built to maintain South West Trains' fleet of 155 Desiro UK EMUs

CAPTION: Track-mounted readers and transponders on the vehicles record the movement of trains around Northam depot, monitoring visits to the washing plant (left) and bogie drop (right)

CAPTION: For safety reasons, there is no 750 V DC third rail in the servicing building at Northam; trains are moved using an auxiliary supply or a diesel shunter