Vehicle information systems using mobile phone technology provide real-time tracking of equipment condition and help to optimise fleet availability

AS TRAIN operators concentrate their resources on the provision of safe, efficient and reliable services, there has been an increased role for manufacturers and service specialists to provide maintenance support. Requirements may vary significantly, from total fleet maintenance where the contractor takes responsibility for vehicle availability, to refurbishment, re-engineering and overhaul of systems and components, or bespoke materials and logistics programmes.

Train operators are increasingly recognising the merit of linking maintenance to the original equipment manufacturer, and Bombardier is providing maintenance support for many of its own vehicles. Bombardier's dedicated Services division now has around 5000 employees worldwide, supporting over 7000 vehicles in 20 countries, and supplying over 50000 parts a year.

In Sweden, Bombardier has contracts to support the maintenance of EMU fleets owned or operated by SJ AB, Storstockholms Lokaltrafik, Transitio and X-trafik. Bombardier has recently won a contract from SJ for heavy maintenance of 16 locos, nine EMUs and components including bogies and traction motors, which will be carried out at Västerås over the next two years.

In 2004, a consortium of Talgo and Bombardier was awarded a contract for maintenance of Renfe's 16 AVE 102 high speed trains for a period of 14 years from their entry into service. Using Renfe facilities at Madrid and Barcelona, the consortium will maintain the 32 lightweight power cars manufactured by Bombardier, including all electrical equipment, propulsion systems and bogies. Bombardier already supports Renfe's Class 446 suburban EMUs. The company also maintains the Strasbourg LRV fleet in France, and the locomotives for Italian open access operator RTC.

In Germany, Bombardier provides complete fleet maintenance support for vehicles owned by Landesverkehrsgesellschaft Niedersachsen and operated by Metronom. The comprehensive contract covers full preventive and corrective maintenance for 15 years, excluding operating faults, accidents and vandalism. The first contract covers 10 electric locomotives, 56 double-deck coaches, and 10 driving cars. A second contract from LVNG is due to start this year, adding a further eight Class 146.1 locos, 32 more double-deck coaches and eight driving cars.

The vehicles are maintained at a purpose-built workshop in Uelzen, using staff provided by Ost-Hannoversche Eisenbahnen. The Maximo maintenance management system is used to log faults and maintenance activities, assisting in material planning, configuration management, corrective and preventive maintenance. Staff are equipped with handheld pocket PCs providing them with a task checklist; information is transferred to and from the Maximo database using a docking station.

In the UK, Bombardier has contracts with c2c, South Eastern Trains, Southern and One. Fleet maintenance support is also provided for Croydon Tramlink and Nottingham Express Transit. In addition, Bombardier has been awarded contracts from Metronet for support of 2200 London Underground vehicles.

Vehicle information system

In conjunction with the contracts to supply 700 new Electrostar EMU cars for Govia's Southern franchise, Bombardier received a £282m contract to support the maintenance and servicing of the vehicles for 20 years. The technical support contract covers the provision of Bombardier staff at Selhurst and Brighton depots together with a materials supply agreement.

The technical sophistication of new rolling stock inevitably results in increased complexity for maintenance support. To facilitate proactive maintenance management, the Southern Electrostar fleet is fitted with Bombardier's Vehicle Information system to collect and analyse live and historical vehicle data. Live data is transferred via a mobile phone network to a centralised database, whose records can then be viewed and analysed by depot staff using the internet.

Having accurate real-time information on the condition of a vehicle means that it is possible to obtain advance warning of potentially critical failures, or immediate notification of equipment problems. One option allows immediate reporting of selected events via SMS text message or e-mail.

Use of VI means that the operator can optimise maintenance scheduling and improve reliability, leading to better vehicle availability and a reduction in unplanned repairs. In addition to supplying and fitting the hardware, Bombardier can provide technical staff in the depots to sort and interpret the data.

VI has also been fitted to other Bombardier-built trains in the UK, including the Turbostar DMUs supplied to Anglia Railways (now part of the One franchise). It can also be retrofitted to older vehicles.

Total service provision

As well as maintenance support, Bombardier is involved in total service provision, with a contract to supply, service and maintain 78 Voyager and Super-Voyager trainsets for Virgin CrossCountry until March 2012. The fleet is based at Central Rivers depot at Barton-under-Needwood, near Burton-on-Trent, purpose-built at a cost of €45m and creating 350 jobs (RG 12.01 p857).

The total fleet maintenance package includes servicing, cleaning and minor repairs at depots based throughout the UK, as well as maintenance and heavy overhaul. Bombardier must ensure sufficient availability to meet the operator's service diagrams. Each day, 70 units are needed to operate 89600train-km and carry an average of 50000 passengers.

With a limit of 2 to 3min delay limit for each of the 70 diagrams, reliability is crucial. Central Rivers is the core location for Voyager maintenance, and performs 99% of scheduled maintenance, including all component exchange overhauls. Overnight servicing is also carried out here, supported by 12 outstations. Up to 80% of corrective maintenance is also carried out at Central Rivers, which acts as the main distribution centre for parts and materials.

Important to the success of the contract has been the development of a Visual Fleet Management Centre, mirroring best practice in the automotive industry. Staffed 24 h a day, seven days a week, the centre provides real-time fleet status, tracking and monitoring the condition of both operational and passenger-focused equipment.

The list of systems monitored ranges from AWS/TPWS through wheel and engine condition to the toilets, catering equipment, air-conditioning, seat reservations, information displays and lighting. By tracking the vehicle maintenance plan, the centre can integrate additional activities and provide accurate forecasting of fleet availability.

  • CAPTION: Electrostar EMUs operated by GOVIA's Southern franchise are fitted with Bombardier's Vehicle Information system which transfers data via a mobile phone network to a centralised database, allowing records to be accessed via the internet
  • CAPTION: Bombardier is providing fleet maintenance support over 15 years for double-deck push-pull trainsets operated by Metronom for Landesverkehrsgesellschaft Niedersachsen
  • CAPTION: Virgin CrossCountry's 78-strong Voyager DEMU fleet is maintained at Bombardier's CentralRivers depot under a total train service provision agreement

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