Under the terms of a £1bn contract for a fleet of new tilting and non-tilting diesel multiple-units, Bombardier Transportation has taken over responsibility for maintenance of the entire Virgin CrossCountry fleet for the rest of the 15-year franchise to 2012

Mike YeomanVice-President, Bombardier Transportation Maintenance Services

ON DECEMBER 9 1998, after almost nine months of detailed negotiations, Bombardier Transportation's Atlantic Europe division was awarded a £1060m contract to design and supply 78 new diesel-electric multiple-units to operate the Virgin CrossCountry network. The geographically widest franchise operating on the Railtrack network, VCC provides inter-city services to virtually every part of Great Britain. The new trainsets - totalling 352 cars in three unit variants - will range from Penzance to Aberdeen and Glasgow to Brighton.

In addition, the contract covers maintenance services for the entire CrossCountry fleet, running through to the end of Virgin's franchise in 2012. This is a highly significant part of the package; the maintenance element is worth £670m compared with £390m for the capital cost of new trains. The agreement covers the existing rolling stock as well as the new, with responsibility for maintenance of 100 locomotives and 417 passenger vehicles transferred from Virgin to Bombardier on January 4 (Table I).

Bombardier envisages a substantial potential market in contract maintenance of rolling stock, and has recently established a new business unit known as Bombardier Transportation Maintenance Services to develop this market.

Bombardier intends to build on its existing manufacturing knowledge and integrate this into its maintenance planning to ensure that there are no unforeseen costs at a later date. BTMS will eventually offer a full range of maintenance services, including planning and implementation of strategic policies; development of manuals and procedures, day-to-day management, training, supply of labour and materials; and integration of system design.

Assuring continuous quality performance will require a thorough understanding of the vehicles, and the many processes involved in making a rail network run reliably, day in, day out. The maintenance contractor must work as a partner with the operator to understand its needs and then to custom design a maintenance and servicing package to meet those requirements.

To achieve this, BTMS will be recruiting highly skilled professionals able to form close working relationships with the customer teams to deliver an outstanding quality of service.

VCC as a prototype

The Virgin CrossCountry contract offers a valuable first step for BTMS to develop its maintenance strategies in a demanding hands-on application. Under the deal, BTMS takes over full responsibility for provision of the rolling stock, being contracted to supply sufficient trains to Virgin to meet the full timetable commitment.

BTMS must maintain and service the stock, and ensure that trains are supplied to Virgin at the starting station 20 min before advertised departure. This will include real-time fleet management, substituting sets in the event of failures, programming routine and emergency repairs, and balancing stock between depots to cover the timetable commitments.

BTMS has also committed to improve the overall performance of the existing VCC fleet, which is starting to show its age. We are planning to initiate a process of continual improvement for the stock in order to deliver the level of service which Virgin and its customers expect. We have identified four distinct phases in the contract:

  • to ensure a smooth seamless transition of maintenance responsibility from Virgin to Bombardier during 1999;
  • to enhance the reliability of the existing fleet, and improve its overall effectiveness between 1999 and 2001;
  • to influence the design of the new trains, so as to ensure the highest levels of reliability and cleanliness, consistent with operating cost efficiency;
  • to provide a smooth transition from existing to new trains in 2000-01 whilst continuing to meet Virgin's daily train service requirements.

After this, BTMS must continue to provide day-to-day maintenance of the new VCC fleet until the end of the Virgin contract in 2012.

Managing the business

BMTS has already recruited a team of maintenance specialists from around the railway industry, and formed a special-purpose subsidiary known as Crossfleet specifically to manage the VCC contract. Based in Wakefield, with offices in Derby and Birmingham, Crossfleet will combine existing Bombardier staff with BTMS new recruits and experienced staff transferred from Virgin.

The team which managed the VCC depot arrangements was transferred to Bombardier with effect from January 4 1999, under the terms of the British TUPE employment legislation. Whilst working for VCC, these staff have already made significant strides to increase service performance and to reduce costs.

The team has already been integrated within the Crossfleet organisation, enabling BTMS to draw on its hard-won expertise in continuing to maintain the existing fleet. We are also looking at the best way of integrating the staff into the transition process from old trains to new. They will initially be involved in developing the maintenance and depot strategy for the new stock, and then in establishing management and control procedures for day-to-day operation of the new fleet.

The CrossCountry business unit has spent several years rationalising the locations of maintenance facilities for its widely-ranging fleet, and we see no immediate reason for imposing fundamental change. Thus BTMS is aiming for evolution from the arrangements that Virgin had in place during 1998 and not revolution.

VCC does not have any depot facilities of its own. Fleet maintenance and servicing is currently sub-contracted to other train operators at 26 locations across the country, five of which carry out heavy planned maintenance. Crossfleet is therefore taking over all the existing Depot Access Agreements, and will work with the subcontractors to determine where further improvements can be made in maintenance processes.

To exemplify the improvement process:

  • a task group has been established with representatives from across the industry to improve radically the reliability of the motor-alternator system fitted to the VCC MkII fleet;
  • our technical team is forging ahead to improve the performance of HST engines and cooler groups;
  • the maintenance schedules for the HST trailers have been reorganised based on the results of a reliability-centred maintenance study.

Developing the new trains

Bombardier Transportation has already started work on designing the new fleet of 200 km/h diesel-electric multiple-units, which are being financed by GL RailLease, a joint venture of Lombard North Central and GATX Capital Corporation.

Initial proposals for a mixed fleet of DEMUs and locomotive-hauled push-pull trainsets were abandoned in favour of an homogenous fleet of DEMUs, as listed in Table I. The 40 five-car tilting and 34 non-tilting sets will operate the bulk of the VCC services, with the four 4-car units destined to replace High Speed Trains on Virgin West Coast's London - Holyhead service.

The units will be powered by 19litre Cummins QSK19R underfloor diesel engines rated at 750hp. This is a new derivative of an established engine well-proven in rail applications. Cummins had already received orders for 615 QSK19R, including some to power German Railway's latest VT612 tilting DEMUs of which the first was unveiled last November (RG 12.98 p878). The electric drives will be a version of the Alstom Onix traction package, which has already been selected for the Virgin West Coast fleet (right). Alstom has already started the process of obtaining a safety case for Onix under the complex Railtrack acceptance process.

The first non-tilting DEMU is scheduled for delivery by December 2000, enabling commissioning and driver training ahead of a service introduction with the May 2001 timetable. By that time around 12 sets should be available for use. Delivery of the tilting DEMUs will start in the summer of 2001 and run until July 2002.

Introduction of the DEMUs will be a crucial phase for Crossfleet. BTMS will have to support both the existing and new trains, and juggle the two fleets to ensure full availability. Our aim is to achieve a seamless transition over the two-year period in which the new trains are commissioned.

Work has already started on the development of a maintenance and servicing strategy for the new trains. Overnight and light servicing is expected to continue to be managed, as now, by the use of depot access agreements around the country to ensure safe, clean and reliable trains are provided on a daily basis.

A new depot will be built in the Birmingham area, under BTMS control, to carry out all preventative and heavy maintenance on the new DEMUs. Significantly, many of the train systems' manufacturers will be contracted to maintain their own equipment under performance and life-cycle cost guarantees.

It is our objective not only to satisfy Virgin CrossCountry, but also to build a reputation for Bombardier throughout the industry for providing trains for service, which exceed the customer's expectations consistently, day after day.

Bombardier Transportation recognises that the provision of maintenance services is a huge potential growth area, and its vision is to be a world-wide provider of quality, cost effective, light and heavy rail maintenance. BTMS is committed to working towards this goal, providing a world-class, value-for-money, maintenance management service.

  • CAPTION: Many Virgin CrossCountry services operating the Birmingham - Oxford - South Coast service comprise Mk II coaches hauled by Class 47 locos over 30 years old. Some coaches have been refurbished
  • CAPTION: The driving cars for the tilting and non-tilting DEMUs will be similar, but the tilting units will have longer bogies to accommodate the tilt equipment
  • CAPTION: Virgin operates an HST fleet on its prime CrossCountry route linking Newcastle to Birmingham and Bristol. A pool of three sets is used for VirginWest Coast's Holyhead service, but these are maintained by BTMS as part of the VCC contract

Table I. The CrossCountry fleets in profile

Existing fleet

28 Class 47 diesel locos (2580hp Co-Cos, built 1963-66)

16 Class 86 electric locos (3300hp Bo-Bos, built 1965-66)

193 MkII coaches built 1968-72

forming 25 seven-car sets for 145 and 160 km/h operation

57 Class 43 HST power cars (2250hp Bo-Bos built 1978-82)

199 MkIII HST trailer cars built 1978-82

forming 24 x 2+7 car and three 2+8 car 200 km/h HST sets

10 Class 158 DMU cars built 1990

forming 5 two-car sets

New fleet

40 x 5-car tilting DEMUs

4 x 4-car tilting DEMUs

34 x 4-car non-tilting DEMUs

Delivery starts December 2000

Delivery completed September 2002

Bodyshells Bombardier, Brugge and Manage

Bogies Bombardier, Crespin

Fit-out and assembly Bombardier, Wakefield

Diesel engine Cummins QSK19, 750hp

Traction package Alstom Onix

Upgrading to bring time savings

Virgin Trains is already discussing with Railtrack the scope for infrastructure improvements on its CrossCountry routes to exploit the performance of the 200 km/h tilting DEMUs. Subject to agreement with Railtrack, Virgin is forecasting potential journey time reductions for the summer 2003 timetable.

1998 2003 Saving

km min km/h min km/h %

Birmingham - Bristol 149·2 87 103 62 144·3 29

Birmingham - Manchester 132·7 96 82·7 76 104·6 17

Birmingham - Newcastle* 335·8 196 103 163 123·9 17

Birmingham - Edinburgh* 536·3 292 110·2 210 152·9 28

Birmingham - Reading# 159·3 110 86·9 74 128·7 33

* via Doncaster # via Birmingham International

West Coast Traincare takes over VWC fleet

RESPONSIBILITY for management and maintenance of the Virgin West Coast locomotive and rolling stock fleet passed to West Coast Traincare on February 27. WCTC has been formed as a subsidiary of the Alstom Transport - Fiat Ferroviaria joint venture which is to supply a new fleet of tilting trains to VWC under a £1·8bn contract similar to the VCC-Bombardier deal (RG 3.99 p142).

WCTC was set up in November 1998, giving three months to establish the structure necessary to take control of the existing ex-BR fleet (Table II). The company is headed by Ron Temple, who comes from Alstom Train Services which was set up to manage the privately-financed Train Service Provision contract on London Underground's Northern line.

Unlike VCC, Virgin WestCoast does have its own premises, and WCTC has taken charge of six depots and 690 front-line staff. WCTC is developing strategic roles for the depots at Willesden (locos, London), Wembley (coaches, London), Oxley (Wolverhampton), Longsight (Manchester), Edge Hill (Liverpool) and Polmadie (Glasgow). Redesignated as Traincare Centres, these will get enhanced maintenance and servicing facilities to meet the demands of a rigorous service delivery regime.

WCTC has already put in place a team of specialist engineers to analyse the performance of the existing West Coast fleet, which has been failing to meet the franchise reliability requirements by a significant margin. A series of initiatives will be implemented progressively to enhance reliability and availability of the fleet.

WCTC will also be providing input to the Alstom-Fiat design studio responsible for the development of the 54 eight and nine-car 240 km/h tilting EMUs which will take over West Coast services with the June 2002 timetable change. The transition from old to new stock is expected to be much shorter than for the VCC changeover, requiring WCTC to have the maintenance and service management structures for the new trains in place by the time the first pre-series set completes its trials in May 2001. n

Table II. The West Coast fleets in profile

Existing fleet

15 Class 90 electric locos (4400hp Bo-Bos, built 1991-92)

35 Class 87 electric locos (4400hp Bo-Bos, built 1973-74)

6 Class 86/2 electric locos (3300hp Bo-Bos, built 1965-66)

2 Class 47/7 diesel locos (2580hp Bo-Bos, built 1963-66)

135 MkIIe/f coaches built 1971-73 (refurbished)

281 MkIIIa/b coaches built 1972-87

57 MkIII driving van trailers built 1989-91

forming 23 nine-car and 8 ten-car MkIII push-pull trainsets (including DVTs), plus 16 ten-car and one 9-car MkII sets with MkIII buffet cars and DVTs

7 Class 43 HST power cars (2250hp Bo-Bos, built 1978-82)

24 MkIII HST trailer cars (built 1978-82)

formed as 3 x 2+8 car 200 km/h HST sets; included in Virgin CrossCountry train fleet maintained by Bombardier (Table I)

New fleet

1 x 8-car tilting EMU (pre-series)

9 x 9-car tilting EMUs

44 x 8-car tilting EMUs

Pre-series train delivered June 2000

Series deliveries begin May 2001

Delivery completed June 2002

Bodyshells Fiat, Pistoia

Bogies Alstom, Le Creusot

Fit-out and assembly Alstom, Birmingham

Traction package Alstom Onix