INTRO: Now under construction east of Paris is the depot needed to maintain the TGV Est train fleet. Jean-Paul Masse visited the site

SITUATED 4 km from Paris Est station, SNCF’s Ourcq coach maintenance workshop provides an ideal location to maintain the trainsets for TGV Est Européen.

Currently used to service loco-hauled Corail rolling stock, the existing depot is sandwiched into a rather cramped site between the Paris - Strasbourg main line and the Canal de l’Ourcq. A €220m project to rebuild the facility to handle TGVs is now well in hand, with completion scheduled well ahead of the planned opening of the high speed line in June 2007.

The Ourcq site occupies 28ha, of which 19·5ha will be dedicated to the TGV workshops and 8·5ha to other stock allocated to SNCF’s Grandes Lignes business, notably the Corail sets, designated Trains Rapides Nationaux. The first signs of change at Ourcq were visible in July 2002, when TRN coach maintenance was reorganised as a prelude to creating the space needed for the TGV workshop.

Following a Europe-wide call for tenders, on February 13 2004 SNCF signed a €75m contract with Belgian civil engineering company Besix to build the complete TGV maintenance workshop. Besix, a subsidiary of Société Belge des Bétons, specialises in concrete structures such as Terminal E at Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport and the CBX office tower being built at La Défense west of Paris. The firm has overall responsibility for construction of the new depot, and has appointed about 30 subcontractors.

After just 10 weeks of planning, work began in June 2004, leaving Besix only 21 months for site clearance, excavation and building before the planned opening date in 2006. About 300 people are working on the new depot, with SNCF paying Besix up to €6m a month. Besix only has access to 12ha of the site, as the maintenance of Corail and night train stock must continue alongside construction work. Even with the new line open, the workshop will have to maintain 200 Corail coaches needed to serve destinations in eastern France not reached by TGVs.

The main TGV workshop will be 520m long by 105m wide, with a mixture of long and short roads occupying a total area of 54600m2. The three-storey building standing 14m high will also house offices and the TGV control centre (Octgv). Once it opens in January 2006, the depot will employ around 500 staff.

There will be four 400m long open-air tracks with inspection pits alongside the main building where TGVs can be tested on site before being dispatched into service. Of the 14 other parallel tracks, one will serve the wheel lathe, three will have jacks able to lift a complete TGV weighing 400 tonnes, and four will provide bogie storage.

Seven of the tracks will be spanned by an overhead travelling crane. Specialist train maintenance equipment, including a drop wheel lathe, is being procured directly by SNCF’s Rolling Stock Division.

International trains

From 2006 the workshop will start looking after the TGVs which will replace the Téoz and Corail trains serving much of eastern France in advance of the opening of the high speed line the following year. Ourcq will also maintain the TGVs that will be used for testing the new line.

A fleet of 51 POS (Paris - Ost Frankreich - Süd Deutschland) TGVs will provide services over the new line. They will be formed from newly-built multi-voltage power cars matched with sets of TGV Réseau trailer cars refurbished to designs by MBD Design and Christian Lacroix; new seats are being supplied by Compin.

In 1990 TGV trainsets ran an average of 238000 km per year, but this had increased to 435000 km by 2000. SNCF intends to increase utilisation still further, and the new workshop has been designed with more intensive maintenance in mind.

To enable trains to run through to Germany and Switzerland, the POS sets will be fitted with ZUB and Integra safety systems as well as magnetic rail brakes. Facilities to maintain these systems will be provided, and the workshop will also be equipped to maintain 15 kV 162/3Hz electrical equipment. This allows for the possibility of maintaining German ICE trainsets in the future.

Cleaning the trains is one of SNCF’s priorities, as a dirty train is unattractive to passengers, while dirt also causes equipment to deteriorate more rapidly. Interior cleaning will be carried out manually, but new train washers will be used to keep the exteriors in prime condition, with trains passing through the washer at least once a day. Lighting and seats will be checked every seven days. The air-conditioning equipment will be permanently monitored by an on-board computer, and if a problem occurs the trainset will receive immediate attention at Ourcq before returning to commercial service.

SNCF is conscious of the need to blend the workshops into the local urban environment, and the immediate surroundings will be filled with shrubs. With environmental concerns in mind, two waste water treatment systems will be built. One will clean waste water before releasing it into the general sewage network, and a second will recycle soapy water from the train washers to achieve a 50% reduction in water consumption.

The nearby canal and towpath are used for fishing, walking, cycling and pleasure boats, and to limit the nuisance which would be created by lorries in the local streets, four barges are being used to transport 35000 tonnes of material to and from the worksite each month.

CAPTION: At the moment Ourcq is a major construction site, but disturbance to local residents is being kept to a minimum as materials are being shipped to and from the site by barge on the Canal de l’Ourcq

CAPTION: Structures for the future Ourcq workshops east of Paris are rapidly taking shape. Main contractor Besix has a tight deadline to complete the facility by March 2006

CAPTION: The Ourcq site currently maintains loco-hauled Corail stock and sleeping cars; around 200 coaches will continue to be maintained after the TGV line opens