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Desiro UK demands a pit stop approach

01 Mar 2002

INTRO: As part of its £1·5bn contract to supply 785 Desiro UK EMU cars to South West Trains, Siemens will be responsible for maintenance of the fleet for 20 years under a complex performance regime. Key to this task will be a purpose-built maintenance depot now taking shape near Southampton

BYLINE: Neil Heaton

Maintenance Aftersales Manager,Siemens Transportation Systems UK

DECEMBER 10 2001 saw the formal groundbreaking ceremonies for the construction of a £25m EMU maintenance depot at Northam, near Southampton. Due to be operational by the end of this year, the depot will be responsible for servicing and maintaining the fleet of Desiro UK EMUs ordered last year by South West Trains.

To be known as Northam Traincare Facility, the depot is being built on Railtrack land by Fitzpatrick, with project management by Turner & Townsend. These two firms also built the facility at Old Oak Common in west London, where Siemens Transportation Systems maintains the Heathrow Express EMU fleet.

The Northam depot forms an integral part of the contract which Siemens signed with South West Trains, its parent Stagecoach, and rolling stock lessor Angel in April 2001. The deal covers the supply of 785 Desiro UK EMU cars of two main classes, plus options which could bring the total fleet to over 1200. More significantly, the contract with Stagecoach includes a 20-year full maintenance package requiring a significant improvement over current train performance.

A regime of bonuses and penalty payments will see Siemens sharing the pain if the trains do not deliver the required performance, but also sharing the benefits if the trains exceed their performance targets (right). To get the best from the fleet, Siemens is developing close partnerships, with the operator on one hand and with its principal sub-suppliers on the other.

The majority of the maintenance for the Class 450 and 444 fleets will take place at Northam. A rebuilt ex-BR depot at Strawberry Hill in southwest London will act as a satellite servicing depot for the inner-suburban operations.

Design for maintainability

Any maintenance strategy must, inevitably, be centred around the train itself. Desiro UK is an evolution of Siemens' European modular multiple-unit family. This offers a high degree of flexibility with regard to train configuration, performance, equipment and comfort. Since the concept was unveiled in 2000 (RG 8.00 p470), orders have been placed by Angel Trains, First Great Eastern and South West Trains (Table I).

When developing the Desiro UK, Siemens quickly recognised that Train Operating Companies were looking for long-term reliability and fully-integrated maintenance packages. In particular, TOCs needed trains that would work 'straight out of the box'. And once the trains are in traffic, the high levels of reliability and performance demanded from TOCs by the public and politicians are imposing commercial pressures to deliver the highest levels of fleet availability.

Consequently Siemens decided to offer Desiro UK with an inclusive 'Total Care' solution. The manufacturer will take full responsibility for the daily provision of the rolling stock, leaving the operators to concentrate on delivering a reliable, timetabled service to their passengers.

This package incorporated the experience that Siemens had built up in the UK, with its contracts for the maintenance of the Heathrow Express EMUs, the similar Class 333 units at Arriva Trains Northern, and the South Yorkshire Supertram fleet. Siemens has also been able to draw on experience with the introduction of new trains in diverse climates and countries around the world.

Integrated maintenance

Siemens recognises that maintenance is only one element in delivering a reliable service on a daily basis. Any maintenance strategy must be tailored to meet an operator's individual requirements - there is no 'one size fits all' bolt-on package. For the best performance, train maintenance must be seamlessly integrated into, and be indistinguishable from, the rest of the operator's organisation. Thus the vehicles, maintenance processes and depot facilities have been developed in parallel, to ensure the highest levels of performance.

The integrated maintenance strategy is intended to deliver: