Alstom Train Care
I have been very lucky to visit one of the largest Alstom depots, where maintenance and servicing is carried out on the class 175 fleet and review it for CLIC.
On Friday 4 November 2011, myself and a fellow member of Young Flintshire very excitedly arrived at Chester train station around 10am.
We waited till about half past ten before we headed over to the Depot.
Nervously, we waited in the waiting room, not knowing what to expect until we were met by the health and safety officer, who was a really nice gentleman. We shook his hand and got taken up in to a briefing room. I was really excited at this point.
We were taken up the stairs where we were faced with bright images of the depot or pictures of 175s along the North Wales coast in Arriva livery. We sat around a table where we were given a safety briefing and shown the timeline of how Alstom has developed throughout the years and where they are now.
During this timeline I learnt some very interesting facts, not just about our birthplace but also about Arriva and Alstom. Just thinking that the site of Chester depot used to be a steam shed for Great Western Railway makes me feel that this heritage will always remain part of history.
However, in 1960 the sheds were converted into a diesel depot and was home to approximately 100 units used throughout North Wales. In 1997 the previous depot was closed and Railtrack awarded the contract for a new depot to be built. The old depot was demolished and a new depot was completed in December of 1999.
The trains were ordered in 1996 and the purpose of Alstom Train Care, as it is now known, was to house the new railcars. Alstom produced two versions of the Coradia 1000 a 100mph and a 125mph version.
The 125mph version was to go down south but until then the 100mph version soon to be the 175s would take control of the Blackpool journeys until the 185 units were manufactured. The first unit to be tested was back in October of 1999 where 175101 was being trialed at Kidderminster.
But the first unit to arrive at Chester was 175003 on Christmas Eve 1999 which had undergone vigorous testing at the Severn Valley Railway to help modify the train for efficient running. As time passed more units arrived at Alstom and the depot found it more productive to employ their own drivers to shunt railcars.
In 2000 Alstom was awarded the maintenance contract from Angel Trains and took control on the 3 January 2000. However in 2003 First North Western trains ceased to exist and Arriva Trains Wales leased the fleet from Angel Trains. In 2005 Arriva had delivered its first 175 in Arriva Trains livery.
After listening to the timeline, we got our personal protective equipment and headed for our tour around the depot. We went back downstairs and saw that there is a great level of health and safety in place to keep the Alstom staff safe.
Also, we saw how many ways that Alstom measure their targets and how they achieve customer satisfaction. One method was the SQCD board which measures safety, quality, cost and delivery. This helps keep an efficient service running and is reviewed when handing over to a night shift or day shift.
On the workshop floor we first took a look around a 175 which was undergoing an engine overhaul. Being a three-car unit, this takes almost a week to complete. Any worn parts are replaced and any required servicing is done whilst they give it a thorough deep clean.
We then saw how the jacks are able to lift a three-car unit all in one go. But the most amazing thing I saw was the bogie drop, how it removes bogies, and brings the removed bogies on to another track to change a wheel set.
Maximising trains and how they run has also become a great challenge for Alstom as now 175008 is being trialled with cast iron split brake discs rather than conventional discs. The advantage with cast iron discs is they last a great deal longer. Alstom are trying to achieve one million miles out of the wheels fitted to this unit.
We then saw two trains on an A exam, which tests pressure, doors and safety within the trains. We also saw the wash plants, which enables a 175 to be washed and dried to a temperature of minus ten degrees. This prevents frost appearing on trains after being washed and stabled overnight.
The fuel road amazed me, with how much fuel could be carried on board a 175. In terms of wastage and disposal of fuel, the depot is based on a large drip tray, and Alstom is rarely emptied as all fuel or oil spillages are dealt with in the necessary way.
We then headed back upstairs into our meeting room for a debrief before we ended our tour. We ended by meeting the depot manager. We found out how much effort goes on behind the steel doors to help keep Arriva Trains Wales running.
This helps us to commute to training, interviews on time or even do daily tasks like shopping. Although being a great engineering fan and a previous engineer, it was excellent to see the technology Alstom have got. It just shows the upsides to transport and how exciting it is to take the train and how much history ther is in Wales and England with our railway links.
I’d like to thank everyone that has been involved in helping to arrange the tour and show us around the depot. Lastly I would also like to thank everyone who has been behind the scenes to help us with our review.