Posted on June 24, 2013 · Posted in Midlands

Midlands Area visits continue to be a source of interest and learning. Ten members and guests of the IRO visited the Siemens Kings Heath Traincare Facility in Northampton in June 2013. The party were welcomed and hosted by the Maintenance Manager Gordon Virgo.

The depot opened in June 2006 and employs about 150 people. It also houses the service headquarters of the company’s Rail Systems Division.In addition to the on-site staff a satellite facility is also based at Crewe and some staff are allocated to the Network Rail office in Birmingham as front-line problem solvers.

Over 70 trains are maintained and serviced on site, 67 of which are the fleet of London Midland-operated Siemens Desiro Class 350/1 and 350/2 which are based there. The daily availability requires 62 of these 67 units to be available and 5 out of 7 Class 321’s to be in service Monday to Friday, with 45 units available at the weekend. The teams upgraded the Class 350/1 fleet to run at 110mph from December 2012, the first train of its type to be certified to do so. The trains are owned by three different companies: Porterbrook, Angel Trains and Eversholt each of which presents unique problems for the depot management. A further ten Desiro Class 350/3 trains have been ordered by London Midland and will come in to service and be maintained in the depot in 2014.

The four maintenance teams based at the depot were named after local landmarks as a result of a competition which preceded their successful open day last year:
Team 1 – “Blisworth”, Team 2 – “Castle”, Team 3 – “Brampton” and Team 4 – “Ironstone”. They work a three-shift system over 363 days of the year. A number of apprentices are taken on every year. There are plans for a new training academy for rail on this site, in partnership with National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering.

The site has a bogie drop facility and a computer controlled wheel lathe capable of profiling four wheels at once. The stores allow for the drawing of tools and large items and are supported by an intelligent electronic locker system which houses some of the consumables and calibrated tools. This enables automatic control of the issue of these sensitive items and to record the consumption and re-ordering when stocks of consumables are low.

Cleanliness of the depot is immediately visible on arrival and is carried throughout the working area. Production Teams are encouraged to hand over a clean workspace to the following shift. Contractors carry out internal train cleaning and the site has an external train washing facility which is eco-friendly and re-cycles about 80% of the water used.

Elsewhere in the depot, energy efficiency is included in areas like the pit lighting which is controlled on entry by a push-button which lights only half of the pit for a pre-set time. This control is repeated along the rest of the pits.

Gordon Virgo was heavily involved during the construction of the site and, therefore, has an intimate and extensive knowledge of the working of the whole site as well as managing the facility.