The introduction of Virgin’s new 11-car Pendolino trains into service on Thursday 5 April has given some much-needed extra capacity on the West Coast Main Line.

However, it also presented a few problems to the maintenance team at the Alstom Transport Traincare Centre in Longsight near Manchester. They needed to be able to lift a complete 11-car train up into the air to work underneath.

After considering systems from around the world, Virgin invited Mechan, the Sheffield-based rail maintenance equipment specialist, to install the largest single system of lifting jacks in the UK. A completely new version of Mechan’s Microlink jack control system was developed to operate the 44 jacks.

Richard Carr, Mechan’s managing director, said:

“It has taken seven months to develop the Microlink software that will lift such a large network without losing the flexibility and synchronicity for which the system is renowned and we are very pleased with the results.”

The patented Microlink jack control system enables a network of jacks to be operated from anywhere in the chain via a single cable. This latest phase of development has increased the system’s capacity and seen the addition of a touch screen panel that provides the user with constant feedback during the maintenance process.

Dave Walton, Alstom’s senior site services manager, said:

“The brief for this project was very specific and a number of factors had to be taken into account, not least the size of the system required and the depot layout.

“Mechan provided us with a very competitive solution that offered the right balance of engineering expertise and progressive technology. This, combined with the firm’s reputation for excellent after sales care, sealed the deal. Installation of the jacks was completed on time and within budget and we are looking forward to fully utilising the system in the months to come as the 11 car project progresses.”

Three new 11-car Pendolino trains are currently in service. The fourth and last new train will be delivered from Alstom’s Italian factory in May, meanwhile 62 new carriages are being delivered to convert existing 9-car sets to 11-car. Those new jacks will come in useful!