Since plans to significantly improve the railway at Reading were first launched in September 2008, The Rail Engineer has written a number of articles charting the progress that is being made. Many contracts have been let by Network Rail for this £895 million project and one of the many key milestones recently achieved is the construction of a £150 million, 6,500 square metre train care depot complex, to the north side of the railway.

This work was necessary because the existing train maintenance depot was sitting in the path of a proposed new eastern chord. This is needed to enable freight traffic from Southampton, which has increased in volume by 60%, to pass under the main lines and to continue through the station area without inconveniencing other trains.

BAM Nuttall was already on site developing the station complex and, to accelerate the programme, its team was invited by Network Rail to carry out extensive enabling works including drainage and ground works in preparation for the main contract work. To construct the new depot complex, a contract valued at £36 million was awarded to VolkerFitzpatrick.

Scope amended

Two weeks into that contract, the DfT amended the scope of work to include features required for the planned electrification of the Great Western main line route. James Corker, VolkerFitzpatrick’s project manager, explained that this amended approach increased the scope of the contract by approximately 20%. In addition, it had the potential to increase the time on site by about twelve months. There were clearly some significant challenges ahead for James and his team.

Jacobs Engineering completed the design of the new 210 metre long, 37 metre wide depot shed which included three light-maintenance through roads, together with a single-road heavy-maintenance shed designed to accommodate a 15 tonne gantry crane and 15 tonne Mechan jacks. VolkerFitzpatrick then began constructing the new depot in January 2011, which now included enhancements to allow for future stabling and servicing of electric trains, providing a capacity for 147 vehicles made up of a mixture of diesel and electric trains.

Congested site

The work started with the installation of 279 continuous flight augured piles of 450 to 600mm diameter in preparation for the construction of the main depot. As James explained, the site was very congested due to access demands for other contractors but they managed to complete associated drainage works including interceptors, pump chambers, soakaways and holding tanks as well as a fuel farm. Numerous under- track crossing and duct routes were constructed as well as a substation and troughing routes to complete the groundwork

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The complex also includes main stores, a workshop, plant rooms, signalling room, a three storey production management office with seventeen associated buildings with car parking space for thirty vehicles. There is also a myriad of additional buildings; water storage pump building, oil, coolant and fuel systems stores building, four substation buildings, incoming services building, security building, admin building, east & west cleaners accommodation, water storage building and a carriage wash plant room.

Equipped for electrification

The project also saw the first overhead wires installed for Network Rail’s £895 million Great Western Electrification Programme. More than 2000 metres of overhead line was installed on 211 head spans from the east sidings to the west sidings, along with depot ballasted track. The work incorporated overhead line electrification piling, the construction of the overhead line structures and bases and the installation of the wiring and associated bonding.

VolkerFitzpatrick became the principal contractor (PC) after BAM Nuttall had completed the initial enabling work. All the associated signalling work was carried out by Siemens with VolkerFitzpatrick retaining the role of PC. However, the significant amount of ballasted trackwork required outside the depot buildings was installed by Carillion which became the PC whilst this work was in progress and then returned the role to VolkerFitzpatrick. Quite a challenging set of arrangements for the project manager and one can only imagine the paperwork involved.

A smart safety system

As those readers who have worked in train depots know, although trains move around at very low speeds their movement can be insidious and therefore potentially very dangerous. To minimise this risk, VolkerFitzpatrick procured the services of Zonegreen, a Sheffield based company to install its SMART Depot Personnel Protection System (DPPS) designed to control the movement of trains and safeguard staff working in the depot environment. James described the system as the “most advanced of depot protection systems”.

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This intelligent control network has been fitted to all lines throughout the depot. The system allows vehicles at Reading to be moved in and out of maintenance areas quickly and efficiently without endangering employees working in the vicinity. The system has ensured that the depot has adequate capacity not only to service current diesel trains but also the new electric vehicles set to replace the Great Western Main Line fleet in 2017.

Improving depot efficiency

The innovative software provides a complete overview of the depot on a plasma screen from the supervisor’s office, considerably increasing depot efficiency by monitoring, planning and analysing data. It can also be linked to other equipment, such as lifting jacks, bogie drops, train identity readers, train washes and wheel lathes.

Using a convenient Windows format, the Depot Manager software can be configured to carry out the following operations:

    • Display the location of personnel
    • Record all aspects of depot protection
    • Display status of plant and equipment
    • Identify vehicles when used in conjunction with Zonegreen’s train identity system.

The system displays the status of machinery on a large plan view of the depot and identifies the location of workers and their position on each road. Eventsare logged automatically, including user and vehicle movement. This gives accurate information that is readily accessible should an incident occur. Maintenance details are also recorded to create historic reports of operations which are invaluable when investigating downtime and the use of plant and equipment, road end control panels, train detection equipment, warning signals and personal data keys to protect staff and infrastructure in busy rail depots.

Tony Hague, Zonegreen’s managing director, explained that their depot protection system is renowned throughout the rail industry for its quality and proven reliability emphasising that they had worked closely with the team at Reading to integrate it into this highly complex development. Also, Tony was keen to point out that everyone involved in this work is pleased with how well it is performing. He also acknowledged that future upgrades were a key consideration throughout the design and construction phase stating that Zonegreen is confident that its technology will continue to keep the depot’s staff safe for many years to come.

Satisfying all needs

The system is clearly very important to the eventual lease holder First Great Western (FGW) and it featured prominently in the handover process. As James explained, the handover not only involved the end user but also the Route Asset Management team representing the owner Network Rail. Often there were two points of view that had to be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction and Zonegreen worked closely with VolkerFitzpatrick to resolve these issues to the satisfaction of the end user.

It is clear that James is very proud of the end result. Not only did VolkerFitzpatrick hand over the completed work without encroaching on the additional twelve months that could have been added to the contract but they completed 750,000 man-hours with only one minor RIDDOR reportable accident. They received 56 STAR awards through Network Rail’s award scheme, never failing an assessment, as well as two Platinum Badger

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Awards which is a scheme designed for the Reading project by Bill Henry, Network Rail’s project director. James was pleased to point out that to date no other contractor has received this prestigious accolade twice.

The Reading Festival site runs alongside the depot, so the site was closed down for the four day duration of the festival – probably a well earned rest for the workforce who were working shifts around the clock. The organisers of the festival took full advantage of the new train shed structure to project lighting and images onto the shed which then reflected back onto the festival crowd. Now it is a quiet field full of cows.

Collaborative working

Clearly this has been a very successful contract for all concerned. First Great Western has a state of the art depot, including the Zonegreen safety system, for maintaining its existing diesel fleet and for the electric train fleet of the future. Network Rail has a sustainably designed asset and VolkerFitzpatrick along with its supply chain has not only completed the building of a challenging depot complex but the team were awarded BS11000 certification for collaborative working on this project. This is something that James and his team must be particularly proud of.

No doubt, Network Rail’s operating team will also be pleased and relieved that yet another milestone has been achieved and the day when the old depot is demolished, the viaduct to carry the main line over the junction is completed and the new freight chord is introduced is now a step closer to reality.