As in most industries, the success of railway engineering projects is built on the relationships between the different contractors and suppliers involved. To achieve the required level of quality sometimes involves going the extra mile – or, in the case of Banbury depot, several hundred miles.

A brand new light maintenance depot for Chiltern Railways is being built just south of Banbury, as part of Network Rail’s infrastructure upgrade around the town.

The site is south of Banbury station and was formerly occupied by a British Rail engine shed, which ceased operation in the 1960s and was demolished in the 1970s.

In February 2015, Cherwell District Council approved a formal planning application from Network Rail and Chiltern Railways to bring the former British Rail site in Banbury back into use after almost 50 years.

The depot will accommodate up to 58 rail vehicles along with up to four Network Rail track maintenance vehicles. It will be used for stabling and maintenance, including routine servicing, cleaning and fuelling, with most of this taking place overnight. However, the site will operate 24 hours a day, with work in the daytime hours concentrating on routine maintenance and urgent repair work.

 

Anglo-German cooperation

Fenix Signalling has supplied the new depot’s signalling control system, handling the design, installation, testing and commissioning in conjunction with Pintsch Tiefenbach, a company that provides depot signalling and control systems, based in Sprockhövel, Germany.

Following his return to Fenix as managing director, Craig Purcell has fostered a relationship with the German manufacturer and has sent engineers from Fenix’s Warwickshire base to Germany on a number of occasions to receive training in the application of Pintsch Tiefenbach’s products.

Fenix’s managing director Craig Purcell

The project at Banbury depot called for innovative and cost-efficient engineering options through electrical and electronic components, subsystems and systems for the control, safety and automation of the track system in guided traffic. For Pintsch Tiefenbach, this was the first instance of the company providing a technical interface to Network Rail systems – its current installations elsewhere in the UK, including those at Wembley and Central Rivers depots, are limited to an operational interface only.

Fenix’s work included the innovative PITB points system. The design has an interface with the Network Rail main line, which was commissioned at the end of a nine-day blockade from 30 July to 8 August 2016.

During this time, the project proved to be both interesting and challenging as it required detailed consultation and discussions with all the disciplines involved, including track, telecoms, civils, buildings and M&E – not to mention environmental considerations in the handling of rainwater and local wildlife.

This is the first time a technical interface to the main line signalling system has been provided, and is done via volts-free relay contacts. It has the potential to be a standard interface between electronic (SSI) depot and mainline signalling systems.

Following the completion of GRIP stages 4-5 (single option development and detailed design), engineers from Fenix made further trips to Pintsch Tiefenbach’s German-base to validate the factory-testing programme as well as strengthen the working relationship in preparation for system implementation in August of last year.

During the blockade in August, the points at the entrance to the depot were also installed, as well as two stop boards at the depot boundaries. The testers worked in the late-summer sunshine to install the points machine with a Pintsch Tiefenbach points fitter. It took just 80 minutes to install in the four-foot, much quicker than any UK-type point machine as there was no drilling of the rail required to fit the lock and drive-rod connections.

Point machine with protectors.

In more detail

The Pintsch Tiefenbach signalling system uses WH90i point machines from fellow German manufacturer Wolber. Mounted in a distinctive yellow housing, the system is highly robust and, with an IP67 rating, is immersible in water and fully resistant to the dust and grime of the railway.

Although not usually a practice in the UK, the machines are trailable, meaning that a move through a set of trailing points set in the wrong position does not damage the machine. There is also only one cable required, unlike most UK mechanisms which require two, as the WH90i provides the 400V three-phase supply and also the detection in one cable.

Craig Purcell commented: “A lot of effort was made to tailor the depot signalling system to the needs of the operator and provide a flexible system whilst ensuring that the system delivered is easy to maintain and will be cost effective now and in the future.

“The depot signalling system specified enables the operator to deliver a more efficient movement of trains thanks to improved visibility/knowledge of train location and length (car counting function), powered point operation and automatic routing of trains via wayside signals. The car counting function is provided on stabling tracks and enables the operator to decide if another vehicle will fit into the same section.

“The depot signalling system will also improve safety by reducing the need for lineside working by hand-shunters.”

In the early hours of 18 December, the Fenix team completed the commissioning of the stabling stage, adding two new sidings and two new ends of points to power (including clipping and padlocking).

Going forward, Fenix Signalling and Pintsch Tiefenbach will be working together again on a number of new projects including Manningtree in Essex.