The rail industry is constantly evolving to keep pace with the demands on the network and the need to provide an efficient and reliable service to the customer. But, unlike many other industries, it doesn’t have a blank sheet of paper to work with. In many respects, it is the legacy of the rail infrastructure which provides the challenges which rail engineers find themselves working with today.
This is particularly apparent in the maintenance depots. An increasing work schedule is required on a daily basis using a site, equipment and technology which, while fit for purpose when it was designed decades ago, is now often outmoded.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges faced by maintenance depots is the cleaning of rolling stock. Having the ability to keep trains clean and well maintained is a given for most train operators but, behind the scenes, a lot of work goes on to ensure that the equipment being used is not only fit for purpose but also able to carry out the work in the most efficient manner possible.
Whilst each depot has a system in place to carry out this task, the on-going introduction of new rolling stock and its aerodynamic nature means that outdated equipment is no longer sufficient to meet the stringent requirements of the operators and Network Rail.
In theory, it should be as easy as installing a completely new system. However, budget constraints and the individual requirements of each depot mean that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution and this is one of the main reasons why a bespoke solution is fast becoming the system of choice.
For many people the words ‘bespoke solution’ instantly suggests that it will be expensive but, while this may be true in some cases, the beauty of a bespoke train wash system is that it is designed to fit in with all of the constraints of the depot – and that includes the budget.
Over the past few years, derby-based specialist Garrandale has worked with numerous depots and the success of each project has been as a result of introducing a modular train wash solution which is designed to suit the individual requirements of the location and the contours of a range of rolling stock profiles.
One of the main issues which depots face is the space that is available. Changes over the years mean that this is often not sufficient for the cleaning requirements of modern rolling stock. Nevertheless, it is all that the depot has to work with and therefore there is a need for a solution which meets today’s requirements within the space available.
The flexibility of a modular design takes this into account and allows for a number of configurations, which include cleaning with flails, brushes or a combination of both. Each bespoke system makes efficient use of the space available and can be configured to suit the requirements of the TOC including single or bi-directional washing, including skirts, eaves and roofs where applicable.
Also, and perhaps more importantly, a modular solution can be designed to suit the available budget. It is no great secret that budgets are continuously being cut for the installation of new equipment but whole life costs are increasingly becoming more important than initial purchase price.
Budget and available space are indeed two very important factors when looking at train wash systems. However, of equal importance is the issue of water recycling and treatment as this goes hand in hand with the ability to make cost savings. Recycling water in train wash systems can provide savings of up to 60%, but this can also raise the issue of environmental management that many depots are increasingly being called upon to address.
A good example of this was a system that Garrandale designed for a customer which needed to reduce the flow of water from its site into the local authority system. This is a common problem in many areas so an investigation was made into storing the water so that it could be discharged over a period of time. This led to the development of a water recycling system which, through the installation of a series of filters, could clean the water that was being stored ready for it to be re-used in the cleaning process.
The result is that the entire cleaning cycle is now carried out in three stages. The first, which includes the application of the detergent, uses fresh water. The recycled water is then used in stage two for rinsing away the detergent while the final rinse uses fresh water to ensure a streak free finish. Waste water is collected from the apron after every cleaning cycle, filtered and re-used providing significant savings over cleaning systems which use fresh water for every cycle by using less fresh water and reducing trade effluent.
Handling the waste water from train wash systems is not the only area coming under scrutiny these days. As a result of the evolution of rolling stock, the whole issue of fluids and fuels is seeing an increasing amount of investment. The main issue here is that in many cases the systems being used today were installed when the depot was first built and, as a result, they are no longer the most effective solution available.
The introduction of fuel dispensing solutions is just one example and these can range from a basic manual system through to a fully- automated one with multiple dispensing points complete with data monitoring and logging.
Another good example of fluid handling is the safe, hygienic and efficient emptying of CETs (controlled emission toilets) because, as technology has changed, so too has the requirement for an effective solution. Bringing everything up to date is not as difficult or as expensive as it sounds. There are numerous options which range from simple hose systems right through to a single heated cabinet offering both manual and fully automatic systems.
All of these solutions can be configured to suit the individual requirements of the train operator while taking into account the CET technology, the amount of space available and the degree of automation required at each depot. An additional benefit of these bespoke solutions is that they also address the issue of tripping hazards on CET servicing aprons through new techniques such as a suspended hose system which works by automatically retracting the suction hose after use.
Address the future
Providing the rail industry with the necessary infrastructure to continuously evolve requires the ability to deliver the optimum solution. To do this, engineers need to embrace the challenges and come up with solutions which meet the needs of the future.
Depot equipment is just one area where this is taking place but there is also a realisation that cutting costs does not necessarily mean cutting corners. In fact, quite the opposite – modern engineering practices are allowing train operators to meet maintenance requirements whilst achieving the necessary standards of cleanliness that will increase their scores on the National Passenger Surveys.
Andy Coles is sales and marketing director of Garrandale Ltd.