The Anonymous Widower

Gibbs Report – Depot Issues

The Gibbs Report, looks in detail at GTR’s depot capacity and especially the stabling for Thameslink.

The section on depots starts like this.

The way in which the train fleet has expanded in recent years has resulted in a shortage of stabling facilities. New facilities have been located away from train crew depots (e.g. Hove from Brighton) and are less efficient, involving driver time in taxis. Siemens new depot at Three Bridges is now the main centre for the Thameslink fleet, and overall the depot capacity on Southern is just about sufficient from what I have seen, although it is inflexible and inefficient.

It then goes on to list problems at specific locations.

Ashford

Perhaps the late choice of Maidstone East station, as a terminus, has meant that a site hasn’t really been found for a depot at Ashford.

Bedford

The depot is unsuitable for 12-car fixed formation Class 700 trains, which block the entrance.

Cambridge

The facility is currently unsuitable for 12 car fixed formation trains and the current trains have to be uncoupled to be accommodated.

North Kent

The original plan was to increase stabling facilities at Slade Green, but this has now been established to cost £72m and too expensive. An alternative is urgently needed.

The report sums up the depot issues like this.

All of the above issues need to be finalised before the driver recruitment plans can be commenced, as the driver recruitment strategy must be decided around the stabling locations of the trains, and driver depot facilities, including parking, must be included in the scheme
implementation.

It also goes on to say, that more trains may need to be ordered to increase capacity on the Brighton Main Line and that a new depot will be needed.

Bombardier’s Class 345 Trains For Crossrail

Before I add my fourpennyworth on depot issues, I will look at some of the features of Bombardier’s Class 345 trains.

All Trains Are The Same Length

It is intended that all trains will be the same nine-car length, although at the present time, the trains under test in East London are a couple of cars short of a full train.

This is mainly because the platforms in Liverpool Street, are not long enough for a full train and won’t be lengthened until a year or so.

I suspect too, it enables Bombardier to build the trains in a more efficient manner and test out each type of coach fully.

One of the advantages in having all trains of the same length, is that you maximise the capacity in a depot and as on both routes, the manufacturer pays for the main depots, a correctly-sized depot will reduce costs.

Note that Thameslink’s main depots don’t seem to have issues, so can we assume they were well-designed?

The Class 345 Trains Have No Toilets

There was a bit of a fuss, when this was announced, as I wrote about  in Do Crossrail Trains Need Toilets?.

But given that many Crossrail stations have toilets on the platforms and trains are every ten minutes, no toilets on the train gives advantages.

  • There is no toilet on the train that needs regular cleaning and fails occasionally.
  • Overnight servicing of the train does not need the toilet to be emptied.

I also suspect that the modular nature of the Class 345 train would allow one to be fitted if required.

Class 345 Trains Are Designed For Remote Wake-Up

Remote wake-up is detailed in this snippet from an article in the Derby Telegraph

Unlike today’s commuter trains, Aventra can shut down fully at night and can be “woken up” by remote control before the driver arrives for the first shift.

So could we see a train parked up at night in the sidings at the end of the line, after forming the last train from London? The train would then call home and report any problems, which would be sorted if needed, by perhaps a local or mobile servicing team. In the morning, the driver would turn up and find that the train was warm and ready to form the first train of the day up to London.

So imagine a Class 345 train finishes its last journey of the day in a platform at Shenfield station or a convenient stabling siding.

  • The driver checks the train for sleeping bankers, locks up and goes home.
  • The train reports to Ilford, that a couple of light bulbs have failed.
  • The servicing and cleaning team arrive and get the train pristine for the morning.
  • The train shuts down fully and all power is switched off to the overhead wires, so trespassers won’t be electrocuted.
  • At an appropriate time, the train is signalled to come to life and warms up ready for the day, using battery power.
  • The driver arrives and when signalled joins the main line, raises the pantograph and takes the train on its way.

When I once described this process to a driver from Northern going to pick up a Class 156 train in Halifax, he had a big smile.

In some ways, it’s a bit like parking your car out on the street.

  • Except that for trains, you need a convenient piece of track.
  • As power will be needed to warm the train up in the morning and you don’t want 25 KVAC  live wires about, the only source of power possible is a battery.
  • If the train had a toilet, it would be a more complicated process.

What will the devious Derbians think of next?

Solving GTR’s Depot Problems

In my view there is one big difference between Thameslink and Crossrail.

With Crossrail, which was in part a new railway line, every component was designed so it fitted together like a giant three-dimensional jigsaw.

But Thameslink was designed by different teams over a series of decades.

As we can’t go back to square one on Thameslink we have to make the best of what we’ve been left with.

Bombardier’s remote wake-up concept is a straight steal from some upmarket road vehicles, so why haven’t Siemens stolen it? Especially, as the Derby Telegraph article dates from June 2011. Perhaps, their press cuttings agency doesn’t read that newspaper?

If they had developed the technology, it would certainly help with remote stabling of trains, as you can have a much simpler facility.

The Problem Of Cambridge

I discuss this in Cambridge Depot

The Problem Of North Kent

Chris Gibbs suggest creating a new depot at Hoo Junction, which I discuss in Hoo Junction Depot

Thameslink’s Mixed Length Fleet

Thameslink also have a curious mix of eight-car and twelve-car trains, whereas Crossrail have sensibly opted for a common length, which as I said, must be much easier to store.

Intriguingly, both Greater Anglia and South Western Railway have ordered mixed fleets of five and ten-car Aventras. But most six-year-olds can tell you that 5+5=10.

The decision to buy a mixed length fleet of twelve and eight-car trains for Thameslink has caused a lot of these depot and a few other problems.

I wrote more about the problem in Has Thameslink Got The Wrong Length Of Train?.

I think in the end, Thameslink will lengthen the eight-car trains to twelve-cars and then lengthen the short platforms on the Sutton loop Line and a few other places.

This would create sixteen per-cent more capacity through the central tunnel, by making all trains twelve-cars.

But that is an expensive way to solve the problem created by not designing Thameslink as a continuous twelve-car railway.

Conclusion

It’s a bloody-great mess.

If you compare depot philosophies at  Crossrail, Greater Anglia and Thameslink, the first two companies seem to have developed a comprehensive purchase and maintenance solution for all their new trains, whereas Thameslink have worked on the basis that it will be alright in the end.

These factors don’t help Thameslink.

  • The choice of a mix of eight- and twelve-car trains.
  • The inability to join two short trains together to make a long train.
  • The design of a Class 700 train, which appears to be geared more towards a traditional depot.

I will be accused of being patriotic, but having ridden in both Class 700 and Class 345 trains, I’m coming to the conclusion, that Thameslink should have bought Aventras.

I would also have to ask, if Krefeld in Germany is a better place than Derby, for decision makers to visit.

July 8, 2017 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] Depot Issues […]

    Pingback by Reading The Gibbs Report « The Anonymous Widower | July 8, 2017 | Reply


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