The first of a new fleet of engineering trains, which Network Rail says will revolutionise its repair programme, will enter service next week.
The mobile maintenance trains (MMTs) provide a ‘workshop on wheels’ for engineers and track workers as they carry out repairs and upgrades, featuring an extendable covered work area that allows access to the track below, while providing floodlighting, protection from passing trains and shelter from the weather.
Each train will also have a workshop; two built-in two-tonne cranes to move heavy equipment; multiple electric, hydraulic and pneumatic power points; space to carry all the tools and supplies required and a welfare area with kitchen and toilet.
Network Rail says the MMTs should allow workers to work on a section of track without having to close the railway next to it, reducing the disruption caused by essential engineering work to Britain’s 20,000-mile rail network.
Neal Lawson, Network Rail’s maintenance director, said: “Many tasks on the railway can only be carried out when the railway is closed to traffic – but with passenger numbers growing and demand for freight increasing at record levels, the need to keep the railway open round-the-clock is greater than ever before.
“These new trains mean our frontline staff can complete a wide range of maintenance and repairs more quickly and efficiently, reducing the need for costly and disruptive closures of the tracks. They’ll also keep our people safe, warm and dry and better able to focus on getting the job done.”
By having a workshop that runs on the lines the engineers are repairing, they will be able to slowly creep along the track to make rolling repairs, and the maintenance teams can also be taken directly to the work site after boarding the MMT at a depot.
The work units of the MMTs, which are being manufactured by German railway construction expert Robel, also have adjustable side walls so the workspace can be increased if necessary.
Corey White, an MMT supervisor based in Darlington, said: “I’m lucky that I enjoy the job I do, but it can involve working in really tough conditions, a long way from shelter and simple comforts like a hot drink or a proper loo.
“These new trains will make a massive difference to my team. We can get on the train at the depot with all the kit we need for a job and head straight to site. My favourite feature is the all-round lighting, which means we get pretty much perfect working conditions whatever the weather or time of day.”
The MMTs will be delivered to Network Rail over the next 12 months and the fleet will be operated and maintained by Colas Rail under a three-year deal.
The first to arrive will be based in Darlington, while a second arriving next month will be based at Paddock Wood in Kent and the third arriving in December will be based at Derby. The remaining five will be stationed at Woking, Retford, Romford, Peterborough and Horsham.