The Class 390 Alstom Pendolino trains are some of the fastest in the UK. Alstom’s Pendolino technology famously allows the trains to tilt, enabling them to go faster.
Running on the West Coast Main line, Virgin Trains’ fleet of Alstom Pendolino trains reach speeds of up to 200 km/h.
When you have assets this valuable, and capable of reaching such high speeds, maintenance is clearly of the utmost importance.
But before maintenance can even be carried out it is necessary to lift the train so that bogies, wheelsets and underfloor components can be inspected and reached. And when all 11-cars of a train need to be lifted at once, in perfect synchronicity, this is no small feat.
The engineering capability required to smoothly and safely lift an asset this size and this valuable is massive.
That’s why Alstom partnered with Mechan to provide a 44-jack system, capable of lifting their 11-car Pendolino trains, at the Alstom Transport Traincare Centre in Longsight, near Manchester.
Pulling off such a project requires an impressive level of technical ability, but the associated risks of lifting 600 tonnes of rolling stock are significant.
Firstly, there is the matter of safety. If you are going to have engineers working underneath 600 tonnes of metal, you need jacks that you can rely on absolutely.
Secondly, there is the economic risk. No railway company wants to risk having their multi-million pound assets damaged by unreliable equipment.
Safely lifting this much weight is a very complex engineering process, and not something you want to compromise on.
Mechan’s distinctive yellow jacks have been popping up at railway depots around the world over the last decade, as their tough, refined system has earned them an international reputation.
But the installation of a 44-jack system was the biggest that Mechan had ever undertaken. It took seven months to develop software that would lift such a large network without losing the flexibility and synchronicity for which their system is renowned.
The secret to lifting so many units, so reliably, comes in the form of Mechan’s patented Megalink technology, which allows a single operator to lift an almost unlimited number of units simultaneously.
By broadcasting the theoretical position of every jack at regular intervals, each unit can make speed adjustments so precise that they are undetectable to the eye, correcting any height deviations that could damage the train.
Dave Walton, Alstom’s senior site services manager, said: “The brief for this project was very specific and a number of factors had to be taken into account, not least the size of the system required and the depot layout. Mechan provided us with a very competitive solution that offered the right balance of engineering expertise and progressive technology. This, combined with the firm’s reputation for excellent after sales care, sealed the deal.”
Not just anyone can lift an 11-car train that weighs over 600 tonnes. It takes a combination of traditional engineering skills, along with innovative product design. And that is exactly why Mechan are winning contracts around the world, to provide jacks and other depot equipment to industry leading names like Siemens, Alstom, Bombardier, and Hitachi.
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