A NEW train lifting facility has been installed at a rail depot in Clacton despite the Coronavirus lockdown almost throwing the project into jeopardy.

It means the Greater Anglia depot can now accommodate the operator’s fleet of Stadler bi-mode trains.

The work to install four additional lifting jacks to work alongside the existing 16 has seen the entire train lifting facility redeveloped, the biggest project undertaken at the depot in years.

The depot can now lift the new trains – which operate across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire – in order to get underneath them to repair or change the wheels and carry out other work.

Additional jacks were needed to increase the maximum weight that the train lift could accommodate – as the new Stadler bi-mode trains are heavier than the old trains.

The project saw four 18-tonne Mechan jacks installed alongside the existing 16 Sefac 15-tonne jacks.

This involved a complete rewiring of the system and a new control network.

The addition of four higher capacity Mechan jacks and the increased length of the new train meant the entire floor – the length of four train carriages – had to be dug up, levelled and strengthened to meet tolerance requirements.

Steve Clarke, Greater Anglia’s Head of Program Safety and Assurance, said: “Working together with Sefac, Mechan and our colleagues at Clacton Depot we’ve created a very satisfactory solution to the problem of how to safely lift the new train fleet.

“The depot is now ready to accommodate the new bi-mode trains and play its part in ensuring that they continue to perform well, to improve reliability and punctuality for passengers in the region.”

Some of the equipment came from France, which went into lockdown earlier than the UK and it looked like the project would grind to a halt.

Greater Anglia entered into negotiations with the manufacturer and French civil servants and were able to find a solution which saw the vital machinery fitted in the depot.

Mechan’s engineering director Martin Berry said: “We were pleased to be able to provide Greater Anglia’s Clacton facility with four of our flagship lifting jacks to help ensure the facility is properly equipped to lift the new Stadler trains.

"The railway is constantly developing, and it is great to be a part of the futureproofing of facilities.

“For this project we had to modify our design to be able to work alongside the Sefac jacks.

"The motor and gearbox were modified to match the lifting speed of the current jacks, as well as a castor wheelbase arrangement to allow the movement of the jacks around the depot.

"Working alongside Sefac to enable both sets of jacks to lift together has been a successful collaboration.”

Sefac director Vincent Jolliot added that “without the great support from Greater Anglia to organize the final test on site during lockdown and the full commitment of the Sefac French team, the success of the project would not have been so complete".

Clacton rail depot reopened ten years ago after being closed for a number of years.

It now employs 16 engineers as well as a production engineer, storeman and depot manager.