February 2012 in Train Operations
reporter is concerned that a fire exit at Bombardier's maintenance depot in Ilford is routinely blocked by trains being washed in adjacent sidings. Trains operated by both National Express East Anglia and Stansted Express are washed in these sidings.
In the event of a fire drill, staff should leave the depot by crossing the tracks and assembling in the car park. However, the fire exit is effectively blocked if a train is parked on the crossing. This crossing is used by staff and delivery vehicles - they would not be able to evacuate via this exit in the event of a real fire. Emergency services would also find their access obstructed. This matter has already been raised with the Train Operating Companies concerned who simply state that the trains could be quickly moved in an emergency. However, the reporter believes this still poses a safety risk.
Trains are parked on the crossing to avoid a segment of the train still being in the washer, consequently triggering the machine's wash action. If trains pass over the crossing they are on the Main Line so there isn't anywhere else for them to go. The reporter suggests fitting a 'stop' button on the washer to allow the train to be backed up away from the fire exit and crossing.
The reporter would like National Express East Anglia to:
Response from National Express East Anglia
National Express East Anglia (NXEA) would like to thank the reporter for raising their concerns.
This concern is not new as the depot follows a complex design that has to cater for an operating siding with both level 4 and level 5 maintenance facilities. Both NXEA and Bombardier have previously discussed this issue to establish a suitable resolution to reduce the risks.
Upon investigation it was identified that this issue of concern has only recently reoccurred due to the installation of a new washing plant in the operating sidings that is used for exterior train cleaning by NXEA. This issue was considered as part of the wash plant project and was not considered to be a significant risk.
The issue raised mainly concerns the afternoon peak departures from the depot via the wash road. This is when a train departs the depot via the London End siding and also has its exterior cleaned by the train wash. All train departures will obey the exit signals and require the controlling signal, which leads out from the siding into service, to be cleared by the Signaller.
Trains must clear the track treadle switch on the washing plant to ensure that they do not stop inside the plant whilst it is still running. If they are an 8 or 12 car train then they will draw up to the signal and stand across the crossing leading to Bombardier. During afternoon peak times there are only half a dozen 8 or 12 car trains that are booked for departure via the wash road.
The departures are timed so that when they reach the departing signal using the wash road, the signal is cleared, preventing the train coming to a stand. However NXEA acknowledges on some occasions if there are slight delays to the signal being cleared or on the Main Line this could have a knock on effect to the departing train leaving the depot. On these occasions the train could come to a stand blocking the crossing until the service obtains the proceed signal.
This has been monitored recently on a number of occasions and we have identified that on occasions the train may stand at the signal for one to two minutes maximum.
All Yard Controllers are aware of the impact of trains reaching the signal too early and have therefore been instructed to hold trains back for as long as possible so that they do not stop on the crossing.
In addition, as part of general communications between NXEA, Bombardier and the management of the crossing in question, the Bombardier Gate Keeper has a land line telephone and NXEA have issued them with a yard radio so that direct communication can be made to the NXEA Yard Controllers. In the event of an emergency situation the Gate Keeper can communicate with the Yard Controller and arrange for a train to be moved clear of the crossing and other affecting train movements to cease.
Four car trains exiting via the London End through the wash road, and all other trains exiting on other sidings via the London End, stop prior to the crossing and only move towards the signal once they are cleared to proceed.
Bombardier are considering relocating their assembly point to a more suitable location that will not rely on the use of the crossing.
The wash plant is fitted with a number of emergency stop buttons that can be used to safely stop its operation. It is also fitted with ground track treadles that operate in both directions that activate and stop the wash plant.