Faster, lighter, more frequent. This is the mantra of those of us serving the light rail industry.
As commuters turn increasingly to tram and metro networks, the pressure is on to deliver more efficient, express services. Consequently, maintenance teams are being asked to keep vehicles in operation longer and minimise downtime.
Those of us in the supply chain are, therefore, being challenged to develop products that will speed up servicing and simplify labour intensive tasks.
Here at Mechan, we have seen a notable rise in enquiries from light rail depots seeking similar equipment to their heavier cousins, where through projects like the Intercity Express Programme, huge investment has been made in advanced workshop technology.
Thanks to our European partners, we can supply sanding systems, electric shunters and quicker, more accurate methods of measuring wheelsets, that not only streamline the maintenance process, but also offer real environmental benefits.
As tram operators look to extend their services and replace aging fleets, investment is being made in the development of very light vehicles. This has subsequently opened up an emerging market for lower capacity lifting equipment.
At the moment, we are working on a new range of jacks, designed specifically to lift the latest, lightest railcars. So far, we have discovered they usually need a bespoke base arrangement and lower lifting heights, due to the proximity of the vehicle to the rail. But, just like our tried and tested heavier versions, they can still be synchronised in sets of almost any length to raise complete trains, eliminating the time lost in decoupling.
The future looks bright for those of us serving the light rail networks. A total of £1.3 billion is being invested in the West Midlands in tramway extensions during the next 10 years. Similarly, in our home city, it was reported at the end of March that the unique tram train pilot, which will provide a new service between Sheffield and Rotherham, is in the final stages of construction. The long-awaited project should be accepting passengers before the end of the year.
Both regions are pushing suppliers to think creatively and meet the ambitions of operators for real-world maintenance equipment that can produce shorter servicing times and cleaner, safer depots.
Are these ambitions achievable? Certainly, here at Mechan, we think so. Our expert engineers are embracing the challenge and working closely with clients to bring this faster, lighter equipment to life.