Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Train Refurbishment

If you are thinking about refurbishing your rolling stock, here some valuable lessons, learned through bitter experience:
  • Always have a clear and fixed remit agreed with the operators before going ahead with the design;
  • Never assume new stuff will fit into all the old trains. Even if it is specially designed, it probably won’t;
  • Avoid messing with wiring unless you strip it all out and replace it;
  • Every train/vehicle should be jointly tested and surveyed before acceptance by the contractor. All defects to be noted and agreed by both parties for inclusion in the work (or not) as required;
  • Always assume you will find things you didn’t expect when you strip – you will, sometimes even when you're getting near the end of the job;
  • Always expect things that are not supposed to be touched will be and will get damaged as a result;
  • Always allow a long learning curve for the first few trains;
  • Avoid changes in design or requirements mid-contract. It will be very expensive;
  • Have some your own experienced staff working with the contractor’s team, on site, for the full duration of the contract, including the design phase. They can offer valuable help, build up a rapport with the contractor and keep an eye on things;
  • Upon completion, jointly check and test every vehicle and then couple into a train and test again before acceptance;
  • Always expect it to cost more than you estimated;
  • Always expect it to take longer than you estimated;
  • Don’t go for the lowest bid because it’s the lowest. It will cost more in the end;
  • Work with your contractor rather than against him. Openness and co-operation will be cheaper for both of you.
There are certainly more lessons I could add but these are the most pertinent. I offer these because, almost 20 years after I was first involved in train refurbishment, these mistakes are still being made. I heard recently that, a year into a 2010 train refurbishment project, all the above lessons had been ignored, the contractor was forced into bankruptcy and the operator was left with a huge bill and a partly refurbished fleet that he now has to re-tender for, so he can get it all working again.