A new Hitachi traincare centre at Ashford and upgraded DLR depot at Beckton have generated substantial orders for Sheffield-based heavy-handling gear specialist Mechan Limited. New depot action is not confined to the UK and Mechan has also been contracted to supply equipment in Ireland and South Africa.

Express commuter train services linking Ashford and the Kent coast to London St Pancras via the Channel Tunnel Rail Link are due to start in December 2009, when 28 Hitachi Class 395 trains will cut some journey times in half. Construction work is well under way on the new traincare centre at Ashford and another at Ramsgate.

The Ashford facility will undertake daily and heavier maintenance on the 140mph six-car trains and requires six sets of four 15-tonne rail-car lifting jacks to enable the controlled lifting of a complete train without decoupling. Rivalry for the contract was intense and Mechan emerged the victor.

“We faced really stiff competition from continental suppliers,” recalls Mechan managing director Richard Carr. “It seemed like a close-run thing but we believe the quality and operating characteristics of our jacks, plus our package of post-installation support, won the day. Delivery is set for February 2008.”

Docklands Light Railway operator Serco has been giving its Beckton depot in east London a £7.7-million revamp with funding from Transport for London. An expanding route network and plans to convert two-car units to a three-car configuration necessitated more sidings and enhanced maintenance facilities.

“We recently won an order for eight of our eight-tonne jacks as well as two vehicle support trolleys for the DLR,” Richard Carr reveals. “This followed a previous order for two six-tonne jacks, plus a contract to upgrade six existing jacks from another maker by retrofitting them with Mechan MicroLink controls to improve their performance.”

Irish network operator Iarnrod Eireann has been investing heavily in new InterCity and commuter rolling stock from manufacturers CAF of Spain and Mitsui of Japan. Plans included construction of a major new traincare centre at Portlaoise and improvements at other depots.

“Mechan has an order for a 5.5-tonne engine removal table for the Laois Traincare Depot at Portlaoise,” Richard Carr adds. “We previously supplied two 3-tonne units for Iarnrod Eireann’s Drogheda depot and delivered another 5.5-tonne unit to Limerick, so we feel well-established on the Emerald Isle.”

In South Africa, Mechan’s agent Yale secured an order for a pair of wagon rotators. Similar in principle to Mechan bogie rotator units, the much larger wagon rotators were destined for rolling stock company Transwerk for use at its Uitenhage works. The rotators, a new product line for Mechan, lift a wagon and turn it through 360 degrees for access to the underside for welding or painting.