More than 70 Maintenance Engineers and Team Technicians at Hitachi Rail Europe’s train maintenance centre in Ashford are benefiting from on-site tailored, hands-on electrical maintenance training provided by Technical Training Solutions

 “The feedback from those who attended the five-day electrical training course provided by Technical Training Solutions [TTS] is by far the best feedback I’ve ever had in my time here at Hitachi Rail Europe,” states Alex McFarlin, Training Manager, Class 395 at Hitachi Rail Europe’s flagship train maintenance centre in Ashford, Kent.

“Within just 20 minutes of the course starting, all attendees were up on their feet looking at electrical schematic drawings and connecting wires on circuit boards. We believe strongly in the ‘learning by doing’ approach and this course certainly did just that,” adds Alex.

Built by Hitachi, the Class 395 Javelin trains offer the fastest domestic service rail travel in the UK. In 2008, the Javelin completed its first rail journey from Ashford in Kent to London St Pancras in just 37 minutes. The Hitachi trains went into full passenger service in December 2009 on the High Speed HS1 rail route.

Maintenance of the full fleet of 29 Class 395 Hitachi trains is carried out at the maintenance centre in Ashford, where more than 70 Engineers are responsible for maintaining the fleet. These Engineers include ‘Team Technicians’ responsible for all corrective (unplanned) maintenance of the trains, as well as ‘Maintenance Engineers’ who are responsible for all routine train maintenance activities such as changing of brake pads, equipment testing, gearbox oil changes and minor fault finding.

As Alex states: “The maintenance teams at Ashford are a mix of mechanical and electrical Engineers from a variety of backgrounds, including the rail industry, automotive and the Armed Forces. With any new recruit, we must assess where their strengths and weaknesses lie and then provide training to fill any gaps that may exist. As many of the systems, including traction and auxiliary systems, on the trains are electrical, we wanted to establish a baseline of knowledge at Ashford for all of our Maintenance Engineers, particularly with regards to electrical safety regulations and best practice.”

“For example, we have Maintenance Engineers with a strong skills bias in Mechanical Engineering who require their electrical skills to be further developed. Whilst we provide our own internal technical training for new recruits, we wanted to reinforce the safety training and to further develop our staffs’ electrical skills. Hence, around 12 months ago, we contacted TTS for help in providing a practical, tailored electrical maintenance course for around 70 of our Engineers, as well as Team Leaders and Duty Shift Managers.”

After visiting Ashford and discussing their training needs in detail, TTS devised a five-day, on-site electrical maintenance course, tailored to replicate the daily work of the Maintenance Engineers. This practical, hands-on training course included modules on understanding electrical schematics; testing for ‘dead’ circuits; stored energy and safe discharging of capacitors; application of electrical safety legislation and best practice; understanding how electrical circuits function and work; wiring of electrical components such as relays; cable terminations; recognising faults and fault finding techniques; and the correct use of electrical test equipment.

“The course was designed specifically for us, which is really important because it means that our Engineers could relate all of the course content to their day jobs. We sat down with TTS and showed them drawings of our trains and the type of electrical maintenance we carry out on train systems and equipment. From this, TTS was able to tailor its Electrical Maintenance Skills Course to our precise needs,” explains Alex.

Much of the course content involved hands-on exercises such as the building of electrical circuits. This included two circuits that replicated (in miniature) the auxiliary compressor system on the Class 395 train.

Over the last 12 months, TTS has provided 10 separate, five-day training courses for a total of 70 Engineers at Ashford. Each course was provided for 6 to 8 attendees who were paired up to work on the practical tasks. TTS also provided all of the on-site training equipment and materials required for these courses.

“For our Engineers who have a mechanical skills bias, TTS has a unique way of simplifying electrical terms and explaining these in easy-to-understand language. I also liked the way they kept attendees on their toes by sneakily sabotaging their completed electrical circuits during a lunch break and asking them to fix the problem in the afternoon. It was fun but also engaging, informative and relevant,” enthuses Alex.

“The crucial benefit of the TTS training is that our maintenance teams can now apply the most up to date legislation and best practice when carrying out everyday maintenance. The Engineers now also have a much better understanding of why they are carrying out each maintenance task. The course has been a real enabler for many people here and we look forward to working closely with TTS on future training initiatives at Ashford,” concludes Alex.