West Midlands Trains and Porterbrook partner to improve reliability

West Midlands Trains (WMT) and Porterbrook have signed an agreement to reduce costs and improve the reliability of the train operator’s Class 172 fleet.

In a rail industry first, the partnership will see responsibility for the heavy maintenance of the trains move from WMT to Porterbrook.

This new, more collaborative, way of working between the train operator and the rolling stock asset manager, covers the delivery of heavy maintenance, future maintenance optimisation and product enhancements.

The partnership builds on the ongoing improvements to the quality and performance of the fleet which have taken place over the last year during a pilot scheme, whereby Porterbrook provided additional support beyond the standard train leasing arrangements. That scheme was built around maintenance optimisation and remote condition monitoring.

Mary Grant, Porterbrook CEO said: “Porterbrook is committed to supporting and adding value to our train operating customers. By working collaboratively with West Midlands Trains, utilising digital technology and drawing on the asset knowledge of our own engineers we can jointly reduce costs and provide a step improvement in rolling stock reliability that will benefit passengers.”

Data analytics developed during the trial have shown that 70% of engine failures could be predicted in advance of a service affecting failure occurring. Work is underway to improve that figure and take appropriate action to realise the full reliability benefits of digital analytics through close collaboration.

West Midland Trains’ engineering director, Zena Dent, said; “This new way of working, between a train operator and a rolling stock company, is yet another example of how we are driving forward to improve passenger services across our network. While we are investing over £700 million in new trains to expand capacity, we are determined to ensure our existing fleet continues to perform at its very best.”

The partnership will provide significant benefits for passengers in terms of the reliability and the performance level of the fleets. WMT and Porterbrook are working to establish a new performance metric which aligns with this new way of working.

WMT’s Class 172 fleet operates across the West Midlands including the Snow Hill and Shrewsbury lines. The train operator’s main diesel maintenance depot at Tyseley is currently undergoing a major refurbishment as WMT prepares to increase its fleet by 25% over the next two years.