Caunton Engineering recently completed the construction of the steelwork for the Northam Traincare Facility. This is to be the Service and Maintenance Depot for the new Siemens fleet for SouthWest Trains, built near Southampton. The facility itself is the largest of its kind in the UK and the first third-rail electrification depot to be built in the UK since the Second World War.
The depot itself features three main buildings - the core maintenance facility (at 233mx23m the largest building), the wheel lathe building and the train-wash building. In total, these structures comprise over 750 tonnes of structural steelwork. The maintenance facility & train-wash buildings were constructed only three metres from the 'live' main line. Exacting rail possessions had to be secured, to enable Caunton to comply with the rigorous demands of client Railtrack and their safe working practices.
Within the main facility are four tracks, known in the business as roads. Three of these roads are raised on circular concrete columns at 4 metre centres. Caunton supplied & erected the Way Beams that span between the concrete columns, and which ultimately support the rail-tracks. The Caunton Erection team also installed some 1300 metres of split level gantry steel to allow maintenance access to the trains at door-seal & roof levels, together with some 2200 metres of overhead runway beams for removing air handling units. A major undertaking, as the photograph clearly shows.
Throughout the planning stages Client Railtrack continued to have major logistical decisions to make. These resulted in the last minute re-location of the buildings - their being moved significantly from the initial planned location. Retrospective planning permission had to be obtained and was granted only a week ahead of steel erection actually commencing. Caunton therefore had only a few days to mobilise and then commence erection of the first building. Working alongside contractor Fitzpatrick - a joint project between their rail and building divisions -this was most successfully achieved.