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Night Shift on Track

The last passengers have hardly disembarked before nightly maintenance work on the fleet of ICE trains begins.

Engineer Sonja Askew, born in 1983, is the site manager of the ICE maintenance depot in Cologne. Bump caps are part of mandatory protective gear here. Photo: Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

The sun has gone down. A shutter gate rises and the signal switches to green. A white high-speed Intercity Express train glides at a walking pace onto one of the four tracks in the 410-meter hall. It comes to a stop at precisely the place marked for it—in Deutsche Bahn’s most modern maintenance depot. This sparkling clean and environmentally friendly facility in the Nippes district of Cologne just started operating in June of 2018. Sonja Askew is the site’s manager of train preparation and maintenance. She leads a team of technical specialists who meticulously inspect both the outside and the inside of the high-speed trains every night. After being cleaned and repaired, the trains are dispatched early the next morning on time to set off on their inter-city journeys with more than 800 passengers on board.

When the ICE comes to a stop, the site manager glances at the clock. The train is scheduled for an “IS 200” drivetrain inspection and review. The code stands for the second-smallest routine maintenance session. In less than six hours the next passengers will already be waiting for this ICE 3, which is 200 meters long, weighs 410 tons, and is authorized for a peak speed of 330 kilometers an hour. Its scheduled maintenance now has to run like clockwork, similar to a pit stop at a racecourse. The focus is on safety, quality, and a comfortable ride for its passengers. Something else counts too: absolute punctuality. If the train doesn’t arrive at Cologne’s main train station on time the next morning, this would not only annoy the travelers waiting for it but also cause problems for the busy rail network in general. It would set off a cascade of delays.

Read the full article in Porsche Consulting Magazine