As of 2008, there were thirty-eight Technicentres situated throughout France, nine of which could be found within the radius of Paris. Technicentres are SNCF's maintenance facilities, where general repair, servicing, and major overhauls are undertaken on traction and rolling stock. Many of these sites have evolved from depots dating back to the steam era, such as that at Hellemmes, Lille, in the Hauts-de-France region of the country. Hellemmes is SNCF’s largest, most advanced Technicentre, a two-year upgrade programme having been formally completed in January 2020. A workshop has been on the site since 1873 and, today, Hellemmes is involved in heavy maintenance of TGV sets, the depot being in close proximity to LGV Nord and a spaghetti of running lines and sidings around Lille-Flandres station.
Technicentre Nord-Pas-De-Calais, located 95-KM northwest of Hellemmes as the crow flies, is situated beside the 2-KM stretch of line which separates Calais Ville and Fontinettes stations. It is one of two railway depots in the area, the second being Eurotunnel’s colossal works at Coquelles, on Calais’ western fringes, where maintenance and overhaul of the Chunnel Shuttle fleet takes place. The latter was commissioned for the Chunnel’s opening in 1994. Technicentre Nord-Pas-De-Calais was opened shortly afterwards, in 1995, upon a site which has for long been host to railway sidings dating back to the steam era. Until that time, the yard had been known as Les Fontinettes and was typically used to stable freight wagons connected to the train ferry operation. Additionally, it was used to park infrastructure trains used during Chunnel construction.
From the outset, the Technicentre serviced diesel traction only, specifically that stock which operated in the Nord-Pas-De-Calais region (the predecessor of the larger Hauts-de-France region). By that time, electrification of surrounding lines had already taken hold, with lines from Calais to Boulogne, and from the former to Lille, being equipped with 25kV overhead wires in 1993, as part of the LGV Nord project. Between Calais and Dunkerque remained diesel traction along a rather unloved line: it was a circuitous railway route 46-KM long, of which 34-KM was single-track. As part of the 2007 to 2013 European Regional Development Fund for the Nord-Pas-De-Calais region, money was made available to modernise this line. The project included renewing track, rebuilding a series of bridges and, perhaps most significantly, re-signalling and electrification. The upgrades would permit faster, more frequent services, the aim being to shift passenger traffic from road to rail between the ports of Dunkerque, Calais, and Boulogne. Works were completed in 2014, but still by this time, Technicentre Nord-Pas-De-Calais lacked any electrified tracks.
In 2017, Technicentre Nord-Pas-De-Calais finally gained some electrified lines. On 13th April of that year, a formal ceremony at the facility marked the electrification of three tracks with overhead wires rated at 25kV. These tracks entered the site’s maintenance building, which measures just over 100-metres-long by 25-metres-wide, from the southeast. The works cost just over €1,000,000 and are the first stage of a two-part scheme, due for completion in 2021, which includes electrifying the remaining sidings at Technicentre Nord-Pas-De-Calais. With reference to the latter, there are sixteen of these, each about 375-metres in length and accessible to trains from both ends. Bringing wires into the depot, which had a 74-strong workforce in 2017, has secured its future as an SNCF maintenance facility, and the staff headcount is expected to increase as a result of the upgrade.
24th March 2019
The depot's allocation comprises SNCF's Class B 82500 four-car units, built by Bombardier Transportation and introduced in 2007. These units are capable of operating under overhead wires rated at both 25,000 volts A.C. and 1,500 volts D.C., in addition to having a diesel engine on board for traversing routes which are not electrified. This north westerly view of the depot's sidings shows ten members of the class, including Nos. 82730, 82629, and 82751. To the upper right can just be seen the top of the site's diesel shunter, a member of the Y7100 Class.
© David Glasspool Collection
24th March 2019
A view towards the south east captures Class B 82500 No. 82740. The far set of rusty rails in the background, just in front of the two blue doors, lead to the maintenance building.
© David Glasspool Collection