IN order to further delve into the rolling stock maintenance market, Colas Rail formed a new subsidiary in France in 2016. Maintenance of Railway Rolling Stock (Ramfer) now manages a network of private workshops located at four sites across France, with its work underpinned by a computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) and enterprise asset management (EAM) developed and delivered by Carl Software.


RamferColas Rail was formed in 2008 when it merged its Seco Rail operations, which it purchased in 2000, with its Amec-Spie subsidiary. It subsequently acquired the plant division of Carillion Rail, and in 2015 its revenue totalled over e1bn. It currently operates an extensive fleet of railway assets: 130 locomotives, 500 wagons, two track-laying trains, three ballast clearing machines, 32 ballast tampers, three stabilisers, 13 ballast regulators, 55 road-rail vehicles, 15 loaders, and three concreting trains, in over 20 countries.

While the company has continued to grow, highlighted by the acquisitions of Ateliers des Flandres in France and Pullman Rail, Britain in 2011, it has shifted its focus away from freight operations towards rolling stock maintenance, a move which it describes as “an industrial necessity” as part of its “strategic diversification.”

Colas Rail consequently has a five-point strategic plan for developing Ramfer:

  • restructure its organisation appropriately
  • capitalising on the maintenance know-how within the company
  • deploy a CMMS tool
  • provide crucial maintenance training for its technicians and operators, and
  • measure performance.

As well as the 60,000m2 hub at Grenay, which focuses its services on the southeast of France, Ramfer has a 60,000m2 site in Les Mureaux, which covers the north of France along with its 28,000m2 site in Ateliers des Flandres. The 40,000m2 site in Saint-Varent covers the west of the country, with all facilities possessing on-site sidings. Services are provided at the facilities by regional teams of Colas Rail staff.


Ramfer provides maintenance engineering, preventative maintenance, refurbishing, and a breakdown service. Through a round-the-clock hotline, it offers mobile maintenance from all of its sites as well as technical assistance and diagnosis via the telephone. It also provides maintenance of excavators, elevator platforms, engines, tampers, levellers and locomotives at all four sites, while its Des Flandres site provides a specialised service for dry-bulk freight wagons.

Grenay was identified because of its strategic location at the heart of a “rail highway.” The hub opened in May 2013 and offers maintenance engineering, preventative maintenance, corrective maintenance and repair for rolling stock, as well as the maintenance of rail infrastructure.

The 4147m2 workshop is staffed by 12 people: a foreman and storekeeper, and 10 multi-skilled technicians. The site offers two inspection pits, two 10-tonne overhead cranes, one pit for public works vehicles, one eight-tonne overhead crane above the public works area, and a stabling area with a direct link to SNCF infrastructure. There is also a depositing site which the company uses to store stocks of rail and equipment.

During IRJ’s visit, a Colas Rail locomotive and an Alphatrains/CTSF locomotive were undergoing refurbishment at the site, with the locomotive’s history available through Carl Software’s CMMS, making it quick and easy to check any work carried out on the units. Technicians inspect the vehicles before sanctioning any immediate maintenance or preventative maintenance actions which will save rolling stock operator’s money and problems down the line.

Ramfer is utilising two of Carl Software’s solutions - Carl Source and Carl Touch. Carl Source is typically used for management and general bookings, whereas Carl Touch offers real-time status information from the work place, for example to show which individual is using what piece of equipment, whether the equipment is in the workshop, or what equipment is needed for a certain job.

Carl Touch achieves this by using a bar scanning application on smartphones. After scanning, equipment is registered to a certain bar, making it an efficient process for technicians to complete maintenance jobs. The software also contains detailed task lists, which include crucial information such as a list of operations and associated procedures, a list of spare parts required for the operation, and the predicted performance time.

Ramfer is also using the CMMS software for stock orders and management, quotations and issuing invoices, scheduling of preventative and corrective maintenance, standardisation of maintenance procedures across all workshops, and management of maintenance costs.

Carl Touch simplifies the process of preparing parts, and it can quickly be used across multiple workshops so that if technicians require a tool or part quickly, they can order it from another workshop in their network. Touch is also used to help distribute jobs and manage operations. It can be integrated with other systems and is customisable to match a specific user’s needs.

Colas Rail plans to deploy its CMMS model at 12 servicing sites and with five subsidiaries across the globe, and describes Carl Software’s application as “an essential lever for the multi-site industrialisation of major maintenance operations.” Ramfer is providing Colas Rail with the enhanced focus on the maintenance of rolling stock and machinery in France, and it is well placed to expand in the future.