Alstom to acquire Bombardier Transportation

Confirming weeks of rumours, Alstom has announced that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Bombardier Inc to acquire Bombardier’s transportation unit.

The MoU values Bombardier Transportation at between €5.8 and €6.2 billion ($9.4 to $10 billion).

Henri Puopart-Lafarge, chairman and CEO of Alstom announced the merger of the two rail manufacturing giants.

“I’m very proud to announce the acquisition of Bombardier Transportation, which is a unique opportunity to strengthen our global position on the booming mobility market.”

Although headquartered in Canada, Bombardier’s transport operations are led from Berlin, Germany. The deal, if approved, could create a European rail champion, a goal which Alstom previously pursued in discussions with Siemens, with whom Bombardier also pursued merger talks.

Puopart-Lafarge acknowledged that the two companies share similar operating areas.

“Bombardier Transportation will bring to Alstom complementary geographical presence and industrial footprint in growing markets, as well as additional technological platforms,” he said.

Bombardier representatives also welcomed the deal’s announcement.

“With a shared commitment to the next generation of green and digital rail solutions, a combined company would benefit from economies of scale resulting into improved investment and innovation capabilities, and a streamlined investment pipeline,” said Eric Prud’Homme, head of external communications at Bombardier Transportation.

In Australia, Alstom and Bombardier both have significant manufacturing operations. Bombardier manufactures diesel multiple units and light rail vehicles in Dandenong, Victoria while Alstom has a manufacturing base in Ballarat where it produces the X’Trapolis trains for the Melbourne network. Additionally, Alstom has been confirmed as the manufacturer of new rollingstock for Perth’s Metronet project, and will construct a local manufacturing facility in Western Australia.

Previous merger discussions between Siemens and Alstom drew the attention of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which noted that a merger would raise competition concerns, however in the field of signalling. Ultimately, the European Commission blocked the proposed deal.

In the MoU announcement, Poupart-Lafarge said that all existing employees of Bombardier Transportation would continue to work for Alstom once the deal is completed.

“We will be thrilled to welcome all the talent and energy of Bombardier Transportation employees. We are deeply committed to step up the turnaround of Bombardier Transportation activities and deliver significant value to all stakeholders, particularly our customers,” he said.

Alstom expects that, subject to approvals from regulatory and anti-trust authorities, the deal will be closed in the first half of 2021.

The importance of intuitive light rail

Engineering firm Columbus Group is known as an industry innovator. CEO Donald Yates spoke to Rail Express about the innovation light rail can offer.

Light rail’s flexibility, according to Columbus Group’s CEO Donald Yates, allows for consistent innovation.

“The boundaries of light rail no longer stop at the edge of the world’s CBD,” Yates said. “It is utilised almost everywhere because it calls for practical inventiveness.”

Yates explains how light rail does this. “With or without guidance rail tracks, light rail needs to be able to adapt.”

“It needs to move sideways, to pick up passengers, and to get out of the way of other road users, including during pause duration cycles when recharging might be needed, be it via rapid battery swaps, zapping super capacitors or refilling with hydrogen for the fuel cell vehicle propulsion power.”

Further, capital costs for fixed platforms are no longer needed because drop-down or pop-up ramps provide better accessibility, contributing to ever leaner operation.

“For some, the air-conditioned waiting areas add to the whole experience, but this is innovative in that air can be exchanged with the light rail units during a short stop cycle. There is no longer the need to carry the physical weight and provide power to the rail car air conditioning.”

Fully pivoting, sequential steered, driven wheel mechanisms make flexibility possible, allowing the vehicle to move sideways.

“This can work with the normal vehicles as well as driverless ones, which can learn on the move. For example, when encountering potholes, they can automatically direct the following wheel sets to avoid the hurdle. The light rail set can then instruct the next approaching service to avoid the same potential interruption, so the whole system works together for better outcomes.”

The technology which allows light rail to interact with its operating environment can also be applied to heavy rail operations, according to Yates.

“Long loaded trains can be subject to gradient changes and side wind loadings, that impact adversely and lead to rapid track wear, and lowered efficiency. By examining IoT data from the sleeper loadings, an optimal train speed can be transmitted to the train control system, leading to minimal track damage, optimal safety and efficiency. Learning from light rail engineering has bottom line gains for heavy rail operations.”

Committed to innovation, Columbus Group has won three Australian Mining Prospect Awards since 2014. The engineering firm’s initial win was for an Innovative Mining Solution featured a flexible additive 3D printer. According to Yates, 3D printing can be applied to all aspects of light rail.

“Starting with the light rail core rail cars, the new generation of 3D printers can produce an integrated package with a mix of materials, including various metals with fibre-rich panels for lightness and structural frameworks for strength. Previously, such complex assemblies would result in substantial build costs that could incur considerable time penalties,” Yates said.

“With 3D printers, innovative design is possible for a range of assemblies, from regenerative brakes to comfortable seats. Access facilities are also possible, as are smarter batteries for a compact physical size and extended range as needed.

“The world of 3D printing has already trialled puncture-free tires, that provide variable ride smoothness using stored memory alloy components to change the ride characteristics and traction grip in real time.

“3D printers can produce the permanent ballast structure that works with the one- piece track for rapid installation of both long operating life and short-term access rail services, particularly where mining operations are the core activity.”

Yates uses the old Tier 3 rail networks of Western Australia as an example. Prior to World War II, the track did not have the level of maintenance to safely allow heavy diesel engines and their concentrated considerable axle loadings.

He points out that light rail practices were taken up to replace the diesel
engine at the front of a string of grain wagons with distributed drive lightweight assemblies along the whole length of the trains, possibly supporting load carrying containers. The resulting axle loadings were considerably less heavy, so that adding the appropriate suspension systems to such distributed drive units made it feasible to utilise the Tier 3 networks without necessitating major corrective repairs to the infrastructure.

“Taking the same approach as the Tier 3 solution for grain movement, it is possible to transport products like iron ore, keeping within the feasible axle load limits. Mining companies and track owners get improved utilisation just by viewing the situation through ‘light rail’ glasses.

“The light rail approach includes changing the input energy sources to match the power demands of a lower weight train system, be it in the country, on a coal mine or even the city. In CBDs and suburbs, the take up of renewables, now complemented with battery systems, is making what are distributed power systems more popular.

“It has been considered that even the simple storm water pit found in most streets to reduce localised flooding, can be retrofitted with solid state 24/7 geothermal energy extraction that does not depend on the wind blowing or the sun shining to produce reliable power for adjoining microgrids and passing light rail infrastructure.”

Yates concludes that light rail can operate like a “battery on wheels”.

“It could operate by moving energy from a recharge point to an area in need of battery boosting on a demand basis, generating automated cost offsetting revenues without even being noticed.”

Alstom receives first order for battery-electric trains

To meet the demand for electrically powered trains on a non-electrified line, rail manufacturer Alstom will build, deliver, and maintain 11 battery-electric trains.

The Coradia Continental trains will operate on the Leipzig-Chemnitz route for German rail authorities VMS (Verkehrsverbund Mittelsachsen) and ZVNL (Zweckverband für den Nahverkehrsraum Leipzig).

The announcement follows the 2014 decision by VMS to purchase 29 Coradia Continental electric regional trains (EMUs), however 80km of the line between Chemnitz and Leipzig is not electrified, leading VMS to request a battery-electric version.

Alstom expects the trains to enter service in 2023, being built at Alstom’s rail yards in Salzgitter, Lower Saxony. The battery traction sub-system will be designed and supplied by Alstom’s traction centre in Tarbes, France.

The order is the first battery train order for Alstom, and represents a step forward for the company in providing emissions-free rollingstock, said Gian Luca Erbacci, senior vice president of Alstom Europe.

“Today, Alstom stands apart in being able to offer any form of emission-free traction currently on the market built into a proven solution. As a responsible company, Alstom has an intense focus on sustainable mobility, offering the best-fitting solutions that make it not only possible, but also cost-effective and attractive,” said Erbacci.

The 56m long and 150-seat Coradia Continental BEMU have a range of up to 120km. The trains can travel at a top speed of 160km/h in battery mode.

The order for the BEMU comes after Alstom has introduced the Coradia iLint which is powered by hydrogen fuel cells. According to a statement from Alstom the iLint trains have a performance comparable to diesel-powered trains, and have been in passenger service in Germany for more than one year.

Sydney opening caps big year for Alstom

Alstom Australia’s managing director Mark Coxon sat down with Rail Express after a whirlwind 2019, with big wins for Alstom across multiple states and sectors.

The New Year’s break is a welcome opportunity for rest and relaxation for many professionals. But for Mark Coxon and his team at Alstom Australia, the 2019/20 break was perhaps the most well-earned in recent memory.

Eleven days before Christmas, Sydney opened quite a large present. The first revenue services for the Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail line between Circular Quay and Randwick represented the culmination of four years of construction and delivery.

Around 160,000 passengers rode the new line in its first two days, and they rode on some of the 60 Citadis X05 light rail vehicles delivered by Alstom.

By January 8, the line had already handled its first million passengers.

Alstom has also delivered the project’s power supply equipment (including two kilometres of APS wire-free ground power supply), energy recovery substations, signalling, communications, and depot equipment for the project, and is now underway on a 19-year maintenance contract.

“We’re very happy with this project,” Coxon, Alstom’s managing director in Australia and New Zealand, told Rail Express shortly after the Sydney opening.

“The Alstom scope has been on time, and we’ve had new technologies brought for the first time to Australia – another sign of confidence in the Alstom delivery capability.”

Light rail vehicles are rolling down George Street for the first time in more than 60 years. Unlike the original system, it is free of overhead wires for two kilometres of its route thanks to Alstom’s ground-based APS power supply.

APS, originally Alimentation Par le Sol – “fed through the ground” – but now anglicised to Aesthetic Power Supply, uses modern technology to safely feed power through the base of the LRV via a third rail between the tracks.

Coxon notes APS is a new technology in Australia, but also that the Citadis X05 is the latest version of Alstom’s light rail vehicle range.

“On top of that, the reverse cycle power- optimised substations were in our scope,” Coxon continues. “So that’s a number of new technologies we’ve brought to this iconic project, and it was great to see trams going down George Street – and great to be on that first tram.

While Alstom’s share of the project was successful, Coxon is well aware of the disruptions caused throughout the overall project’s delivery. But he’s confident the quality of service passengers will enjoy in the longer- term will make up for it.

“It’s obviously become a well-known project to Sydneysiders, and it’s been quite disruptive to residents during construction. But over time, I am sure the people of Sydney will appreciate the project, particularly as journey time reduces and the reliability continues to grow,” he said.

“To be honest, these projects historically around the world are quite disruptive, and this is on one of the oldest and busiest streets in Australia. It would be difficult to implement that kind of project anywhere in the world. We managed to get this one online in 2019, a bit later than planned, but the opening has been successful and we look forward to the growth of patronage of that system.”

Sydney Metro a roaring success

Despite all the exciting new technology in Sydney’s new light rail, perhaps the most exciting thing delivered by Alstom in Australia during 2019 was north of the city.

When Sydney Metro Northwest opened on May 26, passengers rode on a fleet of 22 new six-car, driverless metro trains from Alstom, which also delivered signalling and will handle ongoing maintenance work.

In its first six months, the new metro line had serviced more than 11 million journeys.

“It’s been a successful journey,” Coxon said. “It’s the first driverless metro system in Australia, so that took some time for passengers to get used to, but the reliability growth that we’ve seen on our system has been as expected, and very similar to other projects around the world. Today, we’re getting to around 99 per cent availability of the system.

“That project contains two successful aspects for us: the Alstom rollingstock but also the signalling system, our CBTC driverless Urbalis 400 system. The integration between the CBTC system and the rollingstock has been extremely good, and I think that’s one of the advantages of being an integrator of both technologies.”

Maintenance details

The success on Sydney Metro Northwest led the NSW Government to exercise a pre-agreed extension in the original contract to the next portion of the line, Sydney Metro City and Southwest. The news – a $570 million win for Alstom – means Coxon’s team will now deliver another 23 trains (with an option for more), and its Urbalis 400 CBTC along the new portion of the line.

Coxon told Rail Express the extension demonstrated the government’s confidence in Alstom and its colleagues in the Sydney Metro delivery team.

“We always knew the success of Northwest would be a critical component on the augmentation for City & Southwest,” he said. “It’s such an iconic and strategic project for Alstom, and City & Southwest is a similar scope to what we executed on Northwest. Again I think it will demonstrate the importance of integrating the CBTC signalling technologies with the rollingstock.”

Once complete, the City & Southwest project will combine with Northwest to create a 66-kilometre continuous line, complete with Alstom rollingstock and signalling.

“We’re looking forward, as well, to extending the maintenance scope to that full line,” Coxon added.

Huge win in WA

Alstom’s success in 2019 wasn’t limited to the east coast. Early in December it finalised a $1.3 billion deal to deliver 246 EMU railcars 6 DMU to PTA, the public transport operator in WA. Under the 10-year contract, at least 50 per cent of railcar assembly will take place in WA, at a 12,000 sqm plant near the old Midland Railway Workshops. Alstom will also undertake maintenance for 20 years with the option to extend to 30 years.

Coxon told Rail Express the contract win was the result of more than two years of work with the government, local businesses, training organisations and community.

“We’ve had a lot of engagement with local and international suppliers about the local content, and that concluded with the award of that project to Alstom, which we’re absolutely delighted with,” he said. “We’re looking forward to building a train in Western Australia that the people of Perth can be proud of.”

Work to build what will become Alstom’s new rollingstock base in WA is expected to be completed in 2021. Local work under the contract is expected to create at least 200 jobs in supply and maintenance, revitalising the state’s rail manufacturing sector.

“Obviously, it’s a long journey, and we’re going to be part of that recreation of the railcar manufacturing industry in Western Australia, but that’s not the first time Alstom have done that,” Coxon said. “We’ve done it all around the world; the US, South Africa, India, and of course 20 years ago in Victoria with the X’Trapolis trains.

“We’re not newcomers to it, but it is a new journey in Western Australia, and  we’re interested in taking the suppliers on board for that journey, as well as our future employees. We’re going to have to build up a strong skilled workforce in Western Australia.”

Coxon said Alstom is also looking to build a good partnership with the state’s Public Transport Authority, along with its suppliers to build a train which we hope to have on tracks by the middle of 2022.

“What made that contract so attractive to Alstom was the long-term maintenance contract, which allows us to make sure the rollingstock is designed to maintainability as well,” Coxon explained. “We’ll build a strong workforce for the build, and then progressively for the maintenance.

“We’ve included in the project our HealthHub technology which focuses on the predictive maintenance capability, to ensure we’re maintaining the core components as they’re being used, and we can plan our maintenance schedules to optimise availability of the product. That’s a similar product to what we’ve installed for the Sydney Metro, so it’s not the first time we’ve installed it here in Australia, but again is a first for Western Australia.”

Next X’Trapolis in the works

Alstom has been supplying its X’Trapolis metro fleet to Melbourne’s Metro Trains network for nearly two decades, with more than 102 trains delivered. “It has proven to be one of the most reliable products in Australia today, so we’re very proud of this product and our skilled workforce in Ballarat who deliver this,” Coxon said.

After being awarded the preliminary design contract for an X’Trapolis 2.0 in late 2018, Coxon said the team spent a large portion of 2019 working with the state towards a new generation of the successful train.

“The X’Trapolis 2 will have all the latest technologies, adapted to integrate seamlessly into the Melbourne network. We would like to see this product rolled out on the Melbourne network and continue the long and successful story of X’Trapolis Melbourne trains.”

NGR to run on North Coast line for first time

Queensland’s New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) will be introduced to the Sunshine Coast line for the first time on March 2.

The change comes as Queensland Rail introduces 32 new weekly services across the south east Queensland network.

The services will join an extended inbound Caboolture service to Nambour, and come after 462 weekly services were introduced to the region last year. This increase responds to growing customer demand for rail in Queensland, said Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey.

“Close to 190 million trips were taken on public transport in 2018-19, and after two record years, we’re on-track for another record 12 months when it comes to patronage.”

The new services will be introduced along with other major improvements to rail services in south east Queensland.

“We’re backing commuters with more trains, a $371 million statewide smart ticketing system, more than $357 million in train station accessibility upgrades and the largest public transport project in Queensland’s history: the $5.4 billion Cross River Rail,” said Bailey.

In order to deliver the new services, Queensland Rail found efficiencies in the network, better utilising its existing resources, said CEO of the government owned operator, Nick Easy.

“These changes will reduce empty train running across the region by 1,460 kilometres per week – delivering extra services for our customers instead,” he said.

The introducing of the NGR will be enabled with dedicated support facilities.

“The trains will operate 45 weekly services on the line, replacing older train models, and their deployment will be supported by a new NGR stabling facility coming online at Woombye,” said Easy.

Last month, the final NGR entered service. Alterations to the current rollingstock fleet are underway to comply with disability requirements.

Final train in NGR fleet enters service

The final New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) train has now entered service for the Queensland government.

The 75th train, manufactured by Bombardier, will be used by the Queensland government to provide services to the growing South-East Queensland region. Already, the trains have travelled over eight million in service kilometres, and 150,000 passenger journeys, since December 2017.

“Our highly efficient commuter cars have been performing well, providing passengers in Queensland with a safe and comfortable ride. Bombardier is providing mobility solutions through its NGR and Gold Coast projects, helping the Queensland Government deliver its economic and public transportation development programs,” said Wendy McMillan, president, South East Asia and Australia, Bombardier Transportation.

Maintenance of the fleet will be carried out by Bombardier at Wulkuraka, near Ipswich, for 32 years, where testing and commissioning has been occurring.

“This significant milestone of the last NGR train delivery in Queensland was achieved thanks to close collaboration between Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR), Queensland Rail, Bombardier and our partners,” said McMillan.

“Bombardier has created more than 2,000 local jobs across the industry and supply chain throughout this project.”

The NGR rollingstock had to be modified in 2019 to revised design specifications in order to meet disability specifications. According to a statement from Bombardier, the new trains will be one of the most accessible in Australia.

At the time, Paul Brown, Bombardier Australia’s project director for the NGR project, said, “This variation order is an important request from our customer, and we will continue to work closely with them to deliver the NGR project in line with the enhanced specifications set out by the Queensland Government”.

Speaking to Rail Express in late 2018, Brown highlighted that the rollingstock were built to specification.

“Bombardier has delivered those trains within accordance with the contract.”

Unconfirmed reports of Bombardier and Alstom in merger talks

Neither Bombardier nor Alstom have confirmed reports published by Bloomberg, that the two rail companies are discussing a potential merger.

An unnamed source told Bloomberg that the French rollingstock manufacturer and Canadian train maker have been in talks over the past few months.

A spokesperson for Bombardier told Rail Express said the company does not comment on market gossip.

A spokesperson for Alstom also noted that the company does not comment on market speculation.

The reports published in Bloomberg had an immediate impact on the share prices of both companies, with Alstom shares rising by 2 per cent in Paris, and Bombardier shares ending 5.7 per cent higher in Toronto.

In Australia, both companies have a major presence, with Alstom recently announced as the manufacturer of the rollingstock for Perth’s Metronet project. With a 50 per cent local content requirement, the company has committed to building the trains at a manufacturing facility in Bellevue. Alstom’s light rail vehicles are running on the recently opened Sydney light rail line.

Bombardier’s Australian presence is spread across all states except Tasmania, and the company has manufacturing facilities in Victoria and WA.

Bombardier, which also manufactures aircraft, had previously been in talks with German rail manufacturer Siemens about merging, however the Munich-based rail manufacturer then swapped to negotiate with Alstom. The EU subsequently blocked this merger based on antitrust laws.

On Monday, January 20, Bombardier announced that it would provide maintenance for 656 high-speed train cars in China, on top of a joint-venture contract to build 160 new high-speed cars in China.

WA businesses receive capability funding

West Australian businesses have received funding to prepare to locally deliver rollingstock for the state’s Metronet project.

Eight businesses have won funding as part of the Local Capability Fund (LCF) under the Metronet Railcar Procurement round.

Businesses which have received up to $20,000 include refurbishment services provider Frontline Rail, the WA branch of rail transport maintenance and engineering business Chess Engineering, as well as specialist engineering and service providers.

The funding can be used by the businesses for capacity-building, planning, improvements to internal infrastructure, equipment, training, and certifications.

Applications for the fund remain open until January 31, or until funds are exhausted.

Under the contract to deliver new rollingstock for the Metronet project, rail car manufacturer Alstom will utilise local businesses for 50 per cent of the contract.

When complete, Alstom will produce 246 new C-series railcars and six diesel railcars. The railcars will be built in WA at the new Bellevue Assembly Facility.

Rail innovation centre to complement manufacturing facility

Siemens will build a rail industry innovation centre in Goole, East Yorkshire, after the company submitted plans to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

The centre will form part of the Rail Accelerator and Innovation Solutions Hub for Enterprise (RaisE).

The centre will focus on research, development, and innovation, and is located alongside Siemens Mobility’s rail manufacturing centre, announced in 2018, and scheduled to be completed by 2025.

The factory will build the trains for London’s Piccadilly line, which Siemens secured the contract to build in November 2018. Siemens will supply its Inspiro model to the line, beginning in 2023.

According to Sambit Banerjee, managing director, rolling stock and customer services for Siemens Mobility, the latest announcement covers facilities designed to support manufacturing and the wider industry.

“As well as accommodating support teams for our new rail manufacturing facilities, this building and other later related facilities will offer significant benefits to partners from industry and academia.”

Banerjee highlighted that the combined research and manufacturing facilities will share insights.

“This is the first phase of development of a cluster of facilities focused on innovation and research and development that will create a high-tech centre of excellence for the UK rail industry,” he said.

“The objectives of RaisE are consistent with our ambitions to establish a world-class rail village at Goole, combining manufacturing facilities with digital-led innovation to drive technological advances across the rail network and industry.”

Hull based developer Wykeland Group will construct the facility.

Metro Trains Comeng EMU. Photo: Zed Fitzhume / Creative Commons

Tech upgrades for Comeng fleet

Passengers on Melbourne’s Comeng train fleet will get clearer and simpler journey information thanks to the progressive rollout of new information systems planned by the state government.

A Comeng test train fitted with upgraded communications equipment is in revenue service on the Metro Trains network in the Victorian capital, ahead of the planned rollout of the technology on 29 trains over the next 12 months.

Upgrades include real-time high definition information, colour passenger information displays with dynamic route maps and clearer destination screens on the outside of trains. There’s also high definition CCTV cameras being installed, along with better speakers and improved hearing aid links for audio announcements.

The upgrades are part of the third stage of the state’s $75 million investment to modernise the Comeng fleet, which was first commissioned in 1982.

The third stage also includes upgrading air compression systems powering the brakes, doors, pantographs and traction systems across the fleet.

The first and second stages of the program included safety upgrades for the Comengs’ doors, upgrades to interiors and exteriors, and enclosing the walkways between carriages.

“We’ve invested a record amount into new rollingstock and we’re modernising our current fleet to give passengers a better ride,” public transport minister Melissa Horne said.

“By upgrading critical systems, passengers will have clearer, simpler information and more reliable services so they can get home sooner.”

Metro Trains is also retrofitting thousands of wireless data recorders to the X’Trapolis and Siemens fleets for real-time condition monitoring.

“Monitoring trains in real-time will lead to a safer and better performing railway – that’s great news for passengers,” Metro CEO Raymond O’Flaherty said. “Using real-time data means a smarter approach to train maintenance and fewer faults impacting passengers.”