Worker transfer deal maintains train manufacturing jobs in Ballarat

The Victorian government has brokered a deal to transfer manufacturing staff from Alstom’s manufacturing site in Ballarat to Bombardier’s maintenance depot in the same regional town.

The deal was agreed to by the Victorian government, the two major manufacturers, and unions, and will see 27 of Alstom’s permanent manufacturing staff redeployed to work on the VLocity train maintenance program, which will be carried out at Bombardier’s Ballarat workshop.

Alstom workers who have not been redeployed will continue working on other rollingstock projects, said Minister for Public Transport, Melissa Horne.

“We’re helping keep these highly skilled manufacturing jobs in Ballarat – giving certainty to workers and their families.”

The deal comes after speculation over the future of Alstom’s Ballarat workforce once the final X’Trapolis trains in the current order are completed. While the Victorian government has committed to an order of X’Trapolis 2.0 trains, designs are still being completed, leaving the workforce in limbo. Victorian secretary of the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) Luba Grigorovitch said that the jobs could have disappeared altogether.

“There was the potential for these regional jobs to be lost, and I’m really pleased that the state government applied the pressure that was necessary to ensure that the redeployment of the employees has been facilitated.”

The Victorian government has committed $12 million to Alstom to continue designing the X’Trapolis 2.0 trainsets.

Grigorovitch welcomed the investment but said that a confirmed order was needed.

“The investment in the design phase is only the first step and the workers and their families will only truly be secure once they see an order of much needed X’Trapolis 2.0s.”

By redeploying the workers onto the VLocity fleet, maintenance schedules will be sped up, said Horne.

“Alstom workers will gain new experience and skills carrying out vital maintenance on our VLocity fleet – helping to keep services moving across regional Victoria.”

Bombardier

Filling the gap

Bombardier is helping rail operators achieve zero emissions on unelectrified track with its battery electric units while slashing lifecycle costs.

One of the key benefits of rail travel to the community is its low emissions. Whether powered via overhead lines or an electrified rail, trains offer fast, high volume mobility, and if powered by renewable energy, emissions free. That is, until the wire runs out.

In Australia, nationally there is 36,064 kilometres of track, but only a small portion of that in the major cities has an overhead power supply. In New Zealand, out of the total 4,128 kilometres of track, 589km is electrified. As the non-electrified sections of the network are often outside of major urban centres, getting regional travellers to travel by train presents the issue of running higher emitting vehicles, or undertaking costly electrification works on lines that have fewer services. These factors present an impediment to the zero emissions potential of rail transport, however one that is recently being overcome.

Launched in 2018, the Bombardier TALENT 3 train is a battery-electric multiple unit to fill the gap in-between electrification of entire rail networks and continued reliance on diesel-powered units. The TALENT 3 train can provide an operator with a 30 per cent reduction in the total cost of ownership, when compared to a conventional diesel multiple unit over a 30-year service life. The train is powered by Bombardier MITRAC traction batteries and can run on non-electrified lines for distances of up to 100km. The batteries utilise recent technological innovation in fast charging and high-density lithium ion batteries which can be charged in less than 10 minutes while running on an electrified section of track, or through recuperating otherwise lost energy when the train is braking.

The research and development work that went into the TALENT 3 train was supported by the German federal government, research institutions, and regional German transport operators. Additionally, the technology behind the train was developed by Bombardier in its Mannheim laboratory in Germany. The newly inaugurated €1 million ($1.72m) facility contributed to the battery components for the TALENT 3 train. In Europe, the demand for battery electric units is increasing, as shown in recent orders for trials of the trains in multiple countries.

In Germany, the innovation involved in the development and production of the TALENT 3 train was recognised in late 2018, when Bombardier won the Berlin Brandenburg innovation award. In particular the jury singled out the role that battery electric trains could provide to Germany’s non electrified network. The train could already operate on 30 per cent of the country’s non-electrified lines, and if cost- effective electrification was done at end points, 75 per cent of lines that currently run diesel-powered services could be operated with battery power.

Commenting on the project, Bombardier’s head of sales – Australia and New Zealand, Todd Garvey, highlighted how the train would overcome network limitations.

“It was Bombardier’s goal to develop a quiet and eco-friendly train for passengers, while also offering operators the best alternative to higher emittting diesel trains on both cost and safety aspects.”

In Australia and New Zealand, where there are already proposals for the electrification of sections of regional and intercity track, the Bombardier TALENT 3 train could readily operate on lines such as the Hunter Line, a variety of V/Line services in Victoria, and partially electrified sections of track in New Zealand. However, the flexibility of battery- electric trains enables new connections to be made.

“The BEMU – as we call it – has massive potential in the ANZ market as the cost barriers to deploy widescale electrification are considerable.

“Our BEMU provides operators and governments with a zero-emission alternative to diesel propelled vehicles across their extended networks. Once the electric line runs out, the batteries kick in and the vehicle can continue running as normal for up to 100 kilometres.

“The only additional infrastructure then would be strategically placed charging stations throughout the regional network that the vehicle can plug into, to recharge the battery,” said Garvey.

“This presents big savings and reduces the need for a large-scale civil works program. These battery trains are also quieter, and this is good in greenfield residential areas, for example, where diesel trains might not be the preferred option.”

The key to realising the benefits of battery trains is their flexibility. Not only do they reduce a network’s total emissions but eliminate the immediate impact of emissions caused by the trains themselves. Emissions from diesel powered vehicles can limit their use in inner city areas and confined spaces such as tunnels. In addition, Bombardier’s TALENT 3 can achieve a significant reduction in noise, when compared to conventional DMUs.

Combining the latest in battery technology and a pedigree of innovation, the TALENT 3 provides zero emissions mobility to a much wider audience.

Victorian

Design released for locally-made new VLocity sets

The design of the new VLocity trains for the North East line in Victoria have been released.

The new model will be manufactured by Bombardier at its Dandenong workshops, said Minister for Public Transport, Melissa Horne.

“These new trains will be the first VLocitys to run on standard gauge tracks on Victoria’s regional network and will provide North East line passengers with a more comfortable and reliable train journey,” said Horne.

Features of the new trains include built in USB chargers, six luggage racks and overhead luggage storage, a modern catering facility, and six wheelchair spaces with companion seats nearby. Three bike racks will be installed, as well as four shared tables so groups can sit together. The design also includes accessibility improvements so that transport is accessible to people of all abilities.

The units will be manufactured in three car sets which can run coupled together for a six carriage train. Todd Garvey, director sales & marketing Australia for Bombardier, said the company has utilised its local knowledge and expertise.

“Bombardier is proud to support the Andrews Government by manufacturing these new standard gauge trains for North-East Victoria, in Victoria, using our local supply chain. Our operations in Dandenong employ over 500 people and we are the only business in Australia that can build trains and trams from end-to-end right here in Melbourne. We are fortunate to have a strong, talented workforce and a facility that can deliver for Victoria.”

The new design was developed in consultation with the community in North East Victoria, said Member for Northern Victoria, Jaclyn Symes.

“The feedback from local passenger groups, accessibility advocates, local government and tourism representatives has been fantastic, and central to the design process – I thank everyone who contributed.”

Once the $235 million upgrade to the North East Line is complete, the new trains will run on the standard gauge line. Current services to Albury are hauled by N class locomotives as the rest of the V/Line VLocity fleet are designed for Victoria’s broad gauge network.

Queensland’s newest train fleet deployed to the Sunshine Coast line

On Monday, March 2, Queensland’s newest trains, the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) fleet, were deployed to the Sunshine Coast line for the first time.

The NGR fleet has been deployed to Nambour on the Sunshine Coast to replace older train models to operate more than 40 existing weekly Sunshine Coast line services, Monday to Friday.

The final NGR train entered service for the Queensland Government in late January this year.

Manufactured by Bombardier, the NGR trains have travelled over eight million in service kilometres, and 150,000 passenger journeys, since December 2017.

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

The NGR trains are 147m long and weigh 260 tonnes and have a total passenger capacity of approximately 964 people, including 454 seated and 510 standing (depending on conditions).

Queensland Rail has also added an extra 32 weekly services to its South East Queensland (SEQ) timetable each week from March 2.

In addition, five services will extend on the SEQ timetable including extending an existing Caboolture service to start from Nambour at 5.38am weekdays, providing an additional morning peak train for customers between Nambour and Elimbah stations.

Queensland Rail said in a statement that the company has reviewed its operations across SEQ and have identified an opportunity to deliver these service improvements, within existing resources that are available.

“These changes will also reduce empty train running across the region by 1,460 kilometres per week, delivering extra services for our customers instead,” Queensland Rail said in a statement. 

“These improvements will deliver the largest number of weekly train services ever offered across SEQ and follows the introduction of 462 extra weekly services and 200,000 extra seats to our timetable in 2019.”

Next step for consortia shortlisted for Adelaide train network

The South Australian government has released an Invitation to Supply (ITS)  to the three consortia that were shortlisted last year to run a privatised Adelaide train network.

The consortia are Adelaide Next, a consortium of Deutsche Bahn and John Holland with Bombardier as a subcontractor; Keolis Downer, a consortium of Keolis and Downer EDI; and TrainCo, a consortium of Transdev and CAF.

Once the offers from the contractors are received, the SA state government will assess the responses and decide on a final contractor by mid 2020.

The successful proponent will be required to improve services in the Adelaide area, and will be judged based on customer satisfaction, integration of trains with other public transport modes, more frequent and faster services, collaboration with customers and stakeholders, and accessibility improvements.

The contract will cover four lines within the Adelaide Metro network, including Belair, Gawler, Outer Harbor, and Seaford with branch lines Grange, and Tonsley.

While the successful consortium will operate the network, the SA state government will retain ownership over rail assets, set standards for levels of service, set prices, retain revenue, and mandate performance targets for the contractor.

SA Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government, Stephan Knoll, said that the model will deliver better services.

“We will be capitalising on the vast private sector experience to help deliver better train and tram services while maintaining control of the assets, fares and service frequency.”

The shortlisted consortia already operate services in other states in Australia, with Keolis Downer operating the Melbourne tram network, the Gold Coast Light Rail, Newcastle Light Rail, and a number of bus services in SA, Queensland, and Western Australia.

Transdev and CAF together operate the Parramatta Light Rail network as part of the Great River City Light Rail consortium.

Deutsche Bahn and John Holland are partners in the Canberra Metro consortium which operates the Canberra light rail.

“The companies associated with the shortlisted proponents have experience delivering better services in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, as well as in Europe,” said Knoll.

SA hopes to increase patronage on its public transport network, with Adelaide having the lowest rail passenger kilometres per capita, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE).

“We are leaving no stone unturned with our reforms to deliver better and more customer focussed bus, train and tram services,” said Knoll.

Last year, the ABC reported that a Downer employee was caught sending quotes from fake news articles to Knoll about outsourcing Adelaide’s tram network.

Bombardier maintains keen local focus during light rail boom

Bombardier Transportation’s Todd Garvey sat down with Rail Express to discuss the mobility solutions provider’s approach to the booming local light rail market.

Australia, already home to the largest tram network on the planet, has become a hotbed for light rail developments in recent years. With new projects opened across multiple cities in the last five years, the project pipeline remains strong.

Despite this rapid development of a range of new opportunities for light rail vehicle (LRV) manufacturers in the region, Bombardier Transportation’s Todd Garvey told Rail Express the company doesn’t see its role changing drastically. Instead, the company plans to continue to rely on the qualities that have made it a successful player in the local market for years.

“There is a range of projects coming up that have a huge amount of focus for our business that we are excited about,” Garvey, the company’s head of sales for Southeast Asia and Australia, said.

“We’re focused on maintaining our role as a market leader in the supply and end- to-end manufacture of local content for Australia’s LRV needs. We’re working hard to ensure our local LRV manufacturing teams and indeed supply chain have a good, solid pipeline of work ahead of them.”

Maintaining the strength of the local supply chain has long been a key focus for Bombardier in Australia.

“Bombardier is in a unique position given our local manufacturing and supply chain for LRVs,” Garvey continued.

“Given Bombardier has been in this market for so long there is a huge amount of engineering and LRV subject matter experts within the business. That means there is an ability to not only identify and resolve the day-to-day challenges but also evolve the local supply chain capabilities for specific LRV requirements.”

E-CLASS TRAMS

The primary manufacturer of LRVs for Melbourne since 2013, Bombardier has now delivered around 85 E-Class trams to the Yarra Trams network, and has a current orderbook that will bring that figure to at least 100 LRVs.

Garvey told Rail Express the E-Class, which is comprised of Bombardier Flexity model LRVs, is the result of the company’s long-term approach to supply chain and market engagement.

“The Flexity is a world class tram,” he said. “They’re DSAPT compliant and built with passenger safety and comfort in mind.”

Beyond safety and comfort, however, the Flexity LRVs running in Melbourne have been developed to suit a network that presents a unique array of challenges for a fleet manufacturer/maintainer.

“Vehicles in Melbourne operate on a vast network that is unique in so many ways,” Garvey explained.

“One major factor is that in many sections of the network the vehicles will be operating on brownfield tracks. Some sections have been in existence for many decades, and in some cases for more than 100 years.”

“This is a natural phenomenon that happens all around the world,” Garvey said, “but in Melbourne it makes it even more important the LRVs are built to withstand these tough conditions.

“Fortunately, the Bombardier Flexity class is designed to suit this environment and has a proven track record in providing safe and comfortable passenger services in Melbourne.

“The car body is robust to suit local network requirements, and has been built to European fire and crashworthiness standards, which enhance the vehicle’s safety levels to that of worldwide leader status.”

ODAS TRIAL PLANNED

Bombardier plans to trial its Obstacle Detection Assistance System (ODAS) with its Victorian partners midway through 2020.

A joint development with the Austrian Institute of Technology, Bombardier’s ODAS uses an array of stereovision cameras focused on the area in front of the LRV, and highly advanced software algorithms which evaluate the vehicle envelope in real time along the track.

As soon as the system detects a considerable risk in front of the vehicle, it can alert the driver using visual and aural alerts.

“The ODAS product is progressing well and is active in the Flexity class in Europe,” Garvey said, ahead of the Victorian trial.

“In Frankfurt alone we have almost 150 systems in service. So far the ODAS platform has accumulated more than 10 million kilometres of passenger services, ensuring new levels of passenger safety and security.”

Bombardier has designed ODAS to be easy to upgrade, and switch in and out, thanks to its decentralised design featuring three separate components.

The first component is the camera unit: three identical stereo cameras within a single housing, mounted onto the inside of the windscreen. The cameras provide the high-resolution imagery and depth perception needed to provide accurate visual data for analysis.

That analysis is carried out in the second component of ODAS, the control unit. The unit is responsible for picture processing and interpretation, as well as additional routines which can provide further functionality.

The third component of the system is called the sync box, and is responsible for energy supply to the cameras, managing inputs and outputs, and providing a watchdog function to the controller. The sync box also acts as the liaison between the system and the tram, taking in vehicle information and delivering hazard warnings when needed.

LOOKING TO CONTINUE GOLD COAST SUCCESS
Bombardier is in discussions to supply vehicles for Stage 3A of light rail on the Gold Coast, and Garvey took a moment to reflect on the success of the 18 Flexity 2 trams Bombardier supplied to the project’s first two stages.

“The Gold Coast vehicles are performing extremely well,” he said. “Between 2014 and December 2019 there have been more than 46 million paid passenger trips on trams on that system, all on Bombardier LRVs.”

A particular point of pride for Bombardier was the performance of the fleet during the Commonwealth Games in 2018.“On some days during the Games they were running for 24 hours straight, in high traffic and warm weather conditions,” Garvey said, “and they did so without any issues.”

The fleet carried nearly 100,000 passengers a day during the Games, more than three times the daily average at the time – a success highlighted proudly by state transport minister Mark Bailey.

“It’s great to see so many people using the light rail network and other public transport modes to travel to events during the Commonwealth Games,” Bailey said in April 2018. “It is clear south-east Queensland commuters have responded well to taking all forms of public transport.”

Just prior to the Games the state managed to commission Stage 2 of light rail on the Gold Coast, which connected the original terminus at University Hospital to the Helensvale railway station – thus connecting the light rail to the region’s heavy rail network.

The results were immediate, with Bailey citing a “massive uptake of heavy rail commuters from both Brisbane and Varsity Lakes” during the games, and more than 180,000 passengers travelling to the Games via the heavy rail network in the Games’ first week.

With that success in the books, in November 2019 Queensland secured a funding package from the federal government to help deliver Stage 3A of Gold Coast Light Rail, further south to Burleigh Heads.

The state has said the 6.7-kilometre extension will require five new LRVs “similar to the 18 current vehicles,” and industry engagement is underway.

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.

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.