NIF being tested under its own power on NSW network

NSW’s New Intercity Fleet (NIF) is undergoing testing under its own power, in a significant step forward for the regional rail fleet.

Minister for Transport Andrew ConstanceNIF inspected the new trains.

“When the trains first arrived, on-track testing involved using a locomotive to haul the carriages. What we’re seeing today is a really exciting milestone because they’re now travelling around the network under their own power,” said Constance.

Further testing on the Sydney Trains network will calibrate the systems for local operation.

“Over the next few months you’ll see more of these trains on the network as we progressively test all train systems including Automatic Train Protection, passenger door systems, passenger information, CCTV, ride comfort as well as the maximum speed of 160kph,” said Constance. “We’ll also be using this time to familiarise the train crew with the new operating systems and technology on board.”

The trains have been previously criticised by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) for a feature which locks the train if the doors are open.

The fleet will serve regional centres in the Central Coast, Newcastle, South Coast, and Blue Mountains and upgrades to infrastructure and stations along the track are part of the delivery of the new fleet, said Minister for Regional Transport Paul Toole.

“These are modern trains featuring the latest technology, so we need to ensure we upgrade the infrastructure on the network to accommodate them.

“Work is also continuing on sections of the Blue Mountains Line, which will enable customers living between Springwood and Lithgow to experience a new train for the first time since the last of the V-Sets were introduced in 1989.”

The purpose-built maintenance facility for the trains at Kangy Angy on the NSW central coast is also progressing, said Toole.

“This work, along with the construction of the new maintenance facility at Kangy Angy, has helped to create around 1600 local jobs.”

Deal complete for 1,500 cars for Berlin underground

Swiss-based railcar manufacturer Stadler has won the contract for 1,500 underground metro cars for the Berlin transport network, Berliner Vekehrsbetriebe (BVG).

The framework agreement, worth up to 3 billion Euros, will also include the supply of spare parts for 32 years.

The announcement, made on March 20, followed the rejection by the Berlin Court of Appeal of a review procedure initiated by an unsuccessful bidder.

The agreement includes a fixed minimum order of 606 cars. Stadler will supply 376 cars for two to four-car vehicle units across the small and large profile sections of the Berlin underground network. Another 230 cars have been ordered, but the call off order has not yet been placed. An additional 894 cars could also be ordered at a later date, however that part of the agreement is optional.

Stadler already has rail vehicles in use on the U1, U2, and U5 lines in Berlin. The new cars will be based on the Stadler-METRO vehicles with the design optimised for improved access, and faster passenger loading and unloading.

A revised design will see the information screens moved from the door to the curved intercar connection between the side wall and ceiling.

“We are delighted that BVG has decided to continue its successful cooperation with our company. We are very proud to have won one of the largest delivery contracts ever awarded in Europe and to be able to complete the order in Berlin for Berlin,” said Jure Mikolčić, CEO of Stadler in Germany.

The new cars will be built at the Stadler Berlin-Pankow site, where Stadler will invest 70 million euros. The investment will go towards a new production hall, and spaces for logistics and commissioning. Furthermore, office space and a new canteen for workers will be built.

“We have decided to bring forward our planned investments in the Stadler location in the German capital in order to create an optimal basis for the implementation of this major project,” said Mikolčić.

Train manufacturing re-energises Morwell

Choosing to set up its manufacturing base in Morwell, Victoria, CTEA demonstrates its ongoing commitment to local rail manufacturing.

The town of Morwell, in the Gippsland region of Victoria, is bordered to the north and south by twin coal mines and power stations. The still-operating Yallourn sits to the north of the town, while to the south lies the Hazelwood power station.

When the Hazelwood Power Station closed in 2017, the adjoining town, so dominated by the coal mining and power, seemed to be headed for a similar fate, tied to its legacy of 20th century industry. However, the unexpected resurgence of the local manufacturing sector could be what keeps the lights on in the town and the wider Latrobe Valley.

In late 2019, the Latrobe Valley Authority announced that direct investment in growing local industries is having an impact, with an extra 10,600 people in employment and a 3.7-percentage point drop in the unemployment rate since November 2016.

Alongside wind turbine and electric vehicles, rail is committed to the future of manufacturing in this region of Victoria. In 2017, CRRC Times Electric Australia (CTEA) announced that an assembly facility would be set up in Morwell and provide more than 20 job opportunities to the local community. The facility commenced operations in 2018.

The Chinese manufacturer of propulsion and control systems, which established its subsidiary in Australia in 2012, not only committed to being located in the Latrobe valley, but will utilise local expertise and supply chains, said David Wang, commercial manager at CTEA.

“With the establishment of the facility in Morwell in Victoria, CTEA’s operation has covered the whole La Trobe Valley area where Morwell is located. In order to support production in the facility, CTEA has been employing people from surrounding communities and procuring materials from nearby suppliers.”

The facility in Morwell comes as part of CTEA’s strategy to promote the transfer of production technology to Australia and New Zealand. To begin, the plant covers 2,500 sqm, but has the capacity to increase to 10,000 sqm as demand picks up. Today, the two- dozen strong local workforce is producing critical traction and auxiliary systems for a Melbourne metro project, which aims to have a substantial proportion of the project delivered by locally based businesses.

CTEA is the Australian arm of expanding propulsion and control systems provider for rollingstock, Zhuzhou CRRC Times Electric (TEC). TEC is a subsidiary of CRRC and with over 60 years of history, was listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2006. The company’s global presence was well established in 2008 with the acquisition of UK-based Dynex Power which designs and manufactures semiconductors and further enhanced in 2015 with the acquistion of another UK-based company SMD Limited which specialises in marine engineering equipment design and manufacture. Today, TEC operates around the globe, with over 8,000 employees and revenues of US$2.41 billion ($3.59bn) in 2018.

This global operation brought to Morwell its knowledge of specialised manufacturing management system and insights gained from professional laboratories. For those at the Morwell site, training was provided and coordinated by technical experts from CTEA headquarters. With the successful manufacturing of traction systems in Morwell, CTEA can now claim to be filling a gap in the Australian rail industry and enabling the further growth of local manufacturing of parts and components.

According to Wang, having local expertise in this area will allow for other rollingstock projects to source Australian manufactured components.

“With the increasing investment from the state government and Australian government, more and more efforts have been focused on improving the efficiency and travel experience of the passenger rail market. Over the next couple of years, more and more passenger rail projects will be announced in different states with sufficient funding and CTEA is fully prepared to participate and support.”

This commitment goes beyond the factory walls. In Morwell, CTEA has engaged with the local Indigenous community, and meeting rooms at the site take their names from the region’s Indigenous language, spoken by the Gunai/Kunai people. Furthermore, cultural exchange has occurred through a series of events, including the sponsorship of the local community basketball team, and upcoming donations of books on Chinese culture to the local library.

Although a relatively new entrant into the Australian market, CTEA hopes that such an investment signals its long-term engagement with the Australian rail industry by providing a quality product, made in Australia.

ENSURING ONSHORE MEANS QUALITY

Australian manufacturing has often prided itself on its adoption and incorporation of high safety standards. CTEA has taken this to heart, and in its manufacture of traction systems the company has attempted to lead the market by achieving a SIL2 accreditation.

This accreditation level is above that reached by other traction system manufacturers in the market, said Wang.

“In order to meet the requirements from the client and provide a reliable solution, CRRC TEC has achieved SIL2 accreditation for several safe-related functions traction devices.”

Also, according to Wang, the SIL2 accreditation sets a new benchmark for traction systems products in Australia.

This achievement fits within CTEA’s broader range of products, as one of the truly turnkey providers in the rail market. As rail projects become increasingly more complex, the ability of CTEA to provide not only traction systems but power supply, signalling, and maintenance vehicles as an integrated solution. Furthermore, CTEA cites its relationship and partnership with globally- leading construction companies as enabling the combination of electromechanical and civil expertise.

Such an integrated solution can already be seen in overseas markets where CTEA’s services have been integrated into local projects, for example in the Los Angeles Metro project.

However, Australia’s unique challenges also require a response that is catered to local conditions and delivered by a highly skilled local workforce. CTEA will continue to pursue this approach in the future, the company said in a statement.

“CTEA will continue to invest in Australia to strengthen our capabilities ranging from production, engineering, maintenance and be more innovative with the aim of successful and smooth project delivery to our valued clients. Besides, CTEA will strive to maintain the mutual-trust relationships with the suppliers and also source other supportive local suppliers to ensure that CTEA’s local supply chain can fully support the project delivery.”

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.

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.