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Rail News Home Mechanical

September 2009

Rail News: Mechanical

Builders of passenger-rail locomotives, EMUs and DMUs talk technology, global market trends

Compiled by Pat Foran, Editor

Investing in infrastructure isn't merely a trend or some quick economic fix; it's entrenched, and entrenched globally. It's woven into the strategic-thinking fabric. Infrastructure investment — passenger rail, in particular — is part of the planning deal for the foreseeable future. Governments and agencies in every continent will continue to invest in systems that get people from A to B in a range of weight classes (light and heavy) and at a variety of speeds (from high to higher). And builders of locomotives, diesel electric multiple units (DMUs) and electric multiple units (EMUs) know it.

"The present situation is helping us to the extent that governments are launching recovery programs and making major investments above all in the field of infrastructure," as Siemens Mobility officials put it in an email. "[Our] portfolio caters exactly to these programs because the efficient technologies used in our rail vehicles offer sustainable solutions for preserving our environment."

Last month, Progressive Railroading emailed suppliers of passenger-rail locomotives, DMUs and EMUs seeking their respective takes on the power markets they serve — be they in North America or anywhere else in the world — as well as updates on their most recent offerings and orders. Some elected to address the global marketplace, others focused on North America. Their responses follow.

Alstom Transport

Alstom Transport offers a range of locomotives and EMU/DMU regional trains, which are "a proven success — particularly in Europe," Alstom officials said in an email.

For example, the builder's line of PRIMA passenger electric locomotives is designed to combine "efficiency, economic performance and sustainable development utilizing the latest in technological innovations," the company noted. PRIMA's modular design approach also "allows for configuration and adaptation to meet changing needs" with respect to voltage and signaling systems, for example. PRIMA also provides "high levels of comfort and safety." The train propulsion system, which is based on "service proven" Onix IGBT technology, affords "unsurpassed reliability and significant reduction in energy consumption," the builder said.

Alstom trains incorporate energy-absorbing buffers and "innovative" crash-absorption technologies that provide a "high level of protection," the company said.

Developed in response to the increasing urbanization and development of outer-city regions, the CORADIA product portfolio of regional rolling stock encompasses a broad range of vehicles to meet regional rail operators' varying needs; the vehicles range in capacity from 200 to 500 seats per train. CORADIA regional and intercity trains offer passengers "high standards of quality, comfort and safety, while assuring operators optimum performances resulting in reduced operating and maintenance costs, at a maximum speed of 135 mph," the company said.

CORADIA vehicles are available in diesel, electric or hybrid multiple units — single-level or double-decker. They can be tailored to meet specific operational and service needs and feature "proven" power supplies, architectures, and configurations, the company said.

"The passenger rail market today provides growth opportunities for development of new commuter-rail technologies," Alstom officials offered up in summation. "As the cost of implementing heavy- and light-rail continues to increase, cities are turning to commuter-rail service as a viable alternative to improving mobility within their regions. While EMU/DMU opportunities are of a lesser magnitude compared to light rail and heavy rail, projects continue to develop offering opportunities for implementation of popular proven European solutions within the United States."

Bombardier Transportation

Bombardier Transportation's new ALP locomotive platform for North America consists of ALP-46A electric and ALP-45DP dual-powered locomotives. Both locomotive types are based on "service-proven ALP-46 locomotive technology that has been in successful operation" with New Jersey Transit since 2002, Bombardier officials said.

The new ALP-46A electric locomotives feature a number of technology upgrades compared to the first ALP-46 series, along with improved acceleration and increased operating efficiency, and will be capable of running at speeds up to 125 mph.

ALP-45DP dual-powered locomotives operate under both diesel power and alternating current electric power from overhead sources — "a first in North America," the company said, adding that other locomotives may operate under diesel and third-rail electricity. The flexible power system enables the locomotives to operate over both electrified and non-electrified lines. ALP-45DP units will be able to operate on electrified lines at speeds up to 125 mph and at speeds up to 100 mph on non-electrified lines in push-pull passenger train operation in single or multiple locomotive consists.  

Both locomotive types will be powered by BOMBARDIER MITRAC propulsion and controls technology, which offers "high performance and intelligent features, such as remote diagnostic systems and sophisticated adhesion control for improved traction and hauling efficiency," the company said.

Among the builder's recent North American orders: In February 2008, Bombardier was awarded a contract from New Jersey Transit for 27 ALP-46A electric locomotives. It includes options for an additional 33 locomotives.

In August 2008, Bombardier was awarded two contracts to supply 46 ALP-45DP dual-powered locomotives to NJ Transit and the Agence Métropolitaine de Transport (AMT) in Montreal. NJ Transit ordered 26 units with options for an additional 63 locomotives; AMT ordered 20 units with options for an additional 10 locomotives.

Siemens Mobility

Regarding the global marketplace for locomotives, officials at Siemens Mobility don't expect any "major orders" to be placed through year's end. But the order pace should pick up in 2010.

"Amtrak is expected to place an order for electric locomotives — the RFQ has already been published," Siemens Mobility officials said. "Medium term, the replacement of Amtrak's Genesis diesel locomotive is to be expected. Major demands can be seen in China whereby the technical requirements are still under discussion. The maximum speed for electric locomotives usually is approximately 220 to 230 kilometers per hour [136.4 mph to 142.6 mph] — for diesel locomotives, 200 kilometers per hour [124 mph]."

In the DMU/EMU realm, the company is "working on bids for large-scale projects" in Germany, the U.K. and Switzerland, among others.

In terms of electric locomotives, Siemens Mobility offers the Eurosprinter family of locomotives. The ES64F4 is a multi-system locomotive for heavy freight and passenger applications; it can reach a maximum speed of 140 kilometers per hour (86.8 mph). The ES64F4 can handle all four voltage systems common in continental Europe. Several versions are available covering a broad variety of corridors/countries.

The company also offers the multi-system ES64U4 for the high-speed segment that can reach a maximum speed of 230 kilometers per hour (142.6 mph). Several versions are available to serve a range of corridors and countries.

"An ES64U4 series production locomotive has been used for the 357 kilometer per hour [221.3 mph] world-record run on Sept. 2, 2006," company officials noted.

The latest Eurosprinter development is the HLE18 locomotive for the Belgian National Railway Co. (SNCB). It features a new locomotive body, which complies with the latest crash standards. Sixty locomotives are in the process of delivery.

In terms of diesel locomotives, Siemens Mobility offers the Eurorunner family of locomotives. They can operate at a maximum speed of 160 kilometers per hour (99.2 mph), a "decent speed" for regional train applications, the company said.

On the recent order front, the biggest was the aforementioned 60 HLE18s that SNCB ordered in 2007. Since then, SNCB exercised an option for an additional 60 units. Siemens Mobility also received orders for traction equipment for electric passenger and high-speed locomotives built by China's CSR Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive Co. Ltd. for railways in Uzbekistan (15 locomotives, 160 kilometers per hour or 99.2 mph) and Kazakhstan (22 locomotives, 200 kilometers per hour or 124 mph).

For the DMU and EMU marketplace, Siemens Mobility offers the Velaro platform concept ("With a maximum speed of 350 kilometers per hour [217 mph], Velaro is the fastest series production trainset in the world," the company said); Desiro ML ("the highest flexibility for commuter, regional and InterRegio service"); and Desiro City, which incorporates a single-car concept, reduced train weight, and a flexible and modular interior design that "enable primary energy consumption reductions of up to 50 percent," the company said.

The most recent DMU/EMU orders were placed by SNCB (305 Desiro ML three-car units), DSB (an outline agreement for more than 100 Desiro Classics — two-car units), Deutchse Bahn AG (15 Velaros with an eight-car train configuration), FirstScotRail (38 Desiro Class 380 units — Desiro UK 3 [22] and 4 [16] car units) and Russian Railways (200 sleeping cars; Siemens is working with local partner TVZ).

Sumitomo Corp. of America

Officials at Sumitomo Corp. of America are bullish on the North American passenger-rail power market.

"We assess that the market for passenger rail will increase because of the stimulus package in the short term and because of environmental issues in a long term," the company said. "In addition to RFPs that are under way, there are many projects planned for both EMU and DMU. High-speed rail will also be a big area of focus in the mid and long term."

Accordingly, Sumitomo and Nippon Sharyo are supplying a variety of rail cars, including single-level passenger coaches, single-level EMUs, gallery type bi-level passenger coaches and gallery type bi-level EMUs, and light-rail vehicles.

"We have supplied those vehicles always on time, within budget and have satisfied the customer's request to the full extent," the company said.

The company also has "a very keen interest in DMU" and will offer units that are "compliant with the latest FRA regulation/APTA standards." And when it comes to intercity transportation, Sumitomo "will be able to supply a variety of railway vehicles, such as super-high-speed rail system, or 110 mph [vehicles] or 125 mph passenger coaches, depending on the customer's request."

Recent orders include:

  • 300 gallery type bi-level passenger coaches to the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corp. (Metra);
  • 26 gallery type bi-level EMUs to Metra;
  • 14 gallery type bi-level EMUs to the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District; and
  • 61 gallery type bi-level passenger coaches to Virginia Railway Express.

US Railcar L.L.C.

Earlier this year, private investors affiliated with asset management firm Value Recovery Group Inc. (VRG) acquired the former Colorado Railcar Manufacturing L.L.C. DMU and announced plans to resume manufacturing the self-propelled passenger cars in a new U.S. manufacturing facility to be established later this year.

VRG formed US Railcar L.L.C., which retained the acquired Colorado Railcar DMU proprietary rights and information, manufacturing documentation, inventory, tooling, fixtures/jigs and other production equipment. VRG appointed Michael Pracht president and CEO of US Railcar. He previously held various key positions at Siemens and Ansaldo STS.

"The market for DMUs has been emerging/threatening for the last 30 years, or at least since the last of the Budd RDCs had little-to-no overhaul life left," Pracht said via email. "DMUs were a proven addition to a regional commuter or intercity operators' fleet back in the '40s & '50s in North America, and continue to be so today in just about every country around the world."

That said, the lack of a sustainable market and more rigorous North American safety/structural standards have kept modern DMUs "mostly extinct in the U.S.," as Pracht put it. The exception? "The few non-compliant European cars operating under regulatory waivers and/or with host railroad temporal separation agreements," he said.

That'll change in the coming years, Pracht believes, given "the Obama Administration's commitment to passenger rail in general, stimulus ‘starter' dollars in particular, and seemingly broad support in both houses of Congress and on both sides of the aisle."

Enter US Railcar. The company is offering what Pracht termed as "the modern replacement for the old Budd RDCs: a new, state-of-the art DMU manufactured in a fully FRA-compliant platform configurable for both regional commuter and intercity service (seating 98 in the former and 65 in the latter) with an operating speed of 90 mph."

The US Railcar DMU, Pracht added, is not a low-floor, light-rail DMU; it's a "true regional and intercity trainset that will help existing loco-hauled operators stretch precious operating dollars by reducing O&M costs, and allow new-start operators to provide immediate revenue-proven service with simple host railroad agreements for fully compliant rolling stock," he said.

Planned upgrades include a diesel-electric drive system, stainless steel carbody and next-generation energy management control system.

Going forward, US Railcar "expects to leverage its acquisition of the former Colorado Railcar platform and the only ‘made-in-America' passenger trains in production today" to secure "a market leadership position" as new regional and intercity markets develop, Pracht said. Existing customers include the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon and Alaska Railroad Corp. 


Browse articles on locomotive EMU DMU Alstom Bombardier Siemens Mobility US Railcar Sumitomo Corporation of America

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