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InnoTrans: the global marketplace

Siemens Avenio for Munich – Credit: Siemens

Over 140 000 visitors from around the world descended on Berlin for the bi-annual InnoTrans trade fair in late September, with LRT developments playing a wider part than ever before. TAUT reports.

Immediately noticeable at this year’s InnoTrans railway expo in Berlin, Germany, was the amount of new displays related to light and urban rail equipment. Our estimates would suggest that the suppliers and service providers catering to the light and urban rail markets had doubled in their presence at the show for 2014 over previous exhibitions.

This year’s railway trade show in Berlin brought more than its fair share of new vehicles and innovation to the light rail and metro markets as 2758 exhibitors and over 140 000 visitors from across the railway world descended on the German capital.

Beyond the sneak glimpses revealed in TAUT 922, the other key LRT trends at this year’s event – the tenth and now by far the world’s largest platform for all facets of the industry – were the quests for further vehicle efficiency in terms of materials and traction power, and the application of digital and online technologies. These included further connectivity and automation as part of the ‘Internet of Things’ for operators and also for passenger communication.

For street-running vehicles, the capability of running away from the traditional overhead wires is nothing new in itself, but InnoTrans showed that this is now a major part of the catalogue from all the major manufacturers. Bombardier touted the latest maturation of its Primove systems, Alstom, Siemens and Vossloh both claimed increased efficiency from their own proprietary systems and there were also new solutions displayed from Škoda and Chinese manufacturer CSR.

Launched to great fanfare, the latter’s supercapacitor system claims that “catenary is no longer required” and that up to 80% of a vehicle’s tractive energy can be recuperated and re-used. This claim equates to 40% lower initial power consumption from the grid; removal of any issues of current leakage; and up to 40% reduction in construction time. Three supercapacitor packs are used per four-car 100% low-floor tram, carrying 300 passengers. Recharging from energised connector bars in stop canopies in just ten seconds, this elegant solution promises a life of one million cycles or ten years.

Already undergoing final testing in Canton, the first passenger trial on this new 7.8km (4.8-mile) system, with 11 stops, is promised later in 2014. A further three systems are developing the package for opening in 2015, according to CSR Deputy Director for Research and Development and Vice Chief Engineer Yang Ying. With more than 100 cities in China featuring a population of over one million residents, the applications in the coming decade are exciting, CSR representatives told TAUT.

Another new tram making its first major international outing is the new Artic low-floor vehicle for Helsinki, developed by domestic manufacturer TransTech. These 27.6m-long, 2.4m wide articulated cars are part of a 40-car order for the Finnish capital, awarded in 2011. With a lightweight body and pivoting bogies that allow for tight corner radii of up to 15m, the Artic can reach speeds of up to 80km/h (50mph). Following display in Berlin, the car was destined for further demonstration runs in the German city of Würzburg.

The efforts of many of the recent joint venture partnerships were on show for the first time, with Pesa’s Foxtrot for Moscow (a partnership with Uraltransmash was signed in 2013, although the vehicles are primarily engineered at Pesa’s main facility in Bydgoscz, Poland), and Stadler’s Metelica, designed for the Belarus city of Minsk. By Stadler’s own admission, the vehicle is simpler than many more sophisticated Western European rolling stock designs, but is also robust and with more heated components to cope with extreme climatic conditions in the Belarusian capital, which can vary from between -35 to +35°C.

Bombardier showed advanced features on a new Flexity 2 bound for part of a 48-strong order for Belgian operator De Lijn, including an under-development front airbag system to protect pedestrians developed with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, an airless sanding system, dimmable glazing and antimicrobial cabin treatments.

Away from the impressive outdoor display tracks, the halls also offered visitors the chance to see the latest technology in every other facet of rail operation, with predictive maintenance and longevity proving to be two key drivers of this year’s show. Utilising the latest developments in both 3 and 4G and wireless communication, many manufacturers were offered real-time condition reporting on everything from wheel-bearings to the rail face.