25. April 2018

Rail: regional transport preparing to phase-out diesel

Multiple unit trains of the future: sector’s vision defines performance features

Farewell to Diesel
The rail sector has a vision for the future of Germany’s local and regional rail transport: The multiple-unit trains of the future will have zero emissions, can be flexibly coupled, will be barrier-free and will already have future upgrades factored in.

Berlin, April 25, 2018. The rail sector has developed a company-wide vision statement on how the multiple-units of the future will be constructed in order to begin the process of phasing out diesel trains. After this, the next generation of rolling stock will have electric traction on 100 percent of lines. From the end of 2024, they will also be operating on non-electrified tracks using alternative energy sources. The new vehicles will be flexible components of the rolling stock fleet, barrier free for various platform heights and will already have future upgrades factored in. A four-page vision statement for the railway sector, which is being supported by the major organisations and companies, was presented to the public on Wednesday by the German Pro-Rail Alliance and the VDV (Association of German Transport Companies) together with leading representatives from Siemens, Bombardier, Alstom and Deutsche Bahn.

Ferlemann: two big tasks for transport

“The government’s coalition agreement gave us two big tasks: doubling passenger numbers by 2030 while at the same hitting national climate targets. We can only achieve this if we expand passenger transport sustainably and commit to using alternative propulsion systems, with fuel cells being a key technology for the Mobility 4.0 project. This means that zero-emission trains will soon be operating on non-electrified tracks,” said Enak Ferlemann, the government’s new official for the railways and the parliamentary secretary of state in the Federal Ministry for Transport and Digital Infrastructure. He added that it was high time that politicians and the transport sector cooperated on Mobility 4.0 and provided an important stimulus for bringing about changes to the way vehicles are powered.

Pro-Rail Alliance: electrification and alternative propulsion systems are linked

“The rail sector is now in action mode,” said the managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance, Dirk Flege, during the presentation. “The sector believes it is capable of operating without diesel-only propulsion systems in new multiple units for regional and local transport by the end of 2024.” Alongside the electrification offensive for the German rail network, the coalition agreement also promises support for alternative propulsion systems. “We regard both measures as two aspects of the same concept: even if politicians want to have 70 percent of the network electrified by 2025, we also want to gradually increase emissions-free operations on the other 30 percent, either with alternative propulsion systems or with additional electrification. If politicians and the rail sector were to act jointly and decisively then passenger rail transport will be completely free of C02 emissions by 2050.”

VDV: transport companies and public transport authorities target 2024/25 timetable switch

“If we want achieve an energy turnaround we have to seriously address the issue of phasing out diesel engines. The transport companies and public transport authorities are very aware of their responsibilities to society. We are increasingly committing to alternative propulsion by pushing forward on electrifying tracks and using trains with hydrogen fuel cells. Just for the RMV alone, 26 vehicles with fuel cells are currently out for tender for operations from 2022,” said VDV vice president Knut Ringat, who emphasised that this an ambitious goal. At the same time he reminded the industry of its responsibilities. “Due to the preliminary lead time for invitations for tenders, which can be years, we need to have vehicles with alternative propulsion that are ready to go into serial production.” All of these key points have been set out in the sector’s vision statement. Ringat referred to the never-ending issue of platform heights. “We should not get caught up in a discussion about whether platform heights should be 55 or 76 centimetres. What is important for passengers is the we achieve a minimum height of 55 centimetres for all stations as soon as possible.

Siemens: rail supply industry is working on production-ready alternatives to diesel multiple units

“The rail supply industry is working flat out on alternatives to diesel multi units that are ready for serial production,” said the head of Siemens Mobility Germany, Manfred Fuhg, who is also the spokesman for the supporting members of the Pro-Rail Alliance. “The first hydrogen passenger trains will already begin operating this year. Manufacturers also want to soon begin testing vehicles with batteries.”

Vision statement overview: the sector’s four performance features for the multiple units of the future

Emissions free: Electric traction is also possible without electrified tracks. Because Germany cannot electrify its whole network in the near term, rolling stock manufacturers want to have multiple units ready for production that provide all the classic performance characteristics of diesel multiple units but are completely emissions free. Battery trains will be able to travel 50 kilometres without having to recharge, and trains with hydrogen fuel cells will even manage 1000 kilometres on one filling. The sector believes it is capable of operating without diesel-only propulsion systems in new multiple units in time for the switch to the 2024/25 timetable.

Fleet flexibility: Any company today that wants to assemble a train composed of various vehicle types has limited options. Different vehicle types, or even vehicles from different production series of the same type, often cannot be combined with each other. The railway sector is setting itself a clear goal for the next vehicle generation: universal coupling capability. This will mean that lengthening trains will be quick and flexible when extra capacity is needed at peak times.

Barrier free: Bonus question: what is the height of a railway platform in Germany? Answer: it depends – the height of platforms varies from ground level to 96 centimetres. Because we have to live with this historical diversity but nevertheless ensure that access is barrier free, rolling stock manufacturers are working on trains that are compatible with the two most common heights of 55 centimetres and 76 centimetres. Trains enabling step-free access for multiple rail platforms will have been developed by 2022.

Upgrades included: digitalisation is one of the buzz words used by companies and politicians, but where should all that cable go? The railway sector is proud of the fact that vehicles can be in service for 30 years. In the future, the rolling stock manufacturers want to make sure that enough space for completely unforeseeable innovations is already planned for. The possibility for upgrades to IT equipment, the vehicle interior, energy storage must all factored in from the beginning. Otherwise a long vehicle service life can quickly become a liability.

The sector’s vision statement is supported by all members of the Pro-Rail Alliance, Deutsche Bahn, Siemens, Bombardier, Alstom, the VDV and mofair.

Additional information:

The railway sector’s vision: The next generation of local and regional trains (German)

Film: Electric traction and alternative propulsion (German)

Fotos of the presentation