Latest in Heavy Rail Vehicles

June 4, 2018
More agencies are looking to implement heavy rail into their systems. As suppliers continue to develop both rail cars and the technology within them, allowing for improved safety and more effective operating management.

Heavy rail continues to develop. Technology continues to make rail lines more efficient and can also increase passenger comfort.

Chris Maynard, vice president of Siemens Rail Services business in the U.S said, “With today’s technology on trains changing at lightning speed, organizations are struggling more and more to ensure the new trains and technology are adequately supported with the newest knowledge base and supply chain – and in a way that won’t disrupt the reliability or availability of the trains’ services.”

Implementing changes

“We are working on a more holistic approach to the traditional servicing model: one that combines our engineering domain know-how with the newest digital technologies to help manage the obsolescence issues that arise,” explained Maynard.

Siemens technology aligns with the trend of technology becoming a higher priority among systems.

One concern that has arisen in systems that run through busier cityscape areas in the noise that is generated. Bombardier has introduced a new silicon carbide (SiC)-equipped BOMBARDIER MITRAC TC1500 traction converter. The technology works to reduce areas such as emissions and noise, while also making the propulsion systems more effective.

“This new energy-saving propulsion technology is the result of a Bombardier-led joint research program that investigated the potential contribution SiC could make towards more sustainable urban transit systems with lower energy consumption and noise levels,” said Patrick Jacob, product marketing manager, MOVIA Metro Products.”

As cities lean towards furthering sustainable infrastructure, heavy rail lines that can abide by that become more attractive to agencies.

Jacob explained, “The research program, supported by the Swedish Energy Agency, saw Bombardier team up with local partners.”

  • The Stockholm Public Transport Authority (customer and fleet owner)
  • MTR Tech (fleet operator)
  • KTH Royal Institute of Technology (academic partner)
  • RISE/Acreo (research institute)

“Following a pre-study phase to establish the potential benefits, a prototype was designed, built and tested at Bombardier’s engineering center in Vasteras, Sweden,” said Jacob. “The BOMBARDIER MITRAC TC1500 traction converter equipped with SiC semiconductors was then tested on a C20 metro train running on the Stockholm Metro.”

The passenger service on the Stockholm Metro Green Line ran from December 2017 to March 2018. Jacob explained that the results from the service showed how SiC technology can benefit customers.

  • Energy reductions up to 35 percent
  • 19 dB lower noise emissions
  • A 51 percent reduction in size in the propulsion system
  • 22 percent less weight in the propulsion system

Safety mandates

With the upcoming Federal Railroad Administration’s mandate on positive train control approaching, safety is a factor that also comes into play with heavy rail.

“By far, the most important development we are seeing is the mandated implementation of PTC – and how to give our customers full PTC capability quickly, safely and without too much change to their existing system,” explained John Paljug, president of Siemens Rail Automation Business for North America. “Right now, we’re having some tremendous success with our product ACSES (Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System) which, when overlaid with our conventional cab signal systems, provides the four core sought-after PTC functions: civil speed enforcement, positive train stop, track speed enforcement and work zone protection in one integrated package.”

Paljug explained that the ACSES product is that it can be implemented onto an agencies current signal system.

“Another sought-after and appreciated feature (especially of our ACSES product) is that it’s a fairly easy ‘overlay’ onto an existing cab signal system – requiring intermittent information delivery, and not a continuous stream of information,” said Paljug. “This ‘agnostic’ capability gives customers the flexibility they need for further upgrades – helping to ‘future-proof’ their system moving forward.”

The ability to upgrade a system with ease allows for agencies assets to remain in safe service with greater ease and introduce a longer life cycle.

When it comes to railcars Bombardier has introduced a new generation of Bombardier commuter rail cars. The BiLevel cars have been operating since 1978 and designed along with GO Transit, now part of Metrolinx. Currently there are over 1,300 BiLevel cars in operation or currently being ordered by transit authorities across Canada and the United States.

“One of the keys to the success of the BiLevel car has been its ability to meet the changing needs of commuter rail agencies as well as the dynamic regulatory environment,” said Yves Laperrière, chief product engineer, BiLevel and Multi-Level Products, Bombardier.

Bombardier has introduced a new generation of the BiLevel car.

“The newest generation of the popular BiLevel car includes cabs and coaches equipped with a Crash Energy Management (CEM) system. It offers an enhanced structure, pushback couplers and crumple zones at either end of the car,” said Laperrière. “In addition, the front end of the cab car is designed to withstand and absorb a greater load and the engineers' cab, which is now positioned 29 inches higher, features improved ergonomics.”

There are currently CEM-equipped BiLevel cars that are running at agencies such as Metrolinx in Toronto and Sound Transit in Seattle. The CEM-equipped BiLevel cars are also currently in production for SunRail in Florida.

Maintenance and life cycle costs

Maintenance and improving life-cycle costs is another consideration that comes into play with the furthered development and selection of rail vehicles. With the transit asset management (TAM) plan being mandated next year, rail companies continue to develop in this area. Siemens has worked to develop new technologies that in the end benefit maintenance departments.

“In addition we are developing diagnostic support for the optimization of not only maintenance, but the improving of efficiency of operations – resulting in less overall costs to the customer,” explained Maynard.

Bombardier has also introduced new technologies that can benefit life cycle of rail vehicles.

“Bombardier developed the FLEXX Eco bogie to meet market requirements, driven by life cycle cost and environmental considerations,” said Jacob. “The FLEXX Eco bogie design retains and improves on the overall safety and performance of the conventional bogie and incorporates an inboard bearing wheelset concept, resulting in a compact, lightweight and robust bogie design.”

Jacob explained that the major benefits of the FLEXX Eco bogie design include:

  • Train weight reduction

o   30 percent reduction in total bogie mass compared with a conventional bogie

  • Track friendliness
    • Reduced track damage and rail wear
  • Optimized total cost of ownership
    • Reduced energy consumption
    • Reduced bogie maintenance costs

“Almost 1,000 FLEXX Eco bogies are in successful operation and/or in production worldwide for commuter, regional and high speed applications,” said Jacob.