Alstom: Creating something special

Source: RTM Aug/Sept 2018

Jason Baldock, director of high-speed rail at Alstom UK & Ireland, takes a journey through the company’s high-speed rail heritage to demonstrate what sets it apart in the race to build HS2’s shiny new rolling stock.

As the only manufacturer to have won very high-speed rolling stock contracts across four different continents, Alstom has a proud history of supplying its Avelia range of high-speed trains to countries all over the world. From Korea to the US, Morocco to the UK, our technology has been proven on everything from France’s first TGVs to the UK’s first very high-speed train, the original Eurostar e300.

But it isn’t just the breadth of our high-speed experience that makes Alstom’s products stand apart. We also produce the widest range of different types of very high-speed rolling stock. Listening to our customers has resulted in the AGV in Italy, tilting trains for Amtrak, and double-deck trains for SNCF. With a wide range of different interior options and world-leading internet and digital services, Alstom is able to design exactly the train that our customers, and more importantly their passengers, want.

To take some recent examples, our Avelia Liberty trains are due to enter service on the US’s Northeast Corridor route soon. This highly innovative design is the world’s first very high-speed train to use Tiltronix technology. Proven in the UK on the Avelia Pendolinos that run on the West Coast Main Line, our tilt system allows for faster speeds around curves. With trains like these, passenger comfort when the train goes around a tight corner is greatly improved, demonstrating how investment in high-speed technology can benefit the conventional rail network too.

The inside of the new Avelia Liberty trains will be a special passenger experience as well. Amtrak has specified the interiors with spacious and smooth leather seats and integrated in-seat lighting. Power sockets and USB ports, along with high-speed passenger wi-fi and an advanced seat reservation system, will create a true ‘business class’ experience.

Finally, we understand our customers want to grow their service over time, so the Avelia Liberty is also an incredibly flexible train. It has been carefully futureproofed and can be adapted as requirements evolve. The train can grow from nine to 12 cars with no modification to the traction system, and will be able to reach speeds of up to 350km/h when the future network allows.

Demonstrating Alstom’s close collaboration with our customers, in France a unique approach was adopted with another recent high-speed contract. Over the course of two years a joint team from SNCF and Alstom developed the specification for the new Avelia Horizon trains to ensure they meet passenger experience aspirations. SNCF has recently ordered 100 of these new trains, in one of Europe’s largest-ever contracts for very high-speed rolling stock.

The most obvious difference to the Amtrak trains is in capacity. To meet passenger needs, a double-deck configuration allows SNCF to offer the highest capacity possible in a very high-speed train, with up to 740 passengers in every train. The train is also articulated, a common feature among Alstom’s very high-speed trains, which offers many benefits, including a smoother ride.

And, as with large public schemes like HS2, ensuring that costs are kept down is an essential aspect of the project. With the Avelia Horizon, Alstom and SNCF’s collaboration has resulted in a train that has a total acquisition cost 20% lower than that of the previous generation. Not only that, but maintenance costs will be more than 30% lower than currently and the train’s maintainability is taken into account from the design stage, with a remote diagnostic system for predictive maintenance, which improves the train’s reliability and availability. This advanced model will also consume 20% less energy than existing trains.

Alstom’s Avelia family of trains are at the cutting edge of high-speed rail technology, and with our hugely flexible range of trains, we are confident that we will be able to offer a product that meets all HS2’s technical requirements. But it’s also in our commitment to training and investment where our approach really delivers value.

For example, Alstom has been quick off the mark developing a unique partnership with the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR). Not only have we and Eurostar donated two power cars from the UK’s very first high-speed train, the DonnyStar and BrumStar units on display at the college’s two campuses, but in June we also announced a formal partnership between the NCHSR and Alstom’s facility in Widnes. The agreement will see NCHSR lead on the provision of learner education and technical training in Widnes, which opened in June 2017.

Widnes itself also represents a significant investment in UK capacity, and has introduced some of the most sophisticated rail technology, along with high-quality jobs for the north west. Alstom is investing in local skills, partnering with local colleges and recruiting from the local area, as well as integrating across the wider supply chain.

Along with our investment in jobs and skills, Alstom was also proud to announce the first-ever investment from the global Alstom foundation in the UK when we partnered with the social mobility foundation to invest in deprived communities in the Liverpool area.

We look forward to engaging with the ITT process over the coming months and are excited about the potential to work on this incredible project. With our high-speed technology, flexible range, commitment to passenger experience, and reputation for collaboration with our customers, we are enthusiastic to bring our experience to bear on HS2.

Together with HS2, we believe there is an opportunity to create something truly special for Britain.


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