Interview with Christian Spichiger,
President of Stadler Polska
FLIRT was the first electric multiple unit in Poland with a lifetime approval for driving at 160 km/h. What did it mean in practice?
The first FLIRT vehicles in Poland were handed over in 2008 to the carriers Koleje Mazowieckie and Koleje Śląskie. These were first modern multiple units on Polish tracks. Each of them was produced and commissioned in our factory in Siedlce. It was a huge challenge the factory built from scratch in 2007, new workers who had to be trained and a completely new environment. It makes us even more proud that our debut in Poland was so successful and our vehicles went down to the history of Polish rolling stock as first vehicles with a lifetime approval for driving at a speed of 160 km/h. Importantly, the difference was felt primarily by passengers who could travel faster in a modern and comfortable train. Of course, the decisive factor was the infrastructure that facilitated driving at such speed. Our electric multiple units FLIRT are in use in Mazovia and Silesia and from 2015 their latest generation is also in service in Łódź voivodeship and on long-distance routes operated by PKP Intercity. FLIRT3 vehicles delivered to Łódź Agglomeration Railway are the first trains in Poland which the Railway Transport Office confirmed to be fully compliant with interoperability standards of the European TSI. FLIRT3 trains for PKP Intercity were also built according to those requirements. Their compliance with TSI is a confirmation of compliance with strict norms and highest European standards for railway vehicles in terms of rolling stock safety. For example, the production lots are equipped with the European Train Control System ETCS level 2, and are adapted to the needs of people with limited mobility, new technologies and sustainability requirements. I am very proud that the vehicles made in Stadler’s factory in Siedlce are the first in Poland conventional railway vehicles that are fully compliant with TSI.
What are the most important values of this unit?
FLIRT combines verified solutions with the latest technologies. Therefore, they are exceptionally reliable and at the same time very quiet, so travelling even at longer distances becomes comfortable. They are distinguished by a light, modern structure of aluminium alloys. An unquestionable advantage of these trains is that they are energy-efficient, which translates into low operating costs and sustainability. In addition, these vehicles meet high standards of travel safety and are adapted to the needs of the disabled. FLIRT trains also offer many conveniences such as possibility of transporting larger luggage and bicycles, a spacious WC, air-conditioning and a modern passenger information system. This is a versatile structure. It is proved by the fact that the popularity of FLIRTs is still growing. So far we have sold more than 1200 units to carriers around the world. 54 are in operation in Poland.
What is Stadler’s concept of modular rolling stock about?
Modularity means that our vehicles can be customised in many aspects to match individual needs of the customer. It means different length and width of wagons, type of drive, interior finish standard as well as many other parameters. This way a fully customised vehicle matching the customer’s expectations is created. Briefly speaking, many FLIRTs operated by different carriers run in Europe and they are not identical at all. But thanks to the modular design, the carrier’s fleet can be extended by additional rail cars when necessary without any problem.
The factory in Siedlce also produces electrical components for KISS trains. Will this production line be developed in Siedlce?
Apart from KISS components the factory in Siedlce also produces sub-systems for more than 10 types of vehicles. The quality of products from the factory in Siedlce is very highly evaluated, which gives us an idea that this positive trend will be continued and developed.
What does branding mean to you?
Stadler wants to be competitive by offering quality, punctuality, travel comfort, low operating costs and customised solutions. We take every effort to ensure that the vehicles with our logo were associated with such characteristics. Our operations in Poland can boast high „Swiss-like” quality - the one known of Stadler in Switzerland. We also very highly evaluate the quality of performance by Polish workers. All of this contributes to the fact that our customers appreciate quality, reliability and punctuality of Stadler Polska. For example, an order can be received from the Dutch NSR railways - the largest customer in the history of the factory in Siedlce. The production of 58 FLIRT3 vehicles for the needs of regional connections in the Netherlands has already started. This order is not a coincidence - from 2009 Stadler Polska has completed orders for Arriva, a private Dutch carrier. As a part of these contracts the works in Siedlce produced more than 50 electric and diesel vehicles. All of them were approved for service in the Netherlands. Some of them are used in mixed arrangements - electric and diesel vehicle. Good experience has built customers’ trust in our products and contributed to another contract being awarded without tender. Stadler Polska received an order from NSR also with regard to its readiness to produce a large number of vehicles in a relatively short time - the vehicles will be put into use together with the new timetable in December 2016. It is a confirmation of large flexibility and punctuality of the works in Siedlce. Also, customers from Italy also return to us - more than 30 vehicles were built in Siedlce for the needs of the Italian market and in October 2015 the factory received orders for subsequent vehicles from TPER and FNM carriers. Cost effectiveness is also a very important characteristic of our vehicles. Stadler’s vehicles are characterised by aluminium structure, which makes them modern and at the same time light. Since the weight of the vehicle determines the consumption of energy and costs of access to infrastructure, our vehicles are very economical in use. It must be remembered that the cost of energy consumed during 30 years of operation of the vehicle us considerably higher than its purchasing price.
It is particularly important for carriers since they use the fleet for many years. More and more often contracts are also awarded for long-term technical maintenance of the purchased rolling stock. We have a lot of experience in this area and our offers can be attractive. Such a model of cooperation is mutually beneficial. The operator receives a guarantee of professional service at a pre-determined price and the producer takes care to ensure that his vehicles will be a showcase on the tracks for years.
We also must remember about passengers - they will travel comfortably, safely and pleasantly on our trains. We want Stadler to be the synonym of comfort and reliability to travellers. We consistently work to ensure that for our customers we are a trustworthy, reliable business partner offering superior quality system solutions and services. This is the philosophy of our brand.
What are the constructors and designers of Stadler currently working on? What new trains with your logo will appear
on Polish tracks?
In the middle of November 2015 the first FLIRT3 units operated by PKP appeared on Polish tracks. These are the first long-distance vehicles of such type in Poland. These are modern and safe trains distinguished by high travel comfort – they have very quiet, multi-functional interiors, air-conditioning, floor at one level facilitating movement of passengers, conveniences for families with kids and people with limited mobility, bistro carriage, and a social compartment for train staff. In total there are 360 seats, including 60 in the 1st class. These vehicles are at the same time the longest FLIRTs ever produced — they are more than 150 metres long.
The youngest child in the family of Stadler’s vehicles is EC250 — high-speed train — currently designed by our engineers in Switzerland. It is being built to the order of Swiss railways SBB for the needs of long-distance lines in Switzerland and international connections between Switzerland and Germany, Italy and Austria. The vehicles will travel at the maximum speed 249 km/h and will be equipped with three supply systems: 15kV in Switzerland, Austria and Germany and 3kV and 25kV in Italy, with automatic switching during the journey. In addition, they will have four automatic train braking systems: ETCS, as well as PZB and LZB in Germany, SCMT in Italy and Integra/ZUB in Switzerland to work together automatically taking over their function in the network of each of the four countries.
EC250 vehicles are designed, among other things, for service on the north-south mainline via a new Alpine tunnel under St. Gotthard - 57 kilometres long, being the longest railway tunnel in the world. Such tunnels are very challenging for trains, in particular in winter when the difference in temperatures outside and inside the tunnel can be even 50 degrees. Rapidly melting snow and ice can cause short circuits and consequently the vehicle can stop in the tunnel. The design of the vehicles should consider these specific requirements. Therefore, vehicles for SBB will be also tested in a climate chamber.
In addition, the requirements of SBB regarding compliance with the Swiss act on the rights of people with limited mobility are quite new and challenging. The act sets stricter requirements than TSI PRM. For this reason new vehicles by Stadler will allow access on wheelchairs without a lift. It requires entrances at 550 mm in Switzerland and in Italy and 760 mm in Germany.
It will also help us meet the exorbitant requirements of SBB regarding short stopping time at stations. A result will be the first modern, low-floor high-speed train in the world. Perhaps one day it will appear on Polish tracks too.