PAUL STEPHEN travels to Poland, to see Alstom’s production line hard at work producing 69 two-car Metropolis units for Riyadh’s metro
The light rail or metro market is a rapidly growing sector, driven by rampant urbanisation across the globe that is expected to result in 70% of the world’s population living in cities by 2050.
Alstom is just one of the global players serving this market, with 55 customers worldwide (including here in the UK).
Its footprint could increase further within these shores, should it win the contract to deliver 250 new Tube trains for the Piccadilly, Bakerloo, Central and Waterloo & City lines under the Deep Tube Upgrade programme. The contract is due to be awarded this autumn.
In the meantime, Alstom invited RAIL to visit its Polish manufacturing site in Katowice. Here the company is busy delivering an extensive order book that includes 79 regional trains for the Netherlands, 570 Coradia Lint bodyshells for DB in Germany, 50 five-car Metropolis train sets for Dubai, and 69 twocar Metropolis trainsets for Riyadh (Saudi Arabia).
Launched in 1998, the Metropolis is Alstom’s customisable metro solution, available in stainless steel and aluminium, two-cars to six, with or without a driver, mixed seating arrangements, and many other interior or external arrangements.
Alstom is also a key partner of the Riyadh metro, currently under construction and which will be 109 miles in length with 85 stations across six lines when open in 2018.
And it is badly needed in a city predicted to expand from 5.7 million today to 8.3 million by 2030, and where 90% of trips are currently made by car.
In 2013, the Arriyadh Development Authority awarded contracts to three different international consortia for the vast construction project, including the FAST consortium of which Alstom is a part.
Alstom will be supplying track laying technology, signalling and energy recovery systems, in addition to 69 of its Metropolis trainsets.
Alstom opted to base its Riyadh production line at Katowice because of its track record for delivering large quantities of Metropolis units to other cities including Budapest and Amsterdam, and its status as the company’s centre of excellence for producing the aluminium and stainless steel car bodyshells required.
At the time of RAIL’s visit on February 7, five trainsets had been completed from the order, with one already shipped by sea from Hamburg to Saudi Arabia, one in Vienna undergoing temperature testing, two sent for validation in France, and one in the commissioning shed at Katowice ready for static and dynamic testing on the factory’s 1,500-metre-long dedicated test track.
Here RAIL presents images from each stage of production, including welding and assembly. Once at full production, output at Katowice will be ten cars (five trainsets) per month.
The bodyshells are raised onto mezzanine level in the assembly hall, for bogies and other underfloor components to be fitted. An almost complete trainset is on the right and will shortly go to the painting shop, where RAIL was asked not to take pictures due to the commercial sensitivity of other trainsets being present for other customers. The finished Metropolis is 36 metres long, with a painted stripe to indicate for which of Riyadh metro’s six lines it is destined. This trainset had been transferred to the commissioning shed two days earlier, prior to spending two weeks on the test track. It was then scheduled to be transported to Hamburg by road, and then shipped to Saudi Arabia in mid-March.
5. In the assembly hall, roof modules have door rollers, lighting, air-conditioning units and other wiring fitted at ground level (much safer and efficient for workers than working at height and installing them in situ).
3. Underframes for the Metropolis units are welded using an automated process.
2. Aluminium sheets arrive from China in pre-formed units, to be welded together at Katowice.
6. Windows are added to sidewall modules and low-voltage testing is conducted at separate pre-fitting stations, before the full bodyshells are erected. This bodyshell awaits the installation of its front cab window, bogies, interior features, traction and other driving systems.
Each two-car Metropolis will be able to accommodate 231 passengers, and features three classes: first, family and single class, separated by a glass partition.