Light rail heavy­weight

SU­SAN EVANS and NICK PHILLIPS of Al­stom ex­plain to PAUL STEPHEN why Not­ting­ham’s and Dublin’s light rail sys­tems are held up as ex­am­ples of the firm’s finest works to date

Rail (UK) - - Light Rail -

Al­stom demon­strates how tram sys­tems in Dublin and Not­ting­ham have at­tracted global recog­ni­tion.

Al­stom is an undis­puted global market leader when it comes to pro­vid­ing metro and light rail so­lu­tions, hav­ing de­vel­oped projects in some of the world’s most pop­u­lous cities.

Hav­ing sup­plied more than 50 clients, Al­stom has made its mark from Syd­ney to Sao Paulo, Mi­lan to Manila and Athens to Al­giers, de­ploy­ing its full port­fo­lio of turnkey so­lu­tions, in­clud­ing the de­sign and build­ing of in­fra­struc­ture, through to the sup­ply and on­go­ing main­te­nance of rolling stock.

But the two projects that Al­stom con­sid­ers to be its most em­blem­atic are much closer to home. They act as in­ter­na­tional show­cases for the com­pany’s abil­ity to ex­ceed cus­tomer ex­pec­ta­tions, and bring con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment to the cities th­ese sys­tems serve.

Th­ese ex­em­plars for best prac­tice in light rail are in Not­ting­ham and Dublin, which Al­stom de­scribes to RAIL as ‘jew­els in the crown’ for demon­strat­ing ex­cel­lence and act­ing as test beds for many of the com­pany’s lat­est in­no­va­tions.

Be­gin­ning with the East Mid­lands, it was in Not­ting­ham that Al­stom played a cen­tral part in fa­cil­i­tat­ing a £ 570 mil­lion ex­ten­sion to Not­ting­ham Ex­press Tran­sit (NET), adding two new lines mea­sur­ing a com­bined 17.5km, that more than dou­bled the size of the net­work once they opened in Au­gust 2015. Al­most formed part of the con­sor­tium that was awarded a 22-year con­tract in 2011 to de­sign and build the ex­ten­sion (known as NET Phase Two) and then to take over the op­er­a­tion of all three NET lines upon com­ple­tion. It also sup­plied 22 of its Ci­tadis trams to bol­ster the ex­ist­ing fleet of 15 Bom­bardier-built In­cen­tros, and now main­tains all 37 ve­hi­cles at the newly ex­panded Wilkin­son Street de­pot.

As well as demon­strat­ing Al­stom’s abil­ity to main­tain a mixed fleet, NET Phase Two fea­tures a num­ber of unique de­sign fea­tures, where Al­stom en­gi­neers were chal­lenged to de­velop in­no­va­tive and be­spoke so­lu­tions.

This in­cluded mit­i­gat­ing the ef­fects of noise and vi­bra­tion with float­ing slab track where NET passes Not­ting­ham Univer­sity’s main cam­pus and re­search ar­eas, and ad­dress­ing the is­sue of elec­tro­mag­netic com­pat­i­bil­ity, where over­head wires and com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems had the po­ten­tial

It would be good to get cities such as Leeds and Liver­pool to think more about tramways. Su­san Evans, Man­ag­ing Direc­tor, Ur­ban & Ser­vices, Al­stom UK & Ire­land

to af­fect sen­si­tive sci­en­tific and elec­tri­cal equip­ment at the Queen’s Med­i­cal Cen­tre (QMC) hospi­tal.

“The NET line to Bee­ston and Chilwell is the first op­er­a­tional tram line in the UK to run past a hospi­tal,” says Su­san Evans, Man­ag­ing Direc­tor, Ur­ban & Ser­vices, Al­stom UK & Ire­land. “And at the tram stop for the QMC you’ll see that each of the OLE [over­head line equip­ment] masts are in­di­vid­u­ally fed. That’s de­signed to limit any po­ten­tial im­pact from any elec­tro­mag­netic com­pat­i­bil­ity is­sues which, of course, we wouldn’t want in the vicin­ity of a hospi­tal.

“Hope­fully we might now see other lines get to run past hos­pi­tals be­cause, cer­tainly in my ex­pe­ri­ence, try­ing to park at hos­pi­tals is hor­ren­dous and of­ten very ex­pen­sive, so if public trans­port con­nec­tions can be im­proved, then ev­ery­one ben­e­fits.”

Not­ting­ham is also the only place in the UK where Al­stom has used its au­to­mated track lay­ing so­lu­tion Ap­pi­track.

Ap­pi­track con­sists of a con­voy of ma­chines syn­chro­nised us­ing a 3D guid­ance sys­tem to lay con­crete track slabs and the base­plates which hold the rails in place.

It is said to be three to four times quicker than tra­di­tional man­ual meth­ods, while in­creas­ing safety, site clean­li­ness and ac­cu­racy by be­ing less labour-in­ten­sive, as well as gen­er­at­ing less noise and dust.

It can lay 80 me­tres of track per day on av­er­age, which in­creases to be­tween 300400 me­tres per day in favourable con­di­tions, for ex­am­ple dry weather and a straight align­ment.

Dur­ing con­struc­tion of NET Phase Two in 2014, sev­eral of Al­stom’s other clients

from across the globe were in­vited to visit work­sites in Not­ting­ham to see Ap­pi­track in ac­tion, be­fore be­ing de­ployed in their own cities.

Evans adds: “Ap­pi­track has been used to build tramways at other lo­ca­tions across the world, but its use on NET is cer­tainly unique in the UK. We made the best use of it we could and I think the best we achieved was 220 me­tres one sum­mer’s day, on Queen’s Walk, head­ing down from the city cen­tre to the River Trent.

“Ap­pi­track is a cleaner and more ef­fi­cient process be­cause you don’t need jigs, and work­ers to come along and pour the con­crete, the ma­chine lays a slab of con­crete that sup­ports its own shape, then a GPS­con­trolled ma­chine places the plates di­rectly into the wet con­crete.

“You gen­er­ally avoid any re­work that way be­cause you’ve got the plates ex­actly where you want them, while not hav­ing any jigs makes ev­ery­thing look like a much ti­dier and mod­ern, more ef­fi­cient work­site.

“We had vis­i­tors from a num­ber of dif­fer­ent cities from around the world, in­clud­ing Rio de Janeiro, whose tramway was ob­vi­ously part of the city's key in­fra­struc­ture for the 2016 Olympics. But also many other na­tion­al­i­ties came to see Ap­pi­track at work and the unique tech­nol­ogy. Dur­ing the peak con­struc­tion phase we had peo­ple com­ing nearly ev­ery week to see it in ac­tion, in­clud­ing from Dublin.”

Evans says that Al­stom is hope­ful of other op­por­tu­ni­ties to de­ploy Ap­pi­track in the UK, ei­ther in the in­creas­ingly likely event that NET is ex­tended fur­ther, or in other cities build­ing new or ex­tend­ing ex­ist­ing sys­tems. NET’s line to To­ton is ex­pected to be ex­tended a short dis­tance to the pro­posed site of the East Mid­lands sta­tion on High Speed 2, should it be built by 2033, as is

Dublin’s Ci­tadis trams move about 32-35 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year - the whole of Ir­ish Rail moves about 42 mil­lion. Nick Phillips, Project Man­ager Dublin, Al­stom

cur­rently sched­uled. But it could also be ex­tended to Derby, in or­der to im­prove links be­tween the two neigh­bour­ing cities and HS2.

“We know some of the other cities that al­ready have tramways might start to talk about ex­ten­sions,” ex­plains Evans. “Ed­in­burgh has re­cently re­vealed plans to ex­tend its line, and we’ll be as­sess­ing that. A col­league of mine re­cently went there and said it looked ex­tremely suit­able for Ap­pi­track, as the planned route is nice and straight and clear.

“Ob­vi­ously, we hope Not­ting­ham con­tin­ues to grow, and we will be keep­ing an eye on what's go­ing to hap­pen with To­ton

As well as form­ing a bet­ter link be­tween HS2 and Not­ting­ham, it would also be great to get a tram route to Derby. That’s cer­tainly some­thing we’d en­cour­age. The other ob­vi­ous lo­ca­tion to link to HS2 would be East Mid­lands Air­port (ten miles to the south of To­ton, near Cas­tle Don­ing­ton).

“Think­ing about other cities, and North­ern Pow­er­house and the op­por­tu­ni­ties there, it would be quite good to get cities such as Leeds and Liver­pool to think more about tramways. Cities of the same size in France or Ger­many usu­ally have a tram sys­tem al­ready.”

Mean­while, more than 200 miles to the west and across the Ir­ish Sea, Al­stom con­tin­ues to play a piv­otal part in the de­vel­op­ment of Dublin’s Luas tram sys­tem.

Opened in 2004, Al­stom was cho­sen to sup­ply the rolling stock, and re­ceived an or­der for an ini­tial batch of 40 Ci­tadis trams, which sub­se­quently grew to a to­tal of 66. Th­ese trams were orig­i­nally 30 me­tres in length, but have since been ex­tended to 40 me­tres by Al­stom, as pa­tron­age con­tin­ues to rise and Ire­land’s econ­omy con­tin­ues to re­cover from the fi­nan­cial cri­sis that hit the coun­try par­ic­u­larly hard un 2008

In De­cem­ber 2015, Trans­port In­fra­struc­ture Ire­land ( TII) gave off an­other sign of eco­nomic re­cov­ery, by plac­ing a 36 mil­lion euro (£ 31m) or­der for seven 50-me­tre Ci­tadis trams - they’ll be the longest sin­gle­u­nit Ci­tadis trams in the world, once they en­ter traf­fic later this year.

In 2014, Al­stom’s con­tract to main­tain and pe­ri­od­i­cally over­haul the Ci­tadis fleet was re­newed for a fur­ther five years to 2019, and a sec­ond con­tract to main­tain the en­tire Luas sys­tem in­fra­struc­ture was also ex­tended. To­gether, th­ese con­tracts were worth 53 mil­lion euros (£ 45.5m), and re­flect the level of ser­vice of­fered to both the cus­tomer ( TII) and the trav­el­ling public by Al­stom.

Nick Phillips, Al­stom Ire­land’s op­er­a­tion direc­tor, says: “The 66 Ci­tadis trams in Dublin have been ex­tended from 30 me­tres to 40, which ably demon­strates the mo­du­lar de­sign. And they’re well used - we move about 32-35 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year, which you can com­pare to the whole of Ir­ish Rail, which moves about 42 mil­lion.

“We’re now see­ing growth, af­ter the prob­lems in 2008, and that has brought higher pas­sen­ger vol­umes. To meet that we will pro­vide seven new 50-me­tre Ci­tadis trams, which are the longest trams Al­stom pro­vides glob­ally, so it is a first for Dublin and a first for Al­stom. We are ret­ro­spec­tively ap­ply­ing th­ese larger ve­hi­cles to ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture, so there’s a lot of other work to do, for ex­am­ple in­creas­ing trac­tion cur­rent, ex­tend­ing plat­forms and read­just­ing sig­nalling, to ac­com­mo­date the ex­tra length.

“We’re also do­ing day-to-day main­te­nance of the ex­ist­ing fleet right up to ve­hi­cle over­haul and bo­gie over­haul. The 300,000km over­haul was com­pleted in 2015, and we’ve just started the 900,000km over­haul on some of the first trams we de­liv­ered to the sys­tem’s Red Line.”

As has been the case for Not­ting­ham, Dublin has also been cho­sen to show­case some of Al­stom’s new and in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions: equip­ping two trams with smart me­ters to an­a­lyse en­ergy use, for in­stance. This was con­ducted as part of a joint re­search pro­gramme with the Ir­ish Railway Pro­cure­ment Agency to test op­ti­mi­sa­tion so­lu­tions such as re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing, en­ergy stor­age and an en­hanced air con­di­tion­ing con­trol sys­tem.

Ex­plains Phillips: “On the back of that we also tri­alled a su­per­ca­pac­i­tor in Dublin as a way of putting re­gen­er­a­tive en­ergy back into the sys­tem. Al­though it wasn’t for a client specif­i­cally, it proved the tech­nol­ogy does work. We’ve also been try­ing out var­i­ous GIS (ge­o­graphic in­for­ma­tion sys­tems) on in­fra­struc­ture and track so we can bet­ter plan the main­te­nance.

“We have of­ten high­lighted Dublin as a good plat­form to trial new tech­nolo­gies, as we were one of the first projects to re­ceive Ci­tadis trams, and so we can pro­vide a higher level of feed­back on the prod­uct which is now in its fifth gen­er­a­tion world­wide.”

As with Not­ting­ham, Dublin’s tram sys­tem also turned heads in­ter­na­tion­ally, and mul­ti­ple for­eign del­e­ga­tions have been hosted by Trans­port In­fra­struc­ture Ire­land to ex­pe­ri­ence the trans­for­ma­tive ef­fect of light rail in the ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment.

Phillips con­cludes: “When you get light rail sys­tems that work, and are cost ef­fec­tive, reli­able and safe, like here in Dublin, then a lot of peo­ple are quite happy to copy that.”

And so it would seem where Al­stom leads, oth­ers will fol­low.


Al­stom de­signed a be­spoke OLE sys­tem at Not­ting­ham Ex­press Tran­sit’s Queen’s Med­i­cal Cen­tre stop, to limit elec­tro­mag­netic com­pat­i­bil­ity is­sues with sen­si­tive equip­ment in the ad­ja­cent hospi­tal.


Not­ting­ham Ex­press Tran­sit is where Al­stom’s Ap­pi­track au­to­mated track lay­ing sys­tem made its UK de­but, in 2014, ac­cel­er­at­ing the lay­ing of track by three to four times the nor­mal rate.

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