Wales: new passenger fleet makes great leap forward
The Welsh fleet is not the oldest in the UK, but certainly not the youngest. That, however, is all set for radical change, as part of the far-reaching renewal programme. Under the direct control of the devolved Welsh government, and administered by their agency, Transport for Wales, the passenger rail fleet across Wales and the borderlands with England has begun a leap into the position of the most advanced in the UK.
Announced some time ago, the complete renewal of the passenger fleet in Wales has taken a significant step closer to implementation. Two examples of the brand new, homogenised fleet were unveiled at Innotrans, the international rail industry show in Berlin last month, to the applause of the attending railway world.
Tri-mode and tram-trains
It was the Swiss-built Stadler units that took the limelight at Innotrans. Examples of the inter-regional “Flirt” multiple units, and the metro-style “Citylink” tram-train were highlighted. The Flirt (Fast, Light, Intercity and Regional Train) tri-mode and Citylink trains, both built by Swiss manufacturer Stadler, made their TfL-liveried debut at the event.
The trains represent the products of a contract signed three years ago, between the manufacturer and the Welsh government. The details call for 36 three-car “Citylink” tram-trains and 35 “Flirt” (Fast Light Intercity and Regional Train) trains. The Citylink three-car bi-mode tram-trains use 25 kV overhead line supply, as well as battery power. Of the 35 Flirt units, eleven are diesel-powered for use on South Wales metro services. The remaining 24 units are specified as tri-mode, capable of running on diesel, overhead electric wires and battery power. The tri-mode fleet consists of seven three-car and 17 four-car trains. They’re due to enter service from next year.
Manufacture abroad and at home
The tri-mode Flirt units are intended to provide the best connectivity, using the existing installed infrastructure. They will be powered by electricity to the north of Cardiff and diesel to the south, providing optimum cross-city connection. According to Transport for Wales, the use of batteries on tram-trains and tri-mode is a cost-effective way of providing a fully electric, environmentally friendly service north of Cardiff by enabling ‘smart electrification’ of the infrastructure. That allows advantage to be taken of partial wiring, even if the resources for full route electrification is not immediately available.
“We’re extremely proud to have our new Stadler, and we’re excited to start introducing them to our Wales and Borders network over the coming years”, said Alexia Course, TfW Chief Commercial Officer. “We’re on a transformational journey at TfW and these new trains are a key part of improving the customer experience, so that we can encourage more people to travel sustainably on public transport. These are modern trains, with high quality features that will offer our customers more accessible, reliable and greener transport.”
Other orders, other opportunities
TfW also has significant orders for diesel multiple units from Spanish manufacturer CAF, with final assembly being undertaken at Llanwern, near Newport in South Wales. There are also a small number of remanufactured former London Underground trains on order from British manufactured Vivarail – destined for local services around Wrexham in the north, assuming resolution of an outstanding capacity issue.
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