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China's first 300 km/h trainsets are taking shape

01 Aug 2007

Next year is due to see the delivery of the first 300 km/h trainsets for Chinese Railways, which are scheduled to enter service on the Bejing – Tianjin line in time for the 2008 Olympic Games

WITH MORE THAN 7 000 km of high speed line under construction or planned, China's Ministry of Railways has now placed orders for 280 high speed trainsets. Three types of unit designed for regional inter-city operation at 200 to 250 km/h are already entering service (p488), and the first 300 km/h sets are expected to arrive in 2008.

As part of its emerging high speed strategy, MoR awarded a contract in November 2005 for 60 eight-car trainsets designated CRH3, which are being supplied by a consortium of Siemens and Tangshan Locomotive & Rolling Stock Works.

The CRH3 is the latest evolution of Siemens' Velaro high speed train platform, which had its origins in the ICE3 design for German Railway. DB's first high speed train with distributed traction equipment, the ICE3 was also supplied to Netherlands Railways for international services.

The Velaro E derivative ordered by Spanish National Railways in 2001 incorporated various advances to meet European Technical Specifications for Interoperability as well as Renfe's requirement for 350 km/h operation. And after lengthy negotiations Russia's Ministry of Railways placed an order in February 2006 for eight 10-car broad-gauge versions known as Velaro RUS (RG 11.06 p717).

Wider carbodies

For the CRH3, MoR has specified seating for at least 600 passengers in a 200 m long trainset, as well as an operating speed of 300 km/h and the extensive use of service-proven components. Technology transfer provi­sions require the majority of components and subsystems to be sourced in China by the end of the initial build.

To meet the capacity requirement, the carbody of the Chinese Velaro has been widened by approximately 300 mm, giving an increase in seating of almost 50% compared to the Velaro E. The tapered end section is identical to the Spanish trains, but from there the body gradually widens out to reach the full width by the first entrance vestibule, one-third of the way along the vehicle. This retains the streamlined shape of the Velaro nose, but provides a noticeable degree of extra interior width to permit a 3+2 seating layout in second class.

Thanks to the larger loading gauge, the wider carbodies do not taper inwards at the intermediate gangway ends. Chinese Railways has adopted a platform height of 1 250 mm above rail, which has required modification to the door positions and the operating mechanism. Retractable steps are provided to reduce the gap between train and platform.

As well as structural changes to the carbody, the wider vehicles and the increased number of seats required modifications to on-board systems, notably the air-conditioning. The on-train databus has been simplified to reduce the number of components and enhance reliability.

Great care was taken to minimise additional weight, so that maximum speed could still be reached within the existing power output. The traction motors and braking system are therefore virtually identical to the Velaro E. Alterations to the traction package reflect the general move from GTOs to IGBTs for the power semiconductors.

Other changes needed to suit the Chinese infrastructure standards include modification of the bogie frames to accommodate a different wheel/rail contact profile and back-to-back measurement for the wheelsets. The pantograph head has been adapted to match the Chinese catenary, and the power collection system must be able to accept a wider voltage range, from 17·5 kV to 31 kV.

Particularly notable differences in the passenger saloons are the newly-designed bank of three seats for the 2+3 layout. A water heater is provided in each car, and the floors are covered with an easy-clean rubber material. The seat reservation system and on-train catering equipment have also been modified to meet local requirements.

To demonstrate the effect of these modifications to both the customer and the consortium partner, a mock-up end car was completed in June 2006. The mock-up has since been shipped to China and set up at Tangshan Locomotive & Rolling Stock Works.

Eight-car trainsets

Each CRH3 unit is formed of eight cars, of four basic types as shown in Fig 1 (below). The two driving end vehicles are identical, with 65 second class seats and an eight-seat first class lounge area behind the driver's cab. Most seats are arranged face-to-back in an airline layout, but there are two bays of face-to-face seats with tables for groups of four or six passengers.

Cars 2, 3, 6 and 7 have an identical layout with 87 second class seats and two toilet compartments. Once again the majority of seating will be arranged face-to-back to maximise capacity. Cars 2 and 7 also carry the underfloor transformers for the 25 kV  50 Hz traction supply.

Car 4 is the Bistro Car, with 50 second class seats arranged in groups with tables throughout. This vehicle also includes a small office for the train manager as well as the buffet counter and galley.

Car 5 contains the majority of the first class accommodation, with 56 seats in a 2+2 face-to-back layout. There will be three groups of four seats provided with tables, and a further table for the single wheelchair space. This coach also has a fully-accessible toilet compartment as well as a conventional toilet. It is located next to the catering car so that wheelchair passengers will be able to reach the adjacent bistro area and train manager's office.

Local procurement

The requirement for local sourcing is common to all of the high speed train contracts. For the CRH3 sets, Siemens is working with several of its regular European suppliers, who are collaborating with Chinese partners in a number of different ways. These range from technology transfer agreements through joint ventures to full local production by a subsidiary of the European parent company.

The challenge lies not only in overcoming cultural differences but in adapting technical specifications to enable supply by Chinese industry. Certain raw materials, semi-finished products or subcomponents and advanced production techniques are not always readily available in the local market. However, it has been gratifying to see that the learning process involves both sides and that the technology provider as well as the recipient are broadening their knowledge through the process.

Despite the initial technical modifications and extensive local production, the CRH3 project is making good progress. The first trainsets will be delivered well ahead of the contractually-agreed date of January 2009, and will be in operation on the 115 km Beijing – Tianjin route in good time for the start of the Beijing Olympic Games in August 2008.

The first two German-built trains are expected to arrive six weeks ahead of their scheduled delivery dates of the end of March and May 2008 respectively. The first three locally-manufactured sets are now expected to roll out in March, April and May 2008, compared to the original plan dates of July, September and October.

Table I. CRH3 train formation

1. End Car 65 second, 8 first class seats

2. Transformer Car 87 second, 2 toilets

3. Intermediate Car 87 second, 2 toilets

4. Bistro Car 50 second, galley & bistro area,  train manager's office

5. First Class Car 56 first, 1 wheelchair space,  1 accessible toilet, 1 toilet

6. Intermediate Car 87 second, 2 toilets

7. Transformer Car 87 second, 2 toilets

8. End Car 65 second, 8 first

Total: 528 second, 72 first

  • CAPTION: The car mock-up built to test the modified streamlining of the end vehicles was delivered to Tangshan works last year
  • CAPTION: Fabrication of the first vehicle underframes for the Chinese-built CRH3 sets has started at Tangsha
  • CAPTION: ABOVE: Artist's impression of the finished CRH3 trainset, showing how the Velaro nose profile has been blended with the wider bodyshells
  • CAPTION: One vehicle from the first German set was fully painted and lined in Krefeld earlier this year for approval of the livery and paint specifications by Chinese Railways officials