FRANCE: Rolling stock leasing company Akiem has signed a letter of intent paving the way for a financial and industrial partnership to develop the Taxirail concept for an autonomous ‘railpod’ ultra light rail shuttle vehicle.
The Taxirail concept has been developed in Bretagne by EXID Concept & Développement, which envisages that the autonomous railpods could secure the long-term viability of local branch lines as a low-carbon alternative to road transport. The aim is to have 200 vehicles in service in five years.
The proposed railpods would weigh less than 8 tonnes and accommodate up to 40 passengers, with operation in multiple also possible. The hybrid-electric vehicles would combine batteries with bio-gas or hydrogen fuelled ‘range extenders’, with solar panels to power door opening, lighting, heating, air-conditioning and entertainment.
Artificial intelligence would be used to adapt times of operation to meet demand, with the vehicles operating automatically but remaining in continuous contact with a control centre.
Akiem aims to provide technical and financial expertise to support Taxirail during the final product development phases, and help to put together comprehensive financing and operational plans for regional transport authorities.
‘Rail plays a major role in today’s world and saving local lines is vital to preserving economic activity at the local level’, said Arnaud Deloumeau, Director of Passenger Train Projects at Akiem, on April 29. ‘Our regions need services that are efficient, tailored to the needs of local people and fully aligned with the ecological transition. Taxirail is an innovative concept that meets these challenges by offering the prospect of increased service frequencies at lower cost.’
Régis Coat, Chair of Taxirail and EXID C&D, said there had been ‘numerous’ signs of interest in Taxirail from local authorities, and the partnership with Akiem would boost its credibility. ‘Access to the expertise of a major rail industry player like Akiem ensures that future Taxirail customers will benefit from outstanding know-how and an international maintenance footprint for servicing the module’, he said.