OCTOBER 9 saw Bombardier demonstrate its first two pre-series Autorails à Grande Capacité regional DMUs to French National Railways at the recently-completed testing centre in Valenciennes.

On September 24 Alstom's ZTER EMU was presented to the media by Centre region, which will put a fleet of 15 three-car sets into service at up to 200 km/h on December 14. On September 27 Pays de Loire region, which has bought 14 ZTER units, followed suit with a demonstration run foreshadowing the launch of 200 km/h regional services between Le Mans and Nantes.

One AGC was driven on the Valenciennes test track by SNCF President Louis Gallois and President of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais Region Daniel Percheron. It is the forerunner of the first of a fleet of 279 trainsets ordered by 18 regions. Under a €1·65bn global contract for 500 sets signed in 2001, diesel, electric and electro-diesel versions are being built, some with high-density and some with low-density seating. Built at Crespin in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, the first sets will be delivered early in 2004, with deliveries continuing until December 2007.

The first three-car ZTER units have meanwhile entered service between Les Aubrais and Vierzon and St Pierre-des-Corps, replacing Type Z5300 units limited to 120 km/h. Later, ZTER sets will take over services on four more routes: Orléans - Bourges, Orléans - Châteauroux - Limoges, Tours - Poitiers, and Orléans - Tours - Nantes. So far five regions (Aquitaine, Bretagne, Centre, Pays de la Loire, and Poitou-Charentes) have ordered a total of 58 ZTER sets.

The ZTER design is derived from the diesel-powered XTER. Each air-conditioned set has low-level boarding, first and second class accommodation and facilities for passengers in wheelchairs. Dual-voltage traction is fitted, with drive to four asynchronous motors with a combined nominal rating of 1700 kW. Each motor drives one axle on each bogie of the end power cars.

  • CAPTION: Pre-series dual-mode AGC on test at Valenciennes
  • CAPTION: ZTER at Salbris Photo: Jean-Paul Masse