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Desiro UK on the test track

01 Jun 2002

INTRO: Chris Jackson reports from the Siemens test centre at Wildenrath

AYEAR to the day after Angel Trains ordered a fleet of Desiro UK EMUs for lease to Stagecoach's SouthWest Trains franchise, Siemens Transportation Systems unveiled the first completed Class 450 at its Wildenrath test track. Among over 200 guests invited to the celebrations on April 24 were Stagecoach Chairman Brian Souter, Angel Trains Managing Director Haydn Abbot and SWT General Manager Andrew Haynes.

Opening the presentations in a marquee dressed up to represent Clapham Junction station, Siemens TS Vice-President Hans Schabert reminded guests that the deal was 'the largest ever order' signed by his company. Capital cost of the 785 cars is £640m, with a long-term maintenance agreement bringing the total contract to £1bn (RG 6.01 p370).

Following the speeches, the guests were given the opportunity to ride in 450001 at up to 160 km/h. Siemens has invested over £7m adapting the main test track at Wildenrath to emulate Railtrack's Southern Region 750 VDC third-rail network. A Class 423 EMU was used to record conditions in Britain and then transferred to Germany to replicate the results. Schabert joked that 'we really have recreated a bit of southern England here in Germany'.

The Desiro UK fleet was ordered to support Stagecoach's bid for a 20-year franchise to run the SWT network, although this has yet to be signed. The initial build of 100 four-car Class 450 sets with first and standard class seating will replace existing slam-door EMUs which have to be withdrawn from outer-suburban operations by December 31 2004. The 45 five-car Class 444 sets to replace slam-door stock on long-distance routes will have 23m bodies compared to 20m for the Class 450s. The build will be completed by 32 five-car standard-class-only Class 450s to boost capacity on inner-suburban routes. There are also options valid to 2007 for a further 302 Class 450 cars and 114 Class 444 vehicles.

The four-car Class 450 has two driving motor cars built at Uerdingen and two trailers from Wien, with bodyshells assembled from welded aluminium extrusions. The motor cars are all standard class, as is one trailer which includes a conventional toilet. The other trailer has a disabled-accessible toilet, folding seats to provide space for two wheelchairs, a 24-seat first class saloon and a small glazed compartment for the guard. SWT has decided not to adopt driver-only operation. The standard-class seating is a mix of 2+2 and 2+3, whilst first class is arranged 2+2 with individual armrests, reading lights and laptop sockets.

Rapid delivery schedule

Manufacturing is in full swing, with unit 10 on the production line at the end of April. When production ramps up to full rate next year, the Siemens plants at Uerdingen and Wien will each be turning out a completed car a day. All the units will be formed-up at Wildenrath, and will undergo 1000 km of test running before delivery via the Channel Tunnel.

The first Class 450 will be delivered to the UK in mid-July, but according to SWT's New Trains Project Manager Matthew Hinchcliffe, the aim is not to deliver too many sets until the Railtrack acceptance process has been completed. He says around 95% of the safety case process will be conducted in Germany, leaving only a short final stage in the UK to reproduce the results achieved at Wildenrath. Six units will be used for the UK acceptance work, allowing passing trials with two 12-car trains.

Series deliveries of the four-car sets are scheduled to start on November 1, with passenger services to start on November 8. No less than 66 sets are due to be delivered by May 2003 and the rest will follow by April 2004. The five-car sets will be delivered by September 2004, and the Wien-built Class 444s are due between July 2003 and May 2004.

Asked whether the new units will require strengthening of the third-rail power supplies, which has affected the introduction of Bombardier's Class 375 and 377 Electrostar EMUs on South Eastern and South Central, SWT Managing Director Andrew Haines agreed this would be the case 'with any new trains.' Insisting that it was 'an infrastructure issue', he said Railtrack was due to complete a survey in June which would identify the work required.

Any power supply improvements would have to be tailored to suit SWT's phased introduction of the Class 450s, starting with Woking - Basingstoke where high speed trials are planned in November. The next route would be the Waterloo - Alton line, where the Alstom-built Class 458s are now running. Haines said SWT was undertaking 'a major reworking of diagrams to get self-contained workings'.

TABLE: Table I. Key data for Class 450/0

Length (four-car unit) m 81·5

Width mm 2796

Bogie wheelbase mm 2600

Bogie centres mm 14123

Wheel diameter (new) mm 860

Power supply 750V DC

Continuous rating kW 1500

Traction motors 8 x 187 kW

Maximum speed km/h 160

Weight empty tonnes 167·3

Seats: first class 24

standard class 240

Standing space (at 4/m2) 150

TABLE: SWT Desiro UK suppliers

Bodyshells, electrical equipment and final assembly Siemens

Aluminium extrusions Corus

Brakes Knorr-Bremse

Sliding-plug external doors Bode

Interior doors IMI Nordgren

Standard class seats Grammer

First class seats Compin

Inter-car gangways Hübner

Air-conditioning Air International

Couplers Dellner

CAPTION: Participating in the April 24 launch run at Wildenrath (above) were Stagecoach Chief Executive Keith Cochrane (left of inset), Chairman Brian Souter (centre) and Angel Trains Managing Director Haydn Abbot (right)

CAPTION: The 3+2 seats in standard class are only 440 mm wide