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Plzen works prepares to expand

04 Nov 2008

SKODA TRANSPORTATION: Having signalled its re-emergence as a locomotive supplier with the Type 109E design for Czech Railways (RG 9.08 p719), Skoda Transportation intends to cement its position among Europe’s major rolling stock manufacturers by upgrading its main production facility in Plzen.

The first two examples of the Type 109E fleet were built in the main workshop that has served the company since 1940. By December however, Skoda expects to transfer production to a pair of new buildings within the existing grounds. One erecting shop is already partially open for the storage of newly-built trams prior to delivery; the opening of the second will permit the group to focus each production line on one of its two core offerings, locomotives and LRVs.

Skoda is determined to reinforce its position in central and eastern Europe. The ForCity low-floor LRV, unveiled at InnoTrans, is already to be exported to Riga (RG 7.08 p412), but the predecessor 14T part low-floor model remains an important element of its range. The company expects to receive further orders for this design, particularly from smaller first-generation tramways in eastern Europe where fleet renewal is an urgent priority. A delegation from Blackpool has also visited Praha to sample the 14T as part of a pre-tender round of visits to manufacturers interested in supplying around 16 vehicles for the upgrade of the UK’s only traditional tramway (RG 3.08 p126).

Skoda already benefits from a considerable export market, notably to the USA. It has supplied LRVs to Portland and Tacoma for the Sound Transit link service, working with its local manufacturing partner Oregon Iron Works. On August 22, the firm signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Inekon to submit a joint tender to the Toronto Transit Commission for the supply of 204 100% low-floor trams following the collapse of TTC’s original bidding process (RG 8.08 p489).

Whilst the Plzen site will focus on locomotive and tram production, other divisions of the Transportation business offer a range of complementary services, including multiple-unit manufacture at Skoda Vagonka in Ostrava (RG 5.08 p284), the former CKD business which was bought by Skoda Holdings in 2005. Recently-acquired Pars Nova specialises in refurbishment (RG 4.08 p217), and the latest addition to the family is Poll sro, an electrical control equipment supplier in which Skoda bought a 50% stake in July.

A 14T tram for Praha awaits the final stage of the assembly process in the recently-completed production hall. A second similar building will be dedicated to the manufacture of locomotives.