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Signatur strives to make Norway smaller

01 Jul 1999

INTRO: Later this year Norwegian State Railways will put into service the first of 16 tilting trains on routes from Oslo to the north, south and west of the country. Cutting journey times by around 1h on four long-distance corridors, they will help improve NSB's competitive edge over buses, cars and even air travel

BYLINE: Kari Lorentz-Larssen

Director of Information Passenger DivisionNorwegian State Railways

IN NOVEMBER, tilting trains are due to start running on Norwegian State Railways' Oslo - Kristiansand main line, cutting journey times to 3h 55min. Services will begin running from Kristiansand to Stavanger from January 2000, at the same time as they are introduced on the Oslo - Trondheim corridor. Finally, the new trains will enter service on the Oslo - Bergen line next summer.

The Signatur high-speed trains are a key part of a vast reorganisation of passenger services throughout Norway. The creation of new passenger business units on July 1 1999, substantial investment in rolling stock renewal and infrastructure upgrading, and improvements to train frequencies, comfort and on-board service are all helping to improve NSB's competitive position compared to other modes of transport, and will make the railway better prepared to compete far into the next century.

The three new business units are targeted at short, medium and long distance traffic. Over the next two years new and improved rolling stock will come on stream to reinforce the three brands chosen to market these products.

Local services around Oslo, Stavanger, Trondheim and Bergen, with journey times up to about 45 min, will be known as Puls. For these routes a fleet of 36 four-car EMUs has been ordered from AnsaldoBreda of Italy; they are due to enter revenue service from mid-2001. The best of NSB's existing local EMUs will also be upgraded for a further 10 to 15 years.

Medium-distance services in the 45 min to 3h range will be branded as Agenda. This will include the present inter-city services from Oslo to Skien/Sandefjord, Hamar/ Lillehammer and Halden, plus the regional services from Oslo to Gjøvik, the Rørosbanen and Raumabanen and branches off the Nordlandsbanan. Heading the Agenda fleet will be the 11 two-car tilting Talent DMUs on order from Waggonfabrik Talbot of Aachen, which are due to enter service next year on the Røros Rauma and Nordland lines. The existing inter-city stock, including the Class 71 EMUs built in the early 1990s, will also be upgraded and brought into line with the new image.

At the top of the range comes Signatur, for the long-distance trunk routes with journey times of 3h or more. As well as the tilting EMUs on order from Adtranz, this brand will encompass some loco-hauled services, the remaining overnight trains and the diesel-worked Trondheim - Bodø Nordlandsbanan.

Proven product platform

The tilting trains are drawn from the Adtranz Crusaris modular product platform. They are structurally similar to the AIM multiple-units supplied by Adtranz for the Oslo - Gardermoen airport shuttle service, but the interiors have been adapted to suit the requirements of a long-distance operation. They are being built to meet stringent requirements on safety, comfort and the environment - for example the external noise propagation limits are the strictest ever imposed on a Norwegian train.

Each four-car unit will have seats for 207 passengers, offering a high level of comfort in line with journey times of 3 to 5h. All vehicles will be air-conditioned, and the interiors will feature pleasant colours and fabric linings. There will be entertainment facilities in each seat, with a variety of programmes available through personal headsets.

Service levels will be differentiated to meet customer requirements. Passengers can buy meals from the café/bistro car or opt for at-seat service in first class. Each train will have a crew of three or four service personnel as well as the driver.

The lounge car will include a coffee bar and a separate smoking compartment. A play area for young children will be provided in one driving car, with parents' seats alongside. At the inner end of the same vehicle there will be provision for customers in wheelchairs and their companions, including a fully-accessible disabled toilet.

The first class compartment is equipped with power points for portable computers, enabling business travellers to work throughout their journey. Seats in this area will have special upholstery, larger tables and panoramic windows offering unrivalled vistas of the dramatic Norwegian scenery.

The ordinary seating will offer a mix of face-to-face with tables or airline-style face-to-back. Two saloons will have banks of seats which can be turned to face the direction of travel.

As part of the marketing drive to match the levels of service provided, we are aiming to differentiate prices and price bands more widely than at present. Some tickets will be more expensive, others will become cheaper. Reflecting current airline trends, we intend to focus more clearly on real (net) prices rather than on discounts, with carefully-priced offers targeted at specific market segments.

Phased introduction

To accommodate the tilting trains, the national rail infrastructure authority Jernbaneverket is investing NKr1·6bn in upgrading the three main long-distance corridors. This investment was approved by the Norwegian parliament during the debate on the Norwegian Railway Plan for 1998-2007. These works cover a wide mix of infrastructure improvements, both to raise speeds and increase line capacity.

The tilting trains will be introduced step-by-step in line with the completion of the infrastructure works. This means that initially our passengers will be offered more departures than at present, but these will be a mix of tilting trains and conventional stock. There will be a degree of variation in journey times and product quality. Once the infrastructure has sufficient capacity, services will be increased in both volume and quality. This will give reliable and shorter journey times as well as increased comfort.

Initially, we plan to run seven trains each way per day on the Kristiansand line, six tilting trains and one loco-hauled. Five of the seven trips each way on the Bergen line will become tilting trains, as will two of the five daily Oslo - Trondheim services.

Journey time savings from the use of tilt are significant. Oslo - Kristiansand will be cut by 40 min to 3h 55min and Kristiansand - Stavanger by 23 min to 2h 30min. Passengers on the Bergen line will arrive 54 min earlier than today, after a trip of 5h 36min. On the Oslo - Trondheim route a 50 min saving will bring the end-to-end time down to 5h 50min.

When all lines are operating fully as planned, we expect to increase our long-distance revenues by around 20%. Whilst existing rail customers remain the most important focus, to achieve this kind of growth we will have to tap new business opportunities. To this end we have identified potential markets between the cities of eastern Norway and the towns on the south coast, and to intermediate towns on the main lines to Trondheim and Bergen, linking routes on either side of the Oslo hub. Down in southeast Norway, we see an important market in educational and conference traffic, where the private car is our main competitor.

Another area of infrastructure work being undertaken as a co-operative venture between Jernbaneverket and NSB BA is the improvement of many of the major stations around the network. Over the next few years many of these stations are to be refurbished as modern travel terminals with all the facilities demanded by today's customers.

At the same time we are in discussion with the local government authorities over improving the quality of commuter and regional services which have a critical role as feeders in and out of the long-distance routes. NSB has a continuing dialogue over the organisation of effective local services, as we recognise that frequent and reliable commuter trains will help to improve the overall market potential of rail.

CAPTION: The image of the Signatur long distance services forms a key element in the rebranding of the NSB passenger business

CAPTION: The first completed driving vehicle for the Class BM73 tilting EMUs stands outside the Adtranz workshops at Strømmen in the new Signatur livery

CAPTION: Fig 1: A wide range of accommodation to suit the needs of different types of passenger has been included in the four-car units

TABLE: Table I. NSB's tilting trains in detail

Class designation BM73

Formation: Four-car EMU (plus one trailer if required)

Power supply 15 kV 16 2/3 Hz

Traction package 6 x 440 kW three-phase AC motors

air-cooled GTO thyristor converters

Continuous rating (four-car set) kW 1950

Maximum speed in service km/h 210

Tare weight of four-car unit tonnes 212

Maximum axleload tonnes 16·5

Length overall mm 108480

Length of end cars mm 27500

Length of centre cars mm 25600

Bogie centres mm 19000

Bogie wheelbase mm 2700

Seats: First class 56 Second class 151 Total 207

Manufacturers: Reader Enquiry Form

Final assembly Adtranz, Strømmen }

Bodyshells Adtranz, Kalmar } 101

Traction equipment and bogies Adtranz, Västerås }

Seating VBK, Horten 102

Air-conditioning Hagenuk-Faiveley, Kiel 103

Doors IFE, Austria 104