INTRO: Better known as a supplier of electric locomotives to the former Comecon bloc, Czech builder Skoda Plzen has established a second product line in urban rail vehicles. Milan Sramek reports on two significant orders completed in March

ON FEBRUARY 20 Skoda Transportation Systems completed the first low-floor trams for the city-centre loop being built in Portland, Oregon. The order was placed in 1999 through trading company Inekon and covers five vehicles, with options for another 21. The line is to be operated by Portland Streetcar Inc, a city government subsidiary distinct from the MAX regional light rail operator Tri-Met.

The first vehicle was shipped from Antwerpen on February 24, and the remaining four are due to follow at the end of March. The Type 10T bi-directional air-conditioned cars are derived from the Type 03T ’Astra’ uni-directional design which Skoda has supplied to Plzen, Olomouc and Ostrava since 1997. The three cities have so far bought 27 cars, and a further four are on order for delivery this year.

The four-axle double-articulated 10T is 20·13m long, with three body sections. The central area has a low-floor 350mm above rail top, giving step-free access for mobility-impaired passengers. Total weight of the vehicle is 28 tonnes. Each car is powered by four 90 kW asynchronous traction motors manufactured by Skoda. Two motors on each truck are fed by an Etris IGBT inverter located on the roof of the centre section.

PSI expects to start commercial services on July 20, having just completed the construction of the initial 4 km line linking Good Samaritan Hospital to the Portland State University Urban Center. Work is expected to get under way later this year on a southern extension to River Place, Harrison, for which two extra trams have been ordered.

Meanwhile, Skoda is starting work on virtually identical vehicles for Sound Transit in Tacoma, Washington. These will operate the 2·8 km ’Link’ line now under construction between the commuter rail station at Tacoma Dome station and the city’s Theatre District. The three white trams will have a different type of pantograph to suit a higher catenary height, and no fare collection equipment as the Tacoma service will be free.

Since 1997, the Skoda Trakcni Motory plant at Plzen-Doudlevce has produced several hundred asynchronous three-phase traction motors for cars built by both Skoda and other manufacturers. These include new trams and LRVs for Kassel, Kraków, Schwerin, K