Speaking in Paris on May 10, Siemens Transportation Systems (VT) President Herbert Steffen said that the group was making ’considerable efforts to get back on the right track’ after posting a loss of DM759m in 1997-98 (RG 1.99 p51). Parent company Siemens AG was to release its financial results for the first half of the 1998-99 financial year on May 17, and Steffen expected ’a considerably improved result’ from Transportation Systems, which should reduce its loss this year and move into profit in 1999-2000.

In the first six months of 1998-99 Transportation Systems recorded orders worth DM2·4bn, up 6% from the previous year, with sales up 13% to DM2·5bn. Although Steffen said that these figures were ’slightly below our expectations for the whole year’, the assumption was that by the end of the 1998-99 financial year on September 30 ’we will be able to achieve the growth we are aiming for’.

Steffen is presiding over the ’VT Offensive’ to restructure the group for ’yield before volume’, and work is in hand to improve profitability and productivity at 80% of areas requiring action. Operating in a sector which, Steffen thinks, requires capacity to be cut across the board by between 15 and 30%, Siemens’ rolling stock factories have received particular attention. With most orders in hand due for completion by the end of 1999, up to 500 permanent jobs may be cut from the workforce of 1700 at the Duewag plant in Krefeld-Uerdingen, where talks with the works council will start shortly.

Measures are in hand to reduce risk in the order backlog, worth DM15bn, through improved project management and development of efficient structures for risk management and handling claims. ’We will also consistently exploit any potential for lowering costs and be selective in our approach to new projects’, said Steffen, stressing that the overall aim is to ’clearly focus on our final result’.

Transportation Systems makes one-third of its total annual sales from signalling, control systems and associated activities such as passenger information, fare collection and telecommunications. Since October 1 1998 it has owned 95% of Matra Transport International, which is expected to help grow profit from the core business. Retaining its own distinct identity under Chairman & CEO Bernard Sillion, Matra will become a worldwide Centre of Competence within Siemens for automated guideway transit and automatic train control, reporting to Thomas Ganswindt, President of the Mass Transit Signalling & Control Systems Division.

As well as gaining access to markets traditionally dominated by French suppliers, Siemens hopes to strengthen its position in the turnkey mass transit market with Matra’s VAL product and broaden its metro signalling portfolio. Matra’s Sacem ATC is being married with Sicas electronic interlocking technology from Siemens. VT sees great potential in converting existing metros to automatic operation using Matra systems developed for applications such as Météor in Paris, which allow trains to be driven manually or automatically on the same route. Ganswindt said on May 11 that a study for introducing driverless operation to Berlin was in progress, and that a fully automatic system might appear in Germany within four years.