AS EUROPE’S railways adjust their procurement procedures towards performance specifications for rolling stock and other equipment, suppliers are having to assume fresh responsibilities. It is increasingly the manufacturer who takes the blame for trains with commercially damaging teething troubles, so it is perhaps no surprise that the industry is putting better testing facilities in place.

First off the mark was Siemens, which in 1996-97 spent DM110m converting a former British air base at Wildenrath-Wegberg into a major test centre with several loops permitting continous running at speeds up to 160 km/h (RG 7.97 p442). Alstom has joined a venture to develop the ’Projenor’ test complex near Valenciennes, and now Adtranz has plans for a DM290m facility near its assembly plant at Hennigsdorf outside Berlin. Planning authority is expected in March, and Adtranz is looking at an opening in 2001-02. There would be two main loops, one 8 km and one 2·5 km long, linked by an 8 km straight section where engineers could check performance at up to 250 km/h.

The well-publicised problems with the VT611 regional DMUs have caused German Railway and Adtranz considerable embarrassment, and DB was to decide by the year end whether to put the 50 two-car sets through a further modification programme to allow them to run at their full speed of 160 km/h. DB is anxious to restore its reputation for punctuality and reliability, and on December 2 launched a 10-point programme called Fitness 99 to try and make up lost ground. This includes employing more ’punctuality managers’, a commitment to give passengers better information when delays occur, and issuing vouchers to passengers as recompense for major delays.