Twindexx SBB_RABe_502_03 (3)

SWITZERLAND: Swiss Federal Railways and Alstom have reached an out of court settlement regarding compensation over repeated delivery delays and poor reliability of the operator’s Twindexx EMU fleet.

The settlement agreed on March 3 will see Alstom provide a range of services to SBB broadly equivalent to the cost of six of the double-deck EMUs. These include an extension of the contractual period during which Alstom will maintain the fleet, and an enhanced programme of spare parts supply and ongoing support, including access to specialist simulators and bespoke staff training activity. The two parties have agreed that more precise details of the settlement will not be disclosed.

Bombardier Twindexx Express EMU (Photo: SBB).

SBB awarded a contract on May 12 2010 for Bombardier Transportation — since acquired by Alstom — to supply 59 double-deck trains capable of 200 km/h operation on long distance services. One of the largest rolling stock orders in Swiss history at the time, the deal was valued at SFr1·9bn. The order was split into three batches: 20 eight-car IC-200 inter-city trainsets including a restaurant car; 30 eight-car IR-200 trains to operate inter-regional services; and nine four car versions designated IR-100.

A key element of the procurement was the trains’ active suspension, which was intended to enable faster operation through curves. SBB hoped that this would alleviate the need for major infrastructure projects on key corridors because the Twindexx trains could trim journey times on existing lines.

The first sets were due to enter service in December 2013, but in early 2014, Bombardier acknowledged that it was facing major delays in the production and delivery of the fleet. The manufacturer agreed a compensation package with SBB covering the supply of three more trains at no cost. The first EMUs eventually entered traffic in 2018, five years later than originally scheduled, while the final set carried its first passengers in mid-2022.

SBB confirmed on November 30 that it will launch the first Twindexx double-deck EMUs in commercial service during 2018.

By that time, SBB had lost faith in the active suspension concept, following concerns about the trains’ ride quality and passenger comfort. The concept was formally abandoned last July, and plans for infrastructure interventions on routes including Bern – Lausanne and Winterthur – St Margrethen are now to be reassessed.

The reliability of the Twindexx EMUs has been improving steadily since the fleet was introduced, and this has been a major focus for Alstom’s Swiss operation in the wake of the takeover of Bombardier Transportation in early 2021. SBB reports that the trains are now achieving mean distances between technical failures above the average for its rolling stock fleet, adding that the partnership between Alstom and SBB is ‘finally heading for a happy ending’.