Booming major cities, increasingly complex technology and the opening up of the rail market – TÜV Rheinland has supported progress in the rail transport sector for over 40 years.
Christian Trescher stands on the ICE platform at Wiesbaden Central Station, looking completely at home in the colourful, bustling world of trains, rails, display boards and signals. Trescher is Head of Rail Business Development – always on the trail of new products and smart solutions for the rail transport sector. “We want to make rail travel even safer, faster and more attractive for people and freight”, he tells us. The sector is facing multiple challenges. Populations and migration to conurbations are continuously on the increase. At the same time, the opening up and privatization of the rail market means that competition in Germany and Europe is also on the march. “The issue of IT security will be a major issue for us in future. We don’t want the kid on the corner to be able to hack into an ICE track switch controller unit, after all”, emphasizes Trescher.
Faster travel through the Rhein-Ruhr metropolitan area
Christian Trescher is very proud of one project in particular. “On behalf of the authorities involved – Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr (VRR), Nahverkehr Westfalen-Lippe (NWL), Rheinland (NVR) and Schienenpersonennahverkehr-Nord (SPNV-Nord) – we worked with the customer and a highly specialized team of lawyers to develop a special financing model for the Rhein-Ruhr-Express (RRX). This involves 82 new electric rail cars with top speeds of up to 160 km/h, which are intended to form the backbone of local transport in North Rhine-Westphalia from 2018, linking a large number of urban centres.” The special thing about this financing model: The authorities involved – and not the transport company operating the lines as was customary before – buy the rail cars, finance them and lease them to the operator for 32 years. While they provide the transport service with the rail cars, the manufacturer of the trains is responsible for maintenance and has to ensure that the vehicles required for operating the service are as freely available as possible. “Through the use of this module, more and more routes are going to private and medium-size transport companies, for which it would be very hard to acquire credit if they had to but the trains themselves. After all, we’re talking about acquisition costs of up to ten million euros per vehicle”, continues Trescher, who is convinced that the RRX model will be a success. “It stimulates competition, the commissioning transport associations save money and passengers reap the benefits.”
Safely through the legal labyrinth
A number of Rhine and Ruhr tram lines were also put out to tender in this way and will be operated by private companies in future – the bid has already been accepted. But there is still a long way to go before the new trains with their multi-coloured liveries can actually carry passengers. Rail experts at TÜV Rheinland have only just begun. “It started with the production of the vehicle specification: What must the new vehicle be able to do? How can the requirements of passengers, operators and not least the investors be formulated clearly and unequivocally?, questions Christian Trescher. TÜV Rheinland also assisted the VRR with the multi-phase Europe-wide tender procedure, worked on the contract, helped set up a risk management system, answered questions from bidders and checked their tenders. The elaborate tender procedure alone took about a year. Since its successful completion, our Business Developer now has more time to devote to other ideas. “Rail technology never stops. Here at TÜV Rheinland, we are currently working on the further development of railways driven by hydrogen and fuel cells. We are also tinkering about with an app that enables users to see energy consumption and CO2-savings compared to a passenger vehicle journey during their journey on any smart phone – all from position data and physics, with nothing measured as far as the vehicle is concerned.”
Global trend for driverless metro lines
The importance of foreign business to TÜV Rheinland is evidenced by the huge number of international customers and projects. Employees are currently assisting with and monitoring the production of new metro trains on-site in South Korea on behalf of a Brazilian customer. There is a strong trend for driverless metro trains, an area which Peter Wigger specializes in. “Suffering increasingly from blocked roads, major cities like Copenhagen, Rome, Vienna, Sao Paulo and Dubai are investing in expanding local transport systems. Driverless metro trains are being introduced on new lines and line extensions, and they are equipped with the latest communication-based train control systems”, recounts the signal technology and integrated systems expert. “These are automated train control and safety systems where permission to proceed and control commands are not displayed by signals but via data communication between vehicles and track-side assemblies.” The benefits: driverless trains can travel at shorter intervals, therefore carrying more passengers. And they come out on top in terms of accident figures. “Because there is no human factor, driverless systems are safer and more reliable.” The reason why this development isn’t established in Germany yet is mainly historical. “We have mostly trams and local trains”, says Wigger. “And driverless operation requires separate access routes like metro tunnels. Plus there is relatively little new construction.”
New EU safety standards
TÜV Rheinland is also there when it comes to setting new standards. Working for the EU, Peter Wigger and his team have made a considerable contribution to harmonizing the different European safety requirements, responsibilities, safety regulations and approval methods. The railway TÜV is also on an international journey