Stadler Trains Hungary Ltd., head office of Stadler Rail in this country, is a Swiss manufacturer of railway rolling stock, with an emphasis on suburban, regional and high-speed multiple units and trams. The company’s Managing Director, Zoltán Dunai tells Diplomacy&Trade about the company’s latest project, Hungary’s first Citylink tram-train, their successful cooperation with MÁV Hungarian State Railways as well as the latest innovations presented by Stadler Rail.
The first Citylink tram-train in Hungary – connecting Szeged and Hódmezővásárhely in SE Hungary –, supplied by Stadler, arrived in the country early this year. “It's a very interesting project, a real challenge and one of the most important projects of my career as well. The concept is to connect and interconnect the two cities to become practically one city or one agglomeration if you like,” the Managing Director points pout.
Zero emission in the cities
The Citylink contract was awarded to Stadler in 2018. Basically, it is a contract for eight vehicles with an option of four more vehicles, which has already been already been called as well. Six of the first eight vehicles arrived physically in Hungary “and very soon, the seventh and the eighth will arrive as well. They are now undergoing the homologation process under the supervision of the National Traffic Authority. They must fulfil 50,000 kilometers of test runs – approximately half of it on the city lines in both settlements and the other half on the main line. We have all the expectations that the trams will start carrying passengers in the late fall and the other four vehicles will join the fleet next spring, making it possible to have a 10-minute sequence in the timetable, which is very important for passengers especially in Szeged that has significant rush hour requirements. The project also has an ecologic aspect, because it will replace the diesel buses on that line. The diesel engine on these vehicles is there only to develop electricity for the electric traction motors. In the city areas, there is zero emission as the tram-train runs on electricity from the overhead lines. Between the cities, the diesel engine is running at steady low sequence because it is not driving the traction, it is just producing the electricity for the motors through a generator,” Zoltán Dunai explains.
KISSes on the track
Stadler is a major supplier for suburban transport in Hungary and it is in the middle of a very important project, worth over HUF 200 billion, being delivered to MÁV Hungarian Railways. These are the double decker, electric, multiple units bearing the fantasy name ‘KISS’: huge, 156-meters long, six-car-unit trains accommodating 600 passengers, performing the service in the suburban lines when a passenger flow is high. 17 out of the 40 trains have been handed over to MÁV while another four are in the process of being delivered. All the 40 units are expected to be in commercial traffic by the end of 2023. “It is not only a huge project from our point of view, but also a huge development for public transport and railways in Hungary. When this contract is complete, we will have a 70-75% ratio in the suburban traffic of Budapest with our modern trains of high passenger comfort,” he adds.
Stadler delivered the first Flirt trains 14 years ago and since then, technology and the standards have had major development. “We are in performance of a significant upgrade contract for the first ‘Flirt’ vehicles previously supplied to MÁV. We are upgrading to the current requirements and standards, also adding all the passenger comfort elements, which are present in the later series.
The same is true for the KISS trains as well. For instance, passengers will be able to charge the battery of their phone or their laptop from the newly installed outlets or have access to a wheelchair lift. Numerous upgrades are not visible for the passenger, such as those affecting the drive system, the passenger information system, etc. The trains will also receive a facelift from the original red coloring to blue and white (with yellow doors) currently in use at MÁV. We have already completed about 40% of the project. We are also looking at the possibility to assist the customer with the maintenance of newly delivered KISS vehicles and the newly delivered tram-trains using our expertise for maintenance support and quality control in the form of an advisory contract.”
Challenges from Belarus
Stadler Rail has several factories outside Switzerland. One of these is in Belarus where the political situation has been problematic in recent years. As to how much this affects the Stadler assembly plant near Minsk, Zoltán Dunai says “the challenges are quite big because it is obviously very difficult nowadays to win public procurement of just any variant in the European Union with Belorussian product or with substantial Belorussian delivery scope. At the moment, this situation does not directly affect our business here in Hungary. In the KISS project, there is a substantial delivery scope coming from our factory in Minsk because that factory is the competence center for double decker vehicles. At the moment, the EU sanctions are not affecting the simple deliveries of goods. So, we are able to perform the contracts with no substantial delays. What already has been very, very difficult is to travel here from Belarus. So, for our Belarussian colleagues who are coming to work on this project and are involved in the putting into operation and handing over the train, it's very difficult to get to Hungary because direct flights from Belarus are stopped and the Belorussian airspace is blocked. The only way they can come now to Budapest is through Istanbul, which does not seem to be the most suitable solution but what can we do?”
Award-winning double decker
Stadler Rail is present at all major railway related expositions in Birmingham, Gdansk and Milan just this September alone. Of these, the Managing Director highlights the Trako International Railway Fair in Gdansk, Poland, which is “basically the first notable event of this profession since the start of pandemic restrictions.” He is happy to report that Stadler’s KISS electric double decker multiple unit, sold to Slovenia, has been awarded as the most innovative product of the exhibition. “It's a three-car unit, very much designed and tailor-made to the needs of the Slovenian customer. In Hungary, there are some operators who might use such a smaller double decker train now that basically the public is used to the idea that there are double decker trains on the line.”
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