Members of the GEML Taskforce were invited as guests of Greater Anglia to visit Stadler’s depots in Switzerland, the manufacturer of almost 400 of the 1040 new trains which will be introduced into service on the Great Eastern Mainline from 2020.
Organisations represented on the visit included New Anglia LEP, the Chambers of Commerce, various rail user groups and Community Rail Partnerships as well as Cambridgeshire, Essex and Suffolk County Councils.
This is a blog on the visit from our Strategy Manager, Marie Finbow:
We were treated to a visit to two of Stadler’s manufacturing depots in Switzerland – Bussnang and Erlen where they are building two types of FLIRT (Fast Light Innovative Regional Train) for our region – Electric and Bi-mode.
The train carriages are in varying stages of manufacture and we were afforded an insight into each stage; from the very early stages where aluminium sheets were being welded together to form the roof of one of our new trains; a fully-formed empty aluminium shell which looked similar to a giant ‘Airfix’ model – through to brand new shiny painted train shells which engineers were busily wiring up.
We also had the opportunity to see the individual components that go into the creation of our new trains including the bogie units (wheel units for those of us who don’t quite know all the technical train language!), the suspension units and the engine and we learned how Stadler has implemented processes to automate their reordering systems, ensuring that they never run short of even the tiniest washer, nut or bolt.
The new trains will be air-conditioned and fitted with hi-capacity broadband and plug sockets throughout. Although there wasn’t a fully finished train to see (there were no seats or toilets to test out!) I was truly amazed at the sheer amount of technology that goes into the make-up of these new trains and the thousands of wires which will be hidden from view when the trains are finished.
Although the trains are still in development, one thing I could see is that the ceiling is considerably higher – which means more headroom for those that are tall – but this doesn’t mean the train carriage is taller, the floor itself has been lowered!
And there’s also good news for those who use wheelchairs or have small children and buggies – the trains have their own retractable step which is designed to close the gap between the train and the platform, making the transition from station to train much easier.
And the new ‘walk through’ carriages means that it’s going to be much easier to move from carriage to carriage without any doors to open and close and all in all the inside feels much more light and airy.
One of the highlights for me was the chance to go into the cockpit of one of our new trains, a rare occurrence for those of us who aren’t train operators and I have to say, the new cockpit is so spacious it looks more akin to what you might expect in a plane than on a train!
In total, Stadler will be providing 58 FLIRT bi-mode and electric multiple-unit trains (EMU) which will operate on various railway lines in East Anglia. This includes 10 twelve-car FLIRT EMUs with Intercity interior, 10 twelve-car FLIRT EMUs which will run as the Stansted Express and 38 bi-mode trains (24 x four-carriage trains and 14x three-carriage trains). These trains are being assembled in parallel in Switzerland and Poland.