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The first of 100 next-generation TGV sets is due to enter service with French national operator SNCF in time to carry passengers during the 2024 Olympic Games. Murray Hughes investigates.
Almost exactly 40 years after France’s first production high speed trains began carrying passengers, and a few months after Set 01, the first of the celebrated orange Trains à Grande Vitesse, was taken out of service, SNCF’s next generation of high speed rolling stock is starting to take shape.
A pair of TGV M test trains is being assembled ahead of the main build, with trials expected to commence in 2021. The national operator has ordered a fleet of 100 trainsets from Alstom Transport under a €2∙7 bn contract signed in July 2018.
Also known as TGV 2020 and branded Avelia Horizon by the manufacturer, the latest addition to the TGV stable is due to enter commercial service in 2024, in time to carry passengers to and from cities with venues hosting events for the Paris-based Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The delivery timescale for the first revenue-earning set is thus ‘winter 2023’, with the first passengers expected to begin travelling in June 2024. That leaves a short window for clocking up commercial mileage before the Olympic Games start the following month. The whole fleet is expected to be delivered by 2031.
Teams from both SNCF and Alstom will share responsibility for the dynamic trials. The test period will last for around 18 months, according to Ludovic De Pierrefeu, Alstom’s Project Director responsible for TGV M. Maximum speed in commercial service will be 320 km/h, the same as SNCF’s most recent TGV Duplex trainsets, but the trials will include running at 10% overspeed ‘to verify the dynamic behaviour of the train’.
The two test trains will be decorated in liveries suggested by the staff of SNCF and Alstom. The two organisations launched a competition in September for their employees to design the exterior styling of the two sets; one will feature an Alstom livery and the other an SNCF design.
Why TGV ‘M’? According to SNCF’s publicity, the M stands for modernité, mobilité, modularité, maîtrise, meilleur and mutualisation (modernity, mobility, modularity, management, better and partnership). Alain Krakovitch, CEO of SNCF Voyages, adds that the M also represents maîtrise de l’énergie, and maintenance predictive (energy management and predictive maintenance).
Construction of the first aluminium bodyshells for the TGV M articulated trailer cars began earlier this year at Alstom’s Aytré plant near La Rochelle in western France.
The need for flexibility in tomorrow’s competitive inter-city market lies behind some of the main design precepts for France’s next generation of high speed trains. The aim is to be able to switch a train simply and quickly from an up-market InOui interior to the low-cost high-density Ouigo format.
Converting a trailer car from a first class configuration to a second class saloon and adjusting the amount of luggage space is intended to take no more than a day or even less. The idea is by no means new, but it would give SNCF enhanced flexibility when the national operator finds itself competing with open access rivals on France’s high speed network.
As currently envisaged, each TGV M trainset will be formed of two power cars and nine intermediate double-deck trailers. De Pierrefeu points out that the concept allows for shorter formations with only seven or eight centre cars, giving the operator the option of adapting to market conditions during the life of the fleet.
The well-established double-deck formula guarantees high capacity, and a full-length set with high-density seating will accommodate up to 740 passengers compared with 630 in a Duplex Ouigo, driving down the cost per seat. A set configured for InOui services will seat around 600 passengers against 556 in the latest TGV Océane double-deck sets.
The ability to have nine rather than eight articulated intermediate cars in a 202 m train length comes from the shorter power cars. This leaves space for two more passenger saloons per train, one upper deck and one lower.
It has also been possible to dispense with the bank of equipment below the upper deck of the bar car found on the TGV Duplex, releasing additional space which is being used to spread the catering and entertainment area over the full height. The TGV M bar car will have gallery seating on the upper deck with stairs down to a counter and serving area below. Computer images show that there will be no upper floor in the central part of the car, giving a spacious and open feel that was missing in the bar cars of previous TGV builds.
TGV M power cars are being assembled at Belfort, Alstom’s long-standing site for locomotive and power car construction.
The interior concept of TGV M has been rethought to reflect modern design trends. ‘Intelligent’ air-conditioning will be ducted to supply air through ceiling-mounted vents rather than from grilles by the windows along the bodyside. The size of the windows has been increased by 10%, and the interior lighting will incorporate a variety of colours and levels to reflect the time of day, as well as alerting passengers to different situations such as arrival and departure.
[table][tr][th][left]Table I. Details of TGV M trainsets for SNCF[/left][/th][/tr][tr][td]Overall length m[/td][td]202 [/td][/tr][tr][td]Gauge mm[/td][td]1 435[/td][/tr][tr][td]Loading gauge [/td][td]UIC 505-1 G2 + GB [/td][/tr][tr][td]Formation [/td][td]MTTTTTTTTTM [/td][/tr][tr][td]Power supply [/td][td]25 kV 50 Hz/1·5 kV DC
[/td][/tr][tr][td]Train control [/td][td]ETCS Level 2, TVM300/430
[/td][/tr][tr][td]Nominal power rating MW[/td][td]7·8 [/td][/tr][tr][td]Maximum speed km/h[/td][td]320 [/td][/tr][tr][td]Seating capacity [/td][td]600 to 740 [/td][/tr][tr][td]Entrance doors per side [/td][td]9 [/td][/tr][tr][td]Onboard data network [/td][td]Ethernet [/td][/tr][tr][td]Maximum axleload tonnes[/td][td]17[/td][/tr][/table]
SNCF says the train will be the first TGV to have been designed ‘in collaboration with wheelchair users’ associations’. Passengers using wheelchairs will have access to both decks thanks to an onboard lift with a rotating platform. They will also be able to move along the train and access toilets without assistance.
Passengers will find that they can stay fully connected thanks to an onboard internet network that will also provide real-time information. Teleste will provide the passenger information management functions, along with a new control interface. The company will also deliver CCTV, audio and video recording, public address services as well as TFT (thin film transistor) and LED displays.
Short power cars
Asked how the shorter power car design had been achieved, De Pierrefeu lists several features. Advances in electronics have enabled the size of components to be reduced and the arrangement of equipment within the power car has been changed so that it occupies less space. ‘The power car architecture is similar to that of a modern locomotive, with a central gangway and the main transformer integrated below the underframe’, he explains. In addition, some items such as the 110 V batteries and their associated equipment have been moved to a compartment in the adjacent trailer car. A TGV M power car will be noticeably shorter than the 22·15 m of a Duplex power car.
The same design concept of short power cars applies to TGV M’s sister trains being built by Alstom for Amtrak in the USA, although in this case the trailers are single-deck rather than double-deck. The 28 Avelia Liberty trainsets destined to replace the Acela Express fleet in the Northeast Corridor are due to enter service next year. After rolling out of Alstom’s Hornell factory in New York state last November, the first train left in February for trials at the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado. Further trains have since been outshopped and are undergoing tests in the Northeast Corridor.
In contrast to recent SNCF regional EMUs which have permanent magnet traction motors, the TGV M will be powered by asynchronous three-phase motors. Nominal output from the eight motors will be 7∙8 MW compared with 8∙8 MW for a Duplex set.
Assembly of the TGV M power cars is in progress at Alstom’s Belfort plant, while the intermediate trailers are being fabricated using welded aluminium extrusions at the company’s factory at Aytré near La Rochelle in western France. Around two-thirds of the Aytré site has been turned over to TGV M production, with 200 engineers employed.
Fig 1. This elevation of two TGV M vehicles reveals the shorter length of the power car compared with earlier TGV designs.
While most of the TGV M fleet is likely to be deployed on domestic services, some sets may be equipped to run outside France. This would mean adding further power supply options over and above the 25 kV 50 Hz and 1∙5 kV DC fitted as standard for domestic operation. At the moment TGVs of various types run into Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. De Pierrefeu confirms that options to equip some TGV M sets for cross-border operation are enshrined in Alstom’s contract with SNCF.
In terms of train control, the fleet will be able to run on routes fitted with TVM 300 and TVM 430 cab signalling as well as ETCS Level 2. The train control equipment is combined into a ‘bistandard’ ERTMS-TVM pack which includes odometry, according to De Pierrefeu.
[table][tr][th][left]Table II. Selected milestones in TGV development [/left][/th][/tr][tr][td]1972 [/td][td]Experimental TGV 001 rolled out [/td][/tr][tr][td]1978 [/td][td]Pre-production TGV Sud-Est set completed [/td][/tr][tr][td]1981[/td][td]TGV Sud-Est sets enter service [/td][/tr][tr][td]1984 [/td][td]TGV Postale enters service [/td][/tr][tr][td]1988 [/td][td]TGV Atlantique set unveiled [/td][/tr][tr][td]1992 [/td][td]First TGV Réseau delivered [/td][/tr][tr][td]1993 [/td][td]First TMST (Eurostar) delivered [/td][/tr][tr][td]1994 [/td][td]TMSTs enter service [/td][/tr][tr][td]1995 [/td][td]First TGV Duplex delivered [/td][/tr][tr][td]1996 [/td][td]First PBKA sets (Thalys) delivered[/td][/tr][tr][td]2001 [/td][td]Elisa experimental AGV train rolled out[/td][/tr][tr][td]2006 [/td][td]First TGV POS (Paris Ostfrankreich Süddeutschland) delivered [/td][/tr][tr][td]2006 [/td][td]First TGV Réseau Duplex delivered [/td][/tr][tr][td]2008 [/td][td]Pégase AGV demonstrator unveiled [/td][/tr][tr][td]2008 [/td][td]Italo-NTV orders AGV fleet [/td][/tr][tr][td]2008 [/td][td]TGV DASYE (Duplex Asynchrone ERTMS) delivered [/td][/tr][tr][td]2008 [/td][td]Four Duplex sets adapted for Ouigo services [/td][/tr][tr][td]2011 [/td][td]TGV EuroDuplex (2N2) delivered [/td][/tr][tr][td]2013 [/td][td]French President François Hollande announces ‘TGV of the
[/td][/tr][tr][td]2014[/td][td]First TGV Sud-Est sets withdrawn
[/td][/tr][tr][td]2016[/td][td]Alstom nominated as TGV M design partner
[/td][/tr][tr][td]2019[/td][td]First Avelia Liberty for Amtrak outshopped
[/td][/tr][tr][td]2019[/td][td]Additional TGV Océane order placed
[/td][/tr][tr][td]2020[/td][td]TGV M bodyshell fabrication starts
[/td][/tr][tr][td]2021[/td][td]First TGV M test train delivered
[/td][/tr][tr][td]2023[/td][td]First revenue-ready TGV M delivered
[/td][/tr][tr][td]2024[/td][td]TGV M enters commercial service
[/td][/tr][tr][td]2031[/td][td]Last TGV M delivered
Back in 2013 French President François Hollande announced that a ‘TGV of the Future’ would be one of a suite of major projects designed to revitalise French industry. In May 2016 Alstom was nominated as SNCF’s development partner for the project, although the announcement was delayed until September that year. In that month Director General of Alstom France Jean-Baptiste Eyméoud and the then CEO of Voyages SNCF Rachel Picard opened a ‘shared workspace’ called ‘Plateau’ near Paris Montparnasse station where teams of experts from both organisations were co-located to draw up the detailed design of the train which eventually became known as TGV M.
This partnership in what could be termed a ‘design hothouse’ was to characterise much of what followed, with the organisations sharing responsibilities and working towards a common objective. The arrangement evokes the early days of TGV development when the same supplier’s predecessor and the national operator worked hand-in-hand to design and build Europe’s first commercially successful high speed train.
Among many other strands of work, the teams invited 75 train drivers to give their views on the cab design and equipment using a 3D visualisation system. The design teams were then due to follow up with consultations about the train interior involving passenger organisations.
Sub-suppliers were called in to work with the main design teams. Knorr Bremse, for example, which is responsible for the braking and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, was invited to move into the Plateau open workspace, where staff took part in brainstorming sessions as part of the design development process. Knorr-Bremse reports that ‘operator, constructor and suppliers met up as equals and with an unprecedented level of openness’. Altogether about 800 experts were employed at the site, although as many as 2 000 people have been involved in the design process.
Photo: Jeremy Zorek
TGV M, branded Avelia Horizon by Alstom, shares a number of common features with Amtrak’s Avelia Liberty trainsets which are now on test on the Northeast Corridor in the USA.
Cheaper to build, cheaper to run
From the outset the premise for TGV M was a train that was cheaper to build and run than current designs. More than 50 patents for design innovations have been registered.
‘What we have here is a masterpiece of innovation à la française’, as Pascal Désaunay, Technical Director of SNCF’s Rolling Stock Division puts it. ‘We will be doing big data, even artificial intelligence’, he explains. The train will generate ‘300 to 500 times’ more data than the most advanced trains in SNCF’s existing rolling stock fleet, he continues, pointing out that the ‘technological leap’ between today’s TGV sets and the future fleet will be ‘significant’. The scale of the design work is huge — SNCF says that a TGV is designed on the basis of 8 000 technical specifications.
SNCF describes TGV M as ‘the most eco-friendly TGV design in history’, claiming that it will offer a 20% reduction in energy consumption thanks to a combination of regenerative braking, improved aerodynamics and eco-friendly traction control. Other environmentally friendly attributes are the use of recyclable materials — 97% of which will be reusable — while the carbon footprint is intended to be 37% lower than existing TGVs.
SNCF says the acquisition cost of its new trains is 20% lower than ‘conventional’ TGVs, while maintenance costs will be 30% lower. The contract with Alstom included €190 m for maintenance and other options, meaning the straight acquisition cost per train is €25∙1 m. In cost per seat, a high-density TGV M set will be around 23% cheaper than a Ouigo Duplex.
For comparison, a contract for 12 more TGV Océane sets awarded in 2019 for delivery in 2021-22 to fill the gap before the first TGV M sets arrive has a unit price of just below €28 m. These are to be deployed on services from Paris to Rennes, Nantes, Metz and Nancy from 2021.
This article first appeared on www.railwaygazette.com
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