posted on 8th Dec 2022 18:00
The third FLIRT in Berlin was the tri-mode version, belonging to the FLIRT UK family. The presented vehicle 756 102 is part of an order that came out of a Transport for Wales (TfW) tender. Stadler has signed contract for 24 tri-mode FLIRTs, 17 four-car and 7 three-car trains (both versions will be referred to as the Class 756). In addition, the contract covers 11 more four-car FLIRT DMUs (Class 231) and 36 three-car CITYLINK tram-trains.
The three-car FLIRTs tri-mode are designed to operate on lines powered by the 25 kV 50 Hz voltage as well as on non-electrified lines. TfW has contracted the electrification of around 170 km of tracks (the work started in October 2022), so electric operation will be used on northbound services from Cardiff, specifically to Rhymney and Coryton, with some use of battery power on the sections without catenary. Diesel power with batteries will be used on services south of Cardiff to Bridgend, Barry and Penarth.
Each FLIRT tri-mode has traction batteries and one diesel genset housed in a 7.2 m long Power Module, which is incorporated on all FLIRT variants for Wales. The Deutz engine has a 480 kW power output and meets Stage V emission limits, however it is designed as an auxiliary engine to recharge/support the batteries rather than being used on a large scale to permanently power the train. The traction batteries are of the LTO type and provide a range of approximately 80 km depending on the type of service and track profile.
The four-car version of the Class 756 has a length over couplers of 80,700 mm and a Bo' 2' 2' 2' Bo' axle arrangement. The shorter three-car version has a length of 65,000 mm and one less trailing bogie. The width of the bodyshells is 2,700 mm and the height of the vehicles is 3,915 mm above TOR, with the floor 960 mm above TOR. The traction power of the trains is 2,600 kW when powered from the catenary and 1,300 kW when powered from the traction battery. The maximum starting acceleration is 1.1 m/s2 and the maximum operating speed is 75 mph (120 km/h).
The drive mode switching can also be controlled from the track by the balise, which is also possible for the entrance doors control (which are now closed and opened by the conductor from a designated comparment in the train). The units are equipped with AWS and TPWS ATPs and are prepared for the ETCS installation. The two units can be operated in multiple.
The capacity of the longer Class 756 FLIRTs is 158 seated passengers, there are also 32 reclining seats and space for 204 standing passengers. The three-car unit has 118 seats, with an additional 24 on folding seats and space for 148 standees. The interior is air-conditioned, equipped with an information system with large LCD panels, and WiFi coverage is also available.
The FLIRTs tri-mode are planned to be used on a new South Wales Metro integrated suburban transport system being developed from 2011, which will be based on a network of rail services centered in Cardiff Central station. On a wider scale, this will involve incorporating rail into a system that includes interchanges with buses. Initial work began in 2019 and includes track upgrades, new stations and stops and partial electrification.
The service is operated by the Wales & Borders franchise, but is now handled by the operator of last resort TfW Rail Ltd, which was set up by the Welsh Government as a subsidiary of TfW and which, from 7 February 2021, has been operating the rail service. It replaced the original Keolis Amey Wales on 7 July 2021, after the COVID-19 pandemic caused a collapse of the ridership and thus revenue, making it financially unsustainable to operate this franchise under the original terms of the contract (as has been the case in many other such instances on British rail network in recent time).
The production of these FLIRTs takes place at the Bussnang works. Testing of the Class 756s is also being carried out in the Czech Republic at the VUZ Velim test circuit, where this particular 756 102 "fair" train arrived on 12 October 2022. The first FLIRT tri-mode is planned to be delivered to the UK by the end of this year, where testing is expected to start immediately, with batch deliveries expected to begin in 2023. The vehicles will enter passenger service after electrification is completed on the network north of Cardiff, as currently envisaged in 2024 - 25.
The production of the Class 231 DMUs started before the FLIRT tri-modes; commissioning and tests of the first units started in summer 2021 at the IBS Erlen centre and the first were delivered to Wales in November 2021. The Class 231s are planned to enter service in 2023, initially on the Penarth (south of Cardiff) to Rhymney (about 30 km north of Cardiff) route. Later, they would be moved to services running from Cardiff to Maesteg (northwest of Cardiff), Ebbw Vale (north of Cardiff) and Cheltenham (northeast of Cardiff, halfway to Birmingham).