škoda 2024

Railjet der neuen Generation

posted on 11th May 2024 18:58

Under this motto, ÖBB put the first nine-car railjet of the new generation into service on 22 March 2024; initially it ran on the domestic route Wien - Feldkirch on supplementary services. On the first day, i. e. Friday 22 March, this was the IC 19782 service Wien Hbf (departure 13.35) - Feldkirch (arrival 20.37), for which unit 80-91 904 was used, led by Taurus 1116 226 (and on another Taurus on the rear).

On the next two days, the new railjet, in alternation with unit 80-91 902, was again used to run one supplementary train daily, namely on Saturday 23 March for IC 19780 Wien Hbf (08.45) - Feldkirch (16.34) and on Sunday 24 March for IC 19781 Feldkirch (12.55) - Wien Hbf (20.15). 

After an interruption of several days, the next deployment took place from Thursday 28 March, again on IC 19782, then on Friday 29 March on IC 19784 Wien Hbf (13.35) - Feldkirch (20.37), then on Saturday 30 March, again on IC 19780, and finally on Sunday 1 April, on IC 19781.

Regular service

After this "warm-up" phase, a ceremonial run took place on the future main route of the new railjets between Germany, Austria and Italy, which is München - Innsbruck - Verona - Bologna. On Friday 5 April, the first southbound service departed from München Hbf, but terminated in Bolzano that day. Since Monday 8 April, regular services began on the entire line to Bologna, in particular on RJ 87, 98, 286 and 88, and later on three pairs of trains, including two from München to Italy and one to Innsbruck. By the end of 2024, all München - Innsbruck - Verona trains are to be operated by railjet 2 units, in a two-hour frequency.

As of mid-April, ÖBB had four railjet 2 units in service, with all eight of the first batch to be taken over by the operator by the end of 2024. Unit 80-91 901 has been in the VUZ Velim test centre since December last year; Siemens has not told us how long it will stay there and what is being tested on it. 

As in the case of the nightjet non-powered units, the railjet 2 with a top speed of 230 km/h is limited to 200 km/h for the time being and can only be used in a pull mode. This should be authorised by 2025. Tauruses are used as traction for these non-traction units (for railjet and nightjet), as Vectrons are limited to 160 km/h in Austria.

The start of regular operation came almost six years after the signing of the framework contract in August 2018, when eight railjet 2 units were ordered, together with 13 seven-car nightjet units, all of which were included in Siemens' new Viaggio Next Level family. At the start of passenger operation of railjet 2, ÖBB also announced that they ordered a further 19 of these non-traction miultiple units for a total value of 405.8 million EUR, but this contract had already been awarded to Siemens last December.

Thus, the start of railjet 2 passenger operation in March 2024 means a delay of almost three years compared to the original assumptions made in 2018, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine from February 2022, as well as the challenging design of the train, where a major change compared to the first-generation railjets (which began entering service in 2008) was the development of partially low-floor cars, which provide barrier-free access to most of the train.

The final assembly took place in Wien, where were also the driving trailers assembled unlike those in the order for the ComfortJets for ČD, which were fitted out at the Siemens München works, using bodyshells supplied from Wien. 

Train composition

Each railjet 2 has two first class cars, four second class cars, a restaurant car, a multipurpose car and a driving trailer (all economy class), offering a total of 532 seats. Each NMU arrangement is as follows, described from the locomotive end:
- Ampz 73 81 19-91 1xx-x (end car, first class, business class, quiet zone), 55 seats,
- Ampz 73 81 19-91 2xx-x (first class, business class), 47 seats,
- BRmpz 73 81 85-91 3xx-x (restaurant, economy class), 30 seats,
- Bbmpvz 73 81 28-91 4xx-x (three wheelchair spaces, six bicycle spaces, economy class), 42 seats,
- Bmpz 73 81 22-91 5xx-x (economy class), 72 seats,
- Bmpz 73 81 22-91 6xx-x (economy class, family zone), 72 seats,
- Bmpz 73 81 22-91 7xx-x (economy class, family zone), 72 seats,
- Bmpz 73 81 22-91 8xx-x (economy class, quiet zone), 72 seats,
- Bfmpz 73 81 80-91 9xx-x (driving trailer, economy class, quiet zone), 70 seats.

At this point, we planned to follow up with a detailed description respecting the significance of this new train. However, we have come across the fact that there is no official technical documentation available for the railjet 2 units to work with, and Siemens does not even have a brochure with basic data, even though the Viaggio N family vehicles have already started regular service (or should have been for years).

Communication with the company's press department did not lead to a result after around a month of urgencies for answers to questions about the main technical data and some design solutions. For this reason, we have to be satisfied with a more brief description, based on other sources, the study of photographs and videos on the internet and additional enquiries from other subjects.

A brief description of the train

Without the locomotive, this nine-car unit measures 238.75 m. The drivig trailer is 26.80 m long over couplings/buffers, the intermediate cars are 26.50 m long and the end car 26.45 m. The width of the cars is 2,850 mm. These are the same dimensions like at the first generation railjet (except for the 26.85 m long Afmpz driving trailer), and the distance of the bogie centres is the same at 19.0 m.

By comparison, the first-generation railjet has a capacity of 404 seats for units 01 - 51 and 417 seats for units 52 - 60. Each seven-car railjet 1 measures 185.5 m, has an unladen weight of 349.6 t and a gross weight of 394.6 t. The floor is 1,250 mm above the TOR continuously throughout the whole unit. 

In this sense, the biggest difference in railjet 2 is that the only cars that have a floor at 1,250 mm above TOR are the driving trailer and end car. The end car is the only one in the railjet 2 rake with two doors situated at the ends of the car, with a clear width of 850 mm and a height of 1,900 mm. The driving trailer has one entrance door near the front bogie, the dimensions of which were not given to us by the manufacturer.

The remaining seven cars have a low-floor section between the bogies (length not specified) laying 550 mm above TOR. Each central low floor part also houses a single-leaf entrance door on each bodyshell sidewall  (dimensions unspecified), positioned closer to the front bogie. The result, however, is that there is now a raised floor above the bogies in 1,250 mm above TOR, so the train is not comfortably passing flush as with the first generation railjet.

In opposite, the first generation railjet had one pair of electrically operated single-leaf sliding entrance doors at the end of each intermediate car, with a clear width of 850 mm and a height of 1,900 mm. An exception to the intermediate cars is the restaurant car, which has only one door pair, near the front bogie. The driving trailer has one pair of the doors on the bodyshell's rear end and one pair of the doors near the front bogie on account of the driver's cab. And the end car has only one pair of entrance door, at the end adjacent to the locomotive.

As the floor is at a height of 1,250 mm above TOR, three steps, each 200 mm high, lead into the car, which is sufficient for platforms with edge heights up to 760 mm. Boarding/alighting at stations with even lower platforms, namely 380 mm above TOR and above, is facilitated by a single folding step with an edge at 625 mm above TOR.

The railjet 2s cars have Knorr-Bremse brake: each axle is fitted with three brake discs and most bogies also have an electromagnetic rail brake (on first generation railjets, all bogies have an electromagnetic rail brake except the first bogie on the drivin trailer, where the sensors of the ATPs are located).

We did not find out what the empty and fully loaded weights of the individual cars are and what the maximum axle-load is for railjet 2 (the maximum axle-load for railjet 1 cars is 14.5 t). Of course, this train is air-conditioned and equipped with all the technologies available today for passenger comfort and modern maintenance.

Train of superlatives

What the new raijlet lacks in available technical documentation, it makes up for in a list of superlatives. At the start of operations on 22 March, Andreas Matthä, CEO of ÖBB Holding, told, among other things: “People are traveling more and many prefer to do so by train. In response to this development, which is beneficial for the environment and climate, we are increasing the number of modern trains. With the new travel experience at the Brenner Pass, we are able to further enhance the popularity of this route. The new generation of railjets offers our passengers a truly first-class travel experience and raises rail comfort to a new level.”

Albrecht Neumann, CEO Rolling Stock Siemens Mobility: “The new generation of railjets with their many impressive innovations in the interior provide the highest level of comfort and convenience to passengers. By helping make rail travel more attractive, these trains will make an important contribution toward achieving climate targets. The order for 19 additional trains is a strong signal underscoring the quality and technology of Siemens Mobility.”

In the list of novelties of this train, the manufacturer stated, among other things:
- the new high-tech lightweight bogies are 30 % lighter, provide a higher level of comfort than comparable products, and require fewer raw materials in production. 
- the train’s newly developed power distribution system also makes an important contribution to efficiency: it is highly efficient in converting voltage and transporting energy within the train all the way down to the power outlets on the passenger seats.
- the trains have windows panes that are optimally radio-permeable for improved mobile reception. Developed by Siemens in Vienna, the windows conduct signal power that is 50 times stronger than standard glass. Measurements taken on an ÖBB railjet already in service show that the available time of good 4G reception is increased by 33 %.

When we asked how the weight of the bogeis was reduced by 30 %, we were told that this was an incorrect figure and that only the bogie frames are 30 % lighter compared to the first generation railjet, with "the weight reduction achieved by applying a new design principle combined with the use of higher strength steel plate". 

When asked for clarification of a newly developed power distribution system that is highly efficient in converting voltage etc., Siemens stated that "the train's power supply has two separate three-phase current outputs. One, with a fixed frequency of 50 Hz, for on-board power, the other, with a variable frequency, is used to power the air conditioning, so that it can be operated in the optimum efficiency range." We also asked, what is efficiency of the new system in %, what was (in %) the efficiency of the power distribution system in railjet 1?, but it remained without answer.

We also asked about "the windows that transmit a signal 50 times stronger than standard glass“, if could be provided data on what percentage to what percentage increase in good signal reception time of 33 % was found in measurements on an already operating railjet have ended. This question also went unanswered.

It is understandable that every manufacturer and operator presents only the best data for their trains and products and suppresses the less glorious ones. It is also common that perhaps all of them exaggerate the quality of their products in their media coverage (and it is the role of a solid media to put these figures in their proper context). However, not being able to explain and support their claims with credible figures is already striking. 

It is also understandable that the press releases are dominated by general information, which is sufficient for the ordinary media for the general population, because the railway is a rather complex industry, which not everyone understands, and the passenger is really primarily interested in the seat, on-board internet, charging the phone, etc. 

It can be understood that no company provides fully detailed data on its products that could be exploited by competitors. This is especially true when the competition from China, in particular, is breaking down all existing practices, copying anything without scruples and distorting the market with undercutting prices. Nevertheless, a professional railway website could deserve adequate answers to questions about the basic data, because a technology company like Siemens should want to reach out to the technical and professional public, for whom marketing glitter has no value. 

Train of superlatives?

While the internet discussions are full of evaluations of various details of the new train, for example, how comfortable the seat or its wooden armrests are (although each passenger will judge for himself after a few hours of travel), and rail fans dispute about whether the cab from the Taurus or the Vectron is nicer on the driving trailer, the question of a large proportion of the low floor on a long-distance train is somewhat overlooked. 

This is however a fundamental difference in the design of the two types of railjet, the consequence of which is that while the railjet 1 is internally barrier-free (a point duly emphasised by both manufacturer and operator at the time at every opportunity), seven of the nine cars in railjet 2 now have a low-floor section, which creates inside the train the barriers as there are high-floor sections above the bogies, accessed via steps. 

Railjet 2 does indeed offer a quality interior with many improvements (see also photos here), but this "first-class travel experience and raised comfort at a new level" is somewhat clouded by the fact that passengers are faced with a different floor heights in the interior, and if they were to go from the driving trailer to the restaurant car, they have to climb too many stairs. The aim of creating a low-floor section in the cars was to allow wheelchair access to the train, which was therefore achieved - however, with the side-effect that the problem of the high floor has been moved from the outside of the train to the inside. A phenomenon well known from various older high-floor trams, for example, after the insertion of the low-floor middle section.

So passengers can get into the railjet 2 car comfortably, even with luggage (through the doors, which appear to be slightly wider than on the first generation railjet), but inside the car it is more difficult to move the same luggage, as the area above the bogies is higher than at the entrance doors. And at least they are lucky that the train does not have as much acceleration or deceleration as the trams, so the risk of falls that occur when passengers are trying to get to their seat in the high-floor section after a low-floor boarding while the tram is moving is greatly reduced.

This element inevitably influences catering, so that, as ÖBB has clarified, the existing refreshment delivery service is no longer offered on the new railjets using trolleys, but the catering concept is based on three different levels:
- a restaurant car with seating, where passengers can take their own refreshments to their seats,
- on-seat service in first class and business class,
- snack vending machines located throughout the train.

The manufacturer can hardly be blamed for this result, as it has only produced what the customer ordered, and technically the railjet 2 is a superior product. ÖBB's intention was to make it easier to enter and leave the train, which, thanks to the easier movement of passengers in the entrance areas, also results in shorter dwell times in the stations. However, for regional and suburban trains, which stop very often, this solution has a different significance than for long-distance trains, which stop much less frequently.

An aspect of the low floor

It is then a question whether, for second-generation railjet, the benefit of low-floor boarding in seven cars out of nine outweighs the complications that arise in other areas, and whether it would be more favourable to have only one or two cars with low-floor entrance, as is the case with nightjet NMUs, where one car out of seven is low-floor.

Furthermore, there is the aspect of platforms in Germany with a height of 760 mm above TOR, which the new railjets may also encounter, which would mean that in cars with a floor height of 550 mm above TOR passengers would have to descend downwards from such platforms (and vice versa). In addition, the design of the completely new Viaggio Next Level low-floor cars was a challenging issue that also affected the execution of the contract. 

If it is an imperative of the times to have low-floor entrance to such an extent also on long-distance trains, then from this point of view the design of Talgo NMUs is more advantageous, where the low floor is almost in the entire length of the train due to the absence of wheelsets in the rodal-type undercarriage and absence of normal two-axle bogies, with the exception of the outermost cars, which have bogies on their outer ends.

However, in addition to the standard disadvantages of non-traction multiple units, the Talgo concept also has the disadvantage of a high number of short bodyshells and therefore a high number of inter-car gangways, as well as the complications arising from the use of single-wheeled rodals, which can cause difficulties in some countries in terms of homologation due to the impact on infrastructure, as has already been shown in the past with the approval of Strizh Talgos for RZD on the DB Netz network. 

The wheel arrangement of the Talgo rakes (1'1'1'1'1'...) with the same rodal distances along the length of the long train produces more symmetrical dynamic (and thus less favourable) effects on the infrastructure than the two-axle bogies (2'2' + 2'2' + 2'2' ...) with different distances between the bogies under the cars and between the bogies of adjacent cars. From this point of view, it will be interesting to see the authorisation in Germany for the Talgo NMUs in the ICE L version for DB (or similar sets for DSB). 

Measured in this light, it will also be interesting to follow the outcome of the DB tender announced in November 2023 for the new ICE 5 high-speed trains, which also have as a condition of "boarding with as many barrier-free entrances as possible"; but we have already strayed somewhat from the original topic of the new ÖBB railjets.

Thus, while ČD will now receive its long-distance ComfortJet non-traction units - inside barrier-free, ÖBB will receive a total of 27 railjet 2s (of which the 19 units ordered in December 2023 are to be delivered by 2028). Only long-term operation will show what the overall evaluation of this low-floor concept will be and whether the experience gained may at some point in the future force ÖBB to reconsider its position on this matter, as we saw with last year's order of KISS double-deck EMUs for the third-generation railjets instead of additional non-powered multiple units.

Additional photo captions

A) Since the new railjets cannot yet run in the push mode, the locomotive is in this case in front of the driving trailer. Or the locomotives are directly coupled to the non-powered multiple units on both ends, which is also commonly used by the ÖBB during this temporary complication. The photo taken on 13 April 2024 shows the RJ 286 Innsbruck - München service at  Rum (east of Innsbruck), headed by Taurus 1216 017.

B) The bogies have an air secondary suspension and are attached to the bodyshell by a cross beam. The primary suspension is made by steel coil springs, which are supported by compact bearing housings. From this photo (a print screen from the promotional video of Siemens Mobility Graz), it can be seen how a 30 % weight saving was achieved in the bogie frame, which is made of steel plates with higher strength instead of the usual box section construction.

C) Ground plan of the Class Bmpz car (direction of travel to the right). The location of the six-seat compartments on one high-floor side of the car with a side aisle can be seen. On the opposite side of the car are the stairs to the high-floor section at seats 81/73.

D) New are compartments for six passengers in economy class. The armrests on the seats have a wooden surface (also in the open-space  compartments). Another new feature is that there are no rubbish bins at the  seats and their function is replaced by rubbish bags, which are taken away by passengers or train staff.

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