škoda 2024

WINKS In Regular Service. And A Couple Of Questions Over The Future Operation

posted on 1st Jun 2021 12:50

On 12 April 2021, Arriva Nederland started regular operation of its new WINK units. Originally, this was supposed to happen last December, after the intended presentation at InnoTrans 2020, but COVID-19 wanted it differently ...

On 9 November 2017 Arriva Nederland placed an order with Stadler for 18 two-car WINK trains. They were built at Stadler Siedlce, using PowerPack delivered from Bussnang (4 modules) and Valencia (14 modules). The first WINK, 601, was finished in November 2019 and then tested in Siedlce and on the adjacent PKP PLK line to Łuków. Subsequently the WINKs 602 to 604 were finished until mid-February 2020. Unit 604 has been unveiled at Siedlce on 21 February 2020 

WINKs In Service

On 5 June 2020 the three WINKs (601, 602 and 604) arrived in the Netherlands. The final one (618) was delivered in March 2021. The fleet is used on several routes in Friesland and Groningen provinces in the northern Netherlands: Leeuwarden - Groningen (54.5 km), Groningen - Bad Nieuweschans (46.3 km), Groningen - Veendam (28.9 km), Groningen - Delfzijl (37.8 km), Groningen - Roodeschool (37.7 km) - Eemshaven (44.9 km), Leeuwarden - Harlingen Haven (26.1 km), Leeuwarden - Stavoren (49.8 km) and Leeuwarden - Sneek (21.4 km), in total 347.4 km.

In July 2017 Arriva Nederland won a concession for these services, with the planned start in December 2020. Between the latter date and 12 April 2021 the existing GTW 2/6 and GTW 2/8 DMUs were used there.

Technical Description

The WINK is designed for a top service speed of up to 160 km/h, and has an axle-weight of under 18 t. However as a Class 600 for Arriva Nederland its maximum speed is 140 km/h. The WINK is a two-car train (with a PowerPack),  with a Bo’ 2’ 2’ Bo’ axle arrangement. The trains are dual-source, or to be most exact, the triple-source units fitted with a pantograph mounted on the rear end of a front car, thus very close to the PowerPack. In the latter is installed the traction equipment for 1.5 kV DC, together with the two diesel gensets, complemented by a set of auxiliary batteries of 2x 30 kWh, situated on the roof of the end cars.

The two 480 kW Deutz engines are of a Type TCD 16.0 V8, the water-cooled supercharged eight-cylinder engines with a displacement of 16 liters,  fuelled using hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO). The trains have a traction power of 1,000 kW in an EMU mode, and of 748 kW at wheel rim either in diesel or (in the future) also in battery mode.

Initially it was planned to install a pantograph and other elements of traction equipment for a voltage of 1.5 kV additionaly, on the WINKs being in regular service. However, these were mounted on all 18 units directly from the factory, which was evaluated as a more economically advantageous solution.

The WINKs have a seating capacity of 153 (137 fixed and 16 tip-up seats) and a total capacity, including 124 standees, of up to 275 passengers. On account of the fact that Prorail, the Dutch rayilway infrastructure manager, has not yet completed the modifications of the platforms of some stations, wheelchair passengers are provided with free assistance by the operator on boarding and disembarking from the train. 

Present Operation

One some services, two WINKs run also in multiple. At present, the Class 600 units run only on non-electrified lines, being driven by the diesel engines. When braking, the auxiliary batteries are charged with electrical energy generated by an electrodynamic brake. This energy from the batteries is used for train’s starting acceleration, and it can also cover the consumption of equipment necessary for comfort of passengers at standstill in stations, when the diesel engines are shut down, i. e. air condition and lighting, for around 25 minutes. At present there are no charging points for the auxiliary (or traction) batteries on the lines operated by Arriva Nederland.

The WINKs are based in Leeuwarden depot. According to a contract signed in July 2018 is their maintenance provided by Stadler for 15 years of operation, starting on 13 December 2020. For this purpose, the Leeuwarden depot will be modernised, starting in 2021, increasing the number of tracks from two to three and expanding its capacity from 50 trains to be maintained (so far the Arriva Nederland’s GTW DMUs), to 68 trains (including the WINKs).

The November 2017 contract covered not only the construction of the WINKs, but in the sum of 170 million EUR was also included the cost of modernising all Arriva Nederland’s existing fleet of 50 GTW 2/6 and 2/8 DMUs in total, which date from 2005 and are designated by Arriva as SPURTs. The work will include the installation of a new passenger information system and of battery packs for the storage of energy regenerated while braking. 

The modernising has started in 2018 with the first two „prototypes“ finished in March 2019 at Stadler Siedlce, where all these GTW DMUs for Arriva Nederland were initially built. The batch modernising of the remaining 48 units started in April 2020, at Stadler Service Nederland works at Blerick in Venlo (in 2013 acquired from Voith Railservices). By early May 2021, twelve GTWs were completed here and the last one is scheduled to be finished in mid-2022.

Questions Over The Future Operation

At the time the WINKs were ordered, Arriva Nederland stated that the Leeuwarden - Groningen line, which runs from west to east across Friesland and Groningen provinces, is expected to be electrified by 2025 so that the internal combustion engines with traction generators and fuel tanks could be removed. The space occupied by the equipment removed will be used for the installation of the traction batteries.

This will enable the WINKs to run of 1.5 kV DC overhead, and use their traction batteries for the stretches of line which remain non-electrified, and on the other above mentioned routes. The WINKs will thus become EBMUs, with a maximum power rating of 1,000 kW at wheel rim both in EMU and battery mode. Their expected operating range is not known yet, as it depends on the services operated and on quality of the batteries, which is developing very quickly.

Therefore we asked Arriva Nederland how the electrification plan is progressing, how many km of the line will be electrified and whether the 2025 deadline is still valid. The operator replied: „Rail development as electrification is the responsibility of government, in this case, the provinces of Fryslân and Groningen. So you can ask there.“

This we did, whereupon the provinces answered us: „The WINK trains of Arriva will be running on HVO biodiesel. We don’t have a project to electrify any railway in Groningen. Our ambition is to have zero emission trains on all the lines in Groningen in December 2035. That is also the date that a new concession will start. The tender for that concession will be organised in 2030.

Therefore we started a Hydrogen train pilot project last year on the line between Groningen and Leeuwarden, testing an iLint for a few weeks. The outcome was positive and therefore we have the ambition of ordering four hydrogen trains soon, so they can run in our timetable from December 2024. These four hydrogen trains will mainly operate on the line from Eemshaven to Groningen, Veendam and Stadskanaal.“ 

We subsequently sent this email to the provinces and to Arriva Nederland: „Thanks for your answer. But to be honest, we are a bit surprised. When in 2017 the WINKs were ordered, for the PSO (Public service obligation) trains in your provinces, there was a talk that the line between Leeuwarden and Groningen will be electrified, at least partially.

And now you (provinces) are envisaging to use only the HVO biodiesel to power the Arriva’s WINKs, in spite of the fact that you have at disposal the recently delivered new-built units already fitted WITH PANTOGRAPHS and 1.5 kV DC equipment, ready for the quick and easy modification into the BATTERY/EMU trains? Thus avoiding the diesel engines in WINKs at all and running emission free. 

If provinces wish to run trains with zero emissions, why you not use the previously mentioned option of modifying WINKs instead of acquiring hydrogen trains? (not speaking about the double high price of the HMUs compared to the usual multiple units and building of necessary hydrogen infrastructure). What happened with the initial plans?“

The Gronigen province commented as follows: „As answered in previous email, we, the province of Groningen, never had concrete plans to electrify the railway. The national government owns the infrastructure and also didn’t have any plans to electrify any railway in Groningen. In 2016 - 17 we held a tender for the operation of regional trains. Before the tender we have done studies to see if it was possible to have zero emission trains in the province of Groningen in 2020. The conclusion of that study was that it was not possible by 2020. Not only was the time too short to switch to zero emission trains, also the cost were too high for us as a province to make any steps.

Knowing that it was not possible in time and knowing that we did not have the money to make any steps by 2020, we communicated this in our tender documents (in 2016 - 17) for the companies that were interested in getting a concession for operating trains in our province. Arriva won the tender and got the concession. In its offer Arriva introduced the WINKs and said that they will run on HVO biodiesel during the concession.

Arriva also said that it would be possible that the WINKs could be rebuild to be fed from catenary when the infrastructure would be ready. (Arriva also said this in the media, we didn’t). Arriva made sure that it let WINKs build with pantographs already, because it will be more easy to use the trains on other lines that are electrified, after its concession for Groningen province will finish in 2035. But as we told Arriva during the tender, we are and were not planning on electrifying the infrastructure. We or the national government - who owns the infrastructure - never had any plans to electrify the railways in Groningen.“

Thus, logically, we asked Arriva NL:

1) where the idea of electrification between Groningen and Leeuwarden was born? Because WINKs were bought clearly with the aim to convert them in the (near) future to EMUs and battery EMUs, being fitted with pantographs and prepared for batteries.

2) if the Province of Groningen's answer about trains operating only on HVO for the duration of the concession is true, why have WINKs been equipped with pantographs and 1.5 kV DC traction equipment now, even though they will not be used for at least FIFTEEN  years? All this time, WINKs will be carrying dead weight and causing higher maintenance costs for components that will have to undergo at least a refurbishment anyway after 15 years of disuse, if not an upgrade or even replacement at that time...

3) if the plan for electrification is not realistic (was not realistic from the very beginning), Arriva in fact bought the dual-power trains, which are more expensive than the pure DMUs. Does Arriva, as the owner of WINKs, intend at least to use this investment itself, e. g. to set up charging points in some stations to take advantage of the pre-installed electrical equipment? And create an emission-free operation? Which is what this is all about in the first place.

We also asked the province of Groningen final question:

Do you think it is really more efficient in general to buy more new trains, this time hydrogen trains, which are roughly twice as expensive as DMUs or EMUs, and to build new infrastructure for hydrogen distribution with more money instead of building a „simple“, proven catenary, which could also be done quite quickly so that emission-free electric trains could soon be used? Or rather than build charging points for WINK traction batteries? In spite of the fact that the province of Groningen is participating in a large production facility of hydrogen and aims on introducing this energy for all its public transport.

Indeed, it is remarkable that even before your 2016 - 17 tender for a new operator, when no hydrogen trains existed (the prototype iLint saw its premiere only at InnoTrans 2016), neither your province nor the rail infrastructure owner had plans to electrify any of the railway lines in question. So the 2020 target for truly emission-free rail operations was not met anyway. And now „only“ using existing and authorised trains (WINKs) would be enough. After all, the main goal of all efforts should be to reduce CO2 emissions and find the most efficient ways to achieve this, rather than to have petty disputes with operators and push for our own solutions.

We posted these questions to all parties on 27 May 2021.

On 3 June, Groningen province answered us: „The trains will not only be deployed on one line. They will run from Leeuwarden to Groningen, Winschoten, Eemshaven and Leer, and then back to Leeuwarden. In the timetable there are different lines, but in practice and for efficiency the operation, the trains run on more lines. Therefore electrification of one track is not enough. It must be for all tracks, or not at all.“

We sent to Groningen province following comment: "We are convinced that these services (around up to 70 km) can by covered by BEMUs, even more that both Leeuwarden and Groningen stations are electrified (!) and when at least one charging point would be provided in one of the other end stations. Why your province did not evaluate the newest results of battery trains? For example


where you can read: The battery train far exceeded initial expectations with a proven range in battery-only mode of 185 km. Thanks for your clarification."

We are waiting for the answer, as we are regarding the Arriva NL questions.

A caption to the main photo: In the photo taken on 1 April 2021 a trio of WINKs, led by 602, is shown on a test run, here near Visvliet, around 20 km west of Groningen. On the left is a Hilmahuistermolen wind mill („windmolen“), built in 1868, its name derived from the name of the polder. This mill (and others in the Netherlands) was not built to grind flour, but to draw water from an area where the water level must be controlled. This applies in areas created by drainage of the seabed or located near rivers, for which purpose a system of canals serves.

The mill depicted here pumped water from a 240-hectare polder, and in 1956 an internal combustion engine was installed in it, so it stopped using wind energy. Later, however, it began to decay, until in 1977 - 78 a major renovation was carried out. In 2004, almost fifty years later, the engine was dismantled and now the mill is working again on the original wind principle. A complete reconstruction was carried out in 2005, which was followed by further modifications in 2010, including, for example, the installation of aluminum arms and slats in the wind wheel. Since 1 January 2016, this mill has belonged to the Groninger Poldermolens Foundation.


On 20 May 2021, Stientje van Veldhoven, the Dutch Minister for Infrastructure and Water Management, announced that ERTMS is to be installed on around 270 km of lines in the provinces of Groningen and Friesland within ten years. The national government and the provinces of Groningen and Friesland will jointly invest in the retrofitting of trains by ETCS and the training of staff: the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management will allocate approximately 315 million EUR for the installation of the track-side ETCS, while the installation of the on-board ETCS on 68 trains (50 GTW and 18 WINK DMUs) and the training of 200 staff will require a further approximately 90 million EUR. Of this amount, the central government will pay 60 million EUR, the province of Groningen 20 million EUR and the province of Friesland 10 million EUR. The agreements in question will be further developed in the coming period. The infrastructure manager ProRail is due to start work on the Harlingen - Haven - Leeuwarden line in 2026. 

Related news