Talgo’s newest train uses rodals, a proven solution to offer minimal costs for the whole lifecycle…

Fixed axles have been a standard for the rail industry since the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester line in 1830. The Midland Railway began mounting bogies on its rail coaches as early as the mid-1870s. The reasons for their widespread use were multiple back then, but in the high-speed rail era operations have reached a critical threshold in which the conventional rolling assembly is no longer able to deliver the expected production levels at a controlled cost.

This is exactly the main driver behind the development of Avril, a long-distance rail platform engineered by Talgo and whose name stands for the acronym of ‘Alta Velocidad Rueda Independiente Ligero’, or ‘Light, High-Speed, Independent Wheel’. The project was formally announced in late 2008 and the unit was first presented at Innotrans 2012, with final train certification obtained in 2016.

Avril uses Talgo’s specific rolling assembly called rodals, a proven solution to offer minimal costs for the whole lifecycle of the asset by allowing the variable usage charge (VUC) to be paid by the operator to the rail infrastructure managers, and dramatically reducing maintenance costs on both sides of the track-wheel interface – a very much needed feature when the rolling stock is conceived as one of the most important components of the rail system.

The use of the independently rotating and self-guided wheels reduces track wear and settles per-seat maintenance costs at levels never seen before in the high-speed rail segment. This provides the TOC with a priceless tool to introduce unparalleled predictability in its future income statements, as national Spanish operator Renfe has already discovered with Avril: in a competitive tender held in 2016 and where all the major Western rail manufacturers were present, Talgo emerged as the only rail solution ready to offer the lower per-seat prices in a contract for the supply of 30 high-speed trains and their maintenance during 30 years.

The Renfe Avril trains are now under production and expected to enter commercial service in 2021 in some of the busiest high-speed lines in Spain, just in time for Renfe to take the lead in the passenger market liberalization. They will be tri-voltage – 25 kV 50 Hz AC, 3 kV DC and 1.5 kV DC – and will be equipped with ERTMS and Asfa Digital signaling systems, with ten of them having also the French TVM signaling system, and 15 variable track-gauge wheelsets. The trains will be able to run at a maximum commercial speed of 330 kph.

Each Renfe Avril composition would have two power heads units, a business end car with 44 seats, another business car with 36 seats, an accessible business car with 25 seats (two PRM seats), a cafeteria car, four tourist cars with 49 seats each, three tourist cars with 54 seats and an end tourist car with 58 seats. Inside it will hold 521 passengers and two spaces for wheelchairs in a typical composition with 80 per cent of seats in tourist class and the remaining 20 in business class. Tourist class seats will be arranged in rows of two-plus-three, on either side of the aisle, so that the twelve-car composition can have as many as 550 seats if the operator later opts for a declassified composition, with only tourist class cars.

A first time for Renfe, the Avril contract covers the maintenance across the entire lifecycle of the trains, in order to ensure that the winning bid guarantees the lowest operating costs for the operator during no less than three decades. Renfe has reserved secondary maintenance and main components repair activities for its own subsidiary which are calculated to around a 30 per cent of the total maintenance the new fleet will need, making it possible to preserve know-how and technology transfer of the rolling stock within the operator.

Apart from the Renfe project, Avril as a product is designed to be a flexible platform, with fixed track-gauge (1,435 mm, 1,520 mm and 1,668 mm) and variable gauge versions, allowing multiple power supply system (different voltages, diesel-electric, or bi-mode), with the possibility of a standard wide body, and the capacity to change the number of coaches while maintaining the same performance.

Earlier this year Talgo confirmed that Avril is the basis for the company’s bid – submitted on 5th June 2019 – for the supply of Britain’s train fleet for High Speed Two (HS2) Phase One, a rail project unique in every way and with the potential to transform mobility and make a significant impact in many communities across the UK, ‘the kind of opportunity which societies can only take or leave once in a century’ in the words of Talgo UK Managing Director, Jonathan Veitch.

‘Dr. Avril’: Talgo inspection trains

Spain’s Rail Infrastructure Manager Adif, last October awarded Talgo a contract to supply a state-of-the-art laboratory train that is designed specifically to inspect and maintain railway lines across the country. The contract amounts to a total €39 million. Under the contract, Talgo will also be responsible for providing a five-year long integral maintenance service, the onboard systems, subsystems and spare parts, as well as hi-tech inspection and detection equipment.

With six cars and two power heads (locomotives), this variable track-gauge train will have a power of 8,000 kW and maximum speed of 330 kph in normal operation.

Informally nicknamed as ‘Dr. Avril’ following the Japanese custom of designating such inspection trains as ‘Doctor’, this train will have all the technologically distinctive features of the Avril very-high speed passenger train already developed by Talgo.

Avril has level access (with no step) from the platform, and a continuous low-floor throughout the train. The train is also roomier inside, thanks to the innovative design principles of Talgo coaches. The extra space will allow to a better layout for the advanced inspection systems and the best ergonomics for Adif engineers working onboard at very high speeds.

The fully interoperable design of the Avril train, with dual electrification for AC and DC, will also ensure a seamless and transparent operation of this unit on the new very-high speed, dedicated passenger lines, and over the conventional ‘legacy’ lines.

‘Dr Avril’ will be able to inspect almost every single line in Spain, maximizing the return on Adif’s technological investment, and keeping the Spanish railway network in ‘mint condition’. ‘Dr Avril’ completes Adif’s own rolling stock roster, by joining three other three high-speed units –all of them provided by Talgo.

One of those three existing units (Adif 330 Series) is based in the Talgo 350 and has standard track-gauge wheelsets and electric traction for up to 363 kph. The remaining two units are high-speed DMUs (Adif 335 Series) with dual track-gauge systems (1,435 & 1,668mm), capable to operate on all of the rail lines managed by Adif.

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