Renowned for the quality of its high-speed and very high-speed trains, Talgo started its days in the 1950s with a revolutionary technical concept for intercity trains…
The concept saw independently rotating and self-guiding wheels, a system in which each of the wheels on an ‘axle’, both left and right, can rotate at different speeds. This not only improves passenger comfort within the coaches, but it also minimises the wear to infrastructure caused by our trains.
This system does not require proper axles but rodals: a self-guiding system which ensures that the wheel flanges are always parallel to the tracks. Consequently, the turn on a curve is smoother and uses less friction, and the uncomfortable – and sometimes, dangerous – hunting oscillation is eliminated when moving in a straight line.
This concept was developed to get the most of the then winding, almost obsolete Spanish rail network, but in the early 2000s it was proven to be ideal not only for intercity services but also for high-speed routes. Getting back to Talgo’s roots, rodals have been key to the recent success of the company in one of the most enduring competitive tenders: Deutsche Bahn’s ECx project. One of the biggest train operating companies in the word, and probably one of the most demanding clients a rolling stock manufacturer can meet, Deutsche Bahn employs a staff of over 250,000 and moves around 4.5 billion passengers each year.
Reliability, proven technology and full accessibility can be counted among the many reasons for this rail behemoth choosing a mid-sized company like Talgo to supply a fleet of up to one hundred trains according to a framework contract, with an initial order of 23 units for €550 million.
Each single convoy is comprised of one multi-system locomotive and 17 passenger cars. All in all, the trains have 570 seats – 85 in first class and 485 in second. The trains can run at a top speed of 230kph. All of the trains are highly versatile. The passenger cars can be coupled with both the multi-system locomotive already provided under the contract, and a diesel locomotive.
Given the working title of ‘ECx’ the new trains will be used to expand DB’s vehicle fleet, starting in 2023. The locomotive-hauled, push-pull passenger trains are highly versatile, making them an ideal addition to DB’s fleet, to consistently expand its fleet of long-distance vehicles to create additional rail capacity. That will allow the company to offer more and more passengers better products and a higher level of comfort.
The train is stairless, so its entrance is at the same height as the platform at 760mm above the rail head. That allows for people in wheelchairs to enter and exit the train autonomously. But it also eases the boarding process for travellers with baggage or families with strollers.
Talgo’s low floor concept also allows nearly every seat on the train to be reached without having to negotiate any stairs. There are only a few seats at the end of the train that are accessed by stairs.
And this is the beginning of a new standard, too: going forward, all of the new tenders for long-distance vehicles to be launched by Deutsche Bahn will require that these particularly customer-friendly entrances be used.
When the timetable changes in December 2023, DB will use the new long-distance trains for service departing every two hours between Berlin in Germany and Amsterdam in Netherlands. Transit time along this international route will be shortened by 30 minutes to reach five hours and 50 minutes.
That is possible to do because using the multi-system locomotive eliminates the need to switch locomotives at the border. What’s more, the ECx will travel to tourist destinations on the North Sea and in the Alps: starting in summer 2024, there are plans to use it on the Westerland–Cologne, Westerland–Frankfurt–Karlsruhe, Westerland–Berlin and Oberstdorf–Cologne routes.