Posted on February 5, 2008 by Matthieu Desiderio
The new high-speed train from French railcar manufacturer Alstom got off the factory on Tuesday, February 5, 2008. A revolution: in France, the press even says this is the train of the future!
Named AGV for Automotrice à Grande Vitesse (High-Speed Automotive, a high-speed self-propelled carriage), the train-sets does not have separate power cars at both ends of the train (as in current TGVs), but motors are located under the floors (like most regular-speed multiple-unit trains). This way, more space is saved in the passenger cars, offering trains with up to 650 seats (see key figures below). It will also be the case of other high-speed trains technologies, such as the German third generation InterCityExpress (ICE) and the Japanese Shinkansen that are not ready yet.
Train-sets however will not be “duplex” or two-floors, because of the space needed to fit the power supply under the ground: the volume did not leave enough space to fit two-floor trains under existing catenaries. One interesting thing is that, as aircraft manufacturers do, Alstom will now offer its clients the possibility to choose interior fitting-outs: entertainment systems, plugs, etc.
Most of these innovations have already been tested on the V150 train-set that beated the world record on April 4, 2007, reaching a top speed of 574.8 kph. We can easily understand how these new AGVs will easily reach a commercial speed of 360 kph.
One last thing about the Alstom AGV is that its energy consumption is 20% less than existing TGV trains, meaning that at 360 kph, AGV trains will use as much electricity as TGV trains at 300 kph… increasing speed at “no cost” is quite a progress. Another environmental impact that will be reduced is noise: while a plane taking off is 120 dB, a TGV between Paris and Marseille is 100 dB, and new AGVs will be “only” 90 dB.
Alstom AGV launched: on track in France Italy by 2014 2009
Alstom signed a contract in January 2008 for 25 train-sets of its brand new, not even shown up yet, AGV trains. The order was placed by the Italian operator Nuovo Transporto Viaggiatori (NTV), and will be delivered starting 2009. The company, created by Fiat/Ferrari’s President Luca Cordero di Montezemolo and Tod’s President Diego Della Valle will start operating AGVs between Rome and Naples.
France will get its first AGVs probably by 2014, while a request for proposals will be send at the end of the year by SNCF to replace all its high-speed rolling stocks between 2014 and 2020, buying 15 to 20 train-sets a year during the period. The cost is evaluated between €7 and €9 billion and could be a great opportunity for Alstom to catch up with its Canadian competitor Bombardier, that won Paris commuter trains market in 2007. Alstom is not sure to win the bid, while other manufacturers will probably make proposals to sell their own newly developed technologies: Bombardier Zefiro or Siemens Velaro (operated in Spain, at 350 kph).
2010: When the passenger traffic will be opened to competition…
It is still one step beyond but we have to think about it. When the passenger traffic will be opened to competition, as it is the case for freight rail transport, new operators will be able to operate passenger trains on the French (and any other European countries) network. These new players will probably come with their own rolling stock and it will not be surprising to see all three technologies (Alstom, Bombardier, and Siemens) rolling on French tracks: Alstom will not have the monopoly of the French TGV market anymore.
SNCF even proposed to split the request for proposals in multiple parts so that the contract will not be attributed to only one manufacturer. SNCF also argued that they could propose a “business offer” to their client, by selling tickets on Siemens trains, that are more expensive (capital investment speaking) but apparently more comfortable, and a “leisure/classical offer” for other riders that will board Alstom trains, usually cheaper than their German counterpart but also a bit less comfortable.
This last point, what I read in Le Figaro, surprised me quite a bit (Siemens, more expensive, more comfortable than Alstom trains) and I would love to ride an ICE to make my own mind of the question… Is this just an urban legend or a wink at the competition between Renault and BMW cars?
AGV Key figures from Alstom website
- Modular design: 7 to 14 cars (130 to 250 m)
- Seats: 250 to 650
- Mass: 270 to 510 tonnes
- Power: 6,000 to 12,000 kW (22 kW/t)
- Traction equipment : Quadri-voltage 25 kV 50 Hz / 15 kV 16.7 Hz / 3 kVdc / 1.5 kVdc, water-cooled IGBT traction converters, permanent magnet motors
- Article: Alstom dévoile son nouveau TGV, Le Figaro, Feb. 4, 2008: here
- Article: AGV tailors capacity and performance to the market, Railway Gazette, Aug. 31, 2007: here
- Document: AGV Technical Sheet, Alstom: here
- Press release: First very high speed line in Latin America : Argentina chooses Alstom-led consortium, Alstom: here
- Press release: NTV, first Italian private railway operator, chooses Alstom for the supply and maintenance of 25 AGV trains, Alstom: here
References from the Transport Information Group
High-Speed Rail coverage on the Transport Information Group:
- Air France KLM attracted by the new Alstom AGV, Feb. 11, 2008
- Alstom AGV launched: on track in France by 2014, Feb. 5, 2008
- High Speed Rail: fast trains, slow projects, Jan. 25, 2008
- In brief: TGV vs. Air France, on Paris to Strasbourg, Jan. 25, 2008
- High Speed Freight Rail: already a reality, Jan. 24, 2008
- High Speed Rail: SNCF modify its fares, Jan. 23, 2008
- High Speed Rail: News from Spain, Jan. 21, 2008
- In brief: Alstom trains go full speed!, Jan. 16, 2008
- HSR “breaking” news: Top secret? Not that much…, Jan. 10, 2008
- High Speed Rail: Surfing the Internet at 320 kph, Jan. 8, 2008
- Spain: first HSR network by 2015?, Dec. 26, 2007
- SNCF: up to EUR 9 billion worth of HSR trains, Dec. 19, 2007
- High Speed Rail: TGV commercial speed will top 360 kph, Dec. 17, 2007