Multi-system locomotives, still too expensive for operators

As the opening of European transport markets imposes new market demands, the traffic of railway vehicles across border is weighed by the different network electrification systems. Under the circumstances, multi-system locomotives are necessary for approaching a “border-less mobility” and for an efficient transport. However, the operators’ alternatives of procuring rail vehicles is almost non-existent because of financial problems.

Considering the fact that the future demands of the European rail freight transport is aimed at changing the structure of customers, improving the transfer of goods on long distances, as well as changing demands because of the legislation and standards, operators need to introduce multi-system locomotives, especially since they meet all applications for different types of current, thus facilitating border-crossing. “Efficiency of costs on the long term, optimisation of the vehicle availability, investment protection and mobility optimisation, these are the main advantages of an electric multi-system locomotive, such as Vectron”, said Gabriel Stanciu, Sales Manager Siemens Romania. Even though multi-system locomotives are much more efficient in transport and damp costs on the long term, the acquisition of vehicles implies significant investments for operators. “A multi-system locomotive must accommodate a more complex traction converter and must be equipped with several ATP systems. This increase costs. Therefore, the operator will chose a multi-system locomotive when it is overall cheaper than to change locomotives at borders”, declared for Railway Pro Janis Vitins, Locomotive Division Marketing and Product Planning Manager at Bombardier Transportation. Although multi-system locomotives help provide a safe and efficient transport, the cost problem is also a challenge for railway operators, the opinion of representatives from the Latvian Railways stressing the declaration of Bombardier’s official on costs. “Traction parameters of multi-system electric locomotives are similar to those of conventional vehicles, but multi-system locomotives are 10-15% more expensive. Also, technical maintenance and repairs are much more expensive than in the case of mono-system locomotives”, declared for Railway Pro,  Maris Ozols, Communications Manager at Latvian Railways. Latvia doesn’t have an electrified railway network, the only electrified lines being Riga-Jelgava, Riga-Skulte, Riga-Aizkraukle and Riga-Tukums II. But the Minister of Transport has requested the development of a feasibility study concerning the possibility to electrify the entire network, a project establishing which lines should be electrified and which would be the technical solutions: either continuous current (3kV) or alternative current (25kV).“Latvian Railways have borders with the networks in Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus and Russia, whose lines at the Latvian border are non-electrified. That is why, multi-system locomotives are still unnecessary for our company”, added Ozols.

by Pamela Luică