Belgium’s state-owned railway company SNCB awarded Bombardier–Alstom consortium a contract for the supply of 204 double-deck M7-type coaches with a total value of EUR 445 million.
The M7 multifunctional cars will be fully accessible autonomously for people with reduced mobility, provide additional space and include an adapted toilet and an intercom system for people in wheelchairs.
The multifunctional cars for passengers with reduced mobility were also included in the contract. Given the height difference between the boarding gate and the existing Belgian platforms, these passengers still need assistance today. To that end, SNCB unveiled in September 2020 a new accessibility policy, which specifies that all platforms must now be 76 cm high and that all new rolling stock must fit this boarding height. This will be the case for the M7 coaches that will be adapted to the requirements.
The M7 car concept is very flexible. They can be operated as M7 Electric Multiple Units (EMUs) or be pulled by locomotives in trains comprising M7 and M6 double-deck coaches. A preventive diagnostic system improves maintenance activities and is already reducing train life cycle costs.
“The new cars will be accessible to people with reduced mobility and passengers in wheelchairs, as well as being more easily accessible for the elderly, people with children or travellers with bicycles. SNCB wants all passengers to be able to take the train completely autonomously in a comfortable and safe manner,” Sébastien Ridremont, Head of Sales, Bombardier Transportation, Benelux said.
The trains can run at speeds of up to 200 km/h on the entire Belgian railway network as well as on cross-border tracks in the Netherlands and Luxembourg, including some high-speed lines. The interior refitting of the first- and second-class coaches was approved by SNCB after consulting more than 200 representatives from different user groups. The new interior and the passenger information system increase the level of user comfort and the multifunctional end cars have storage space for bicycles.
This order is part of a framework agreement to deliver up to 1,362 M7 cars to SNCB. When signing the contract in 2015, SNCB placed a firm order for 445 double-deck M7-type coaches. The delivery of this first order is currently underway. About 40 of these 445 cars will be in service by the end of this year.