Europe begins testing 1.5km trains

Project ‘Marathon’ got fully underway at the weekend as it completed the first test run of a 1.5-kilometre freight train on Europe’s rail network.

Powered by two locomotives, a 4,000-tonne freight train operated by Kombiverkehr made its way from Sibel to Nîmes on January 18 in the first dynamic test of a UIC standard double length train in Europe.

A team of 16 leading rail industry bodies and suppliers, including Alstom, SNCF and Unife, are conducting tests in the hope of demonstrating the technical feasibility of double-length trains.

Backed by the European Union, the aim of the scheme is to see longer trains brought into commercial service by 2016.

The train consists of two locomotives – one at the front and one in the middle connected by a wireless radio system –  hauling two 410-metre trains and another 620-metre train.

Tests are being conducted with two Alstom Class BB 37000 electric locomotives provided by leasing company Akeim and a pair of diesel-powered Euro 4000 vehicles from Vossloh.

Sylvie Charles, director of Fret SNCF, said he hoped the introduction of double-length trains would boost the competitiveness of rail freight in France and across Europe as a whole.

The trial run on January 18 was the result of two years of preparation and static testing.

The project team has said the longer trains will reduce the amount of energy needed to transport goods by five per cent and could lead to a 30 per cent reduction in costs to operators.