Locomotives are one of the world’s oldest means of transportation and with that comes a feeling that they’re not technologically advanced. But that’s the beauty of technology today; it can take a cat and make it look like a cheetah. So yes, trains have gotten a face lift over the last few years, but that’s not all that’s happened to them. Here are seven of the most technologically advanced locomotives in the world.
7. Shinkansen, Japan
Google technology and try to find a list without Japan on it, I dare you. Shinkansen is the world’s busiest rail line, carrying over 10 billion passengers till date. It’s clocked 581 kmph in 2003, setting a world record at the time, although the average line speed is 240-320 kmph. Shinkansen has its own set of rail routes throughout Japan, separating it from the normally congested railway traffic.
It uses a 1453 mm standard gauge as compared to the 1067 mm of older lines. It also employs an Automatic Train Control system for signal changing. One feature which stands out though is that all its axels are powered, which reduces the stoppage time and makes the journey quick. Till date, there have been zero fatalities in the bullet train and it emits only 16% the carbon that a standard car would emit to make that trip. Truly, this is an engineering marvel.
6. TGV, France
The Train à Grande Vitesse or TGV has been around for nearly 20 years. It clocks 350 kmph and carries over 500 passengers per trip. At one point, it was the fastest train in the world in terms of operating speed. 17 tonnes axle weight limits are imposed on the train to prolong the track life of the TGV. Using the intricate SNCF system, the TGV has one of the best infrastructural backgrounds of any train system today.
There are at least two systems of 1,500V dc supplied to every single train. Sensors are equipped along the rails and fences to ensure that its perfect safety record is intact, not to mention the TVM430 system which monitors every single signal going in and out of the network and applying the brakes when one malfunctions. Never thought a train could be so complicated.
5. TAV, Italy
Treno Alta Velocita (TAV) is a prime example of how forethought can shape a project. The TAV covers 926 kilometers in its journey and carries anywhere between 1000-2000 passengers on each trip. Its first trip connected Milan and Salerno but it’s been gradually expanding. The engineering brilliance is seen in the way these complicated web of cities have been tied down into an intricate system where most of the routes cover tunnels.
What used to be a 5 hour journey has now been cut to 4 and many of its paths intertwine within the infrastructure of the cities it passes (Turin to Trieste Corridor). The network is now expanding to include ports and trans European connections, which will make it one of the busiest and most important railway systems in the world. Eventually, it could cover over 1500 kilometers.
4. Hail Mary, Germany
Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s trouble rail operator, is developing a train which could drastically change the way rails operate in and around the country. Siemens is creating two versions of the rail; one at 230 kmph and one at 249 kmph, using lightweight, aerodynamic material which would reduce travel cost, time consumed and energy spent.
According to Siemens, nearly 30% more energy can be saved through their construction process. This news came after the safety concerns in flights and rising price of oil make it nearly impossible to travel by flight anymore, so Germany wants to create an equivalent substitute. The two trains have been constructed and the trails on safety are going on as we speak with advanced control systems and integrated grid lock circuits being used to ensure passenger safety.
3. VR Group
The VR Group is a state owned group in Finland which specializes in passenger and freight transport. They’ve manufactured locomotives since the early 1970’s, the earliest being a steam powered locomotive. But with the shift in focus toward electric rails, VR and Siemens have created a set of electric units which run a combined 6000 kilometers every day.
The outdated steam locomotives will be replaced by the Siemens Vectron. The locomotives will be fitted with helper diesel engines that can be used for shunting in partly unelectrified railyards. They connect most of the major countries in Europe and emit only 20% the carbon of diesel rails. The VR group is investing over 100 million Euros on safety and emissions alone, which is why it has one of the highest standards in railway safety today.
Inter-City Expresses or ICE’s are a major part of Germany’s current railway line. Connecting most of the nearby countries and a few from afar, these ICEs connect a large number of countries in Europe like Belgium, Netherlands and Austria. There are two classes available in the train; first and second. This trains is technologically separate from a comfort point of view.
First class passengers have access to reclining seats, a separate audio system, DB lounges for working, video screens, power sockets, individual meals based on the time of day, quiet zones and even a bar/buffet car with snacks which is accessible to everyone. The total travel time is a little over 4 hours and booking is allowed upto 92 days in advance. It even has a dedicated children compartment for families. In Europe, there’s rarely a better train you’ll want to catch, although the cost (usually around Rs 10000) might persuade you.
1. GE’s Evolution Series
GE’s Evolution series operates in over 10 countries presently and is the most technologically advanced locomotive available today. It operates for passengers as well as freights. Over 3700 trains are in operation, each of them housing 16 cylinder, a hybrid air-to-air cooling systems, a consolidated control architecture, superior dynamic braking and much more.
With this technology, GE is able to reduce the NOx production by up to 40%, fuel saving upto 3% more, 30% longer engine overhaul and a 184-day running maintenance. When it comes to superior performance, GE has never been one to back down and they’ve displayed that with their Evolution Series, which is in a class of its own.