V150: Entente discordiale
Railway Gazette: 01 May 2007
ONE organisation seemed determined not to be impressed by the French speed record of 574·8 km/h attained by the V150 trainset on April 3. Not only that, but it actively set out to discredit the achievement in the UK media.
The following briefing note was sent out to British journalists by the Network Rail press office with 'a bit of engineering insider knowledge to colour your piece':
'SNCF have just set a new world speed record for rail at 578 kph [sic] - using a short set TGV and running on the newly-built TGV Est.
To do this, the system had many modifications, the train big wheels, stiffened suspension, changed gearing, aerodynamic treatment of the underside etc infrastructure track geometry has been specially aligned, increased power to the normal 25kv [sic] overheads to 28.5 kV, and 40 tonne [sic] tension in the OHLE. There were interesting pictures from the pantograph (lots of arcing), the wheel/rail interface (very stable), from front and rear of the train, (huge amount of ballast pick up).
SNCF have been working on the special criteria and setting this up for 2 plus years. There is now a contract to repair everything, particularly to replace all the contact wire on the line before service operation in June - millions of euro - a pretty expensive job all round!'
Regrettably we have not managed to trace evidence of the contracts let to repair the wrecked contact wire after each of the six previous runs that exceeded 550 km/h...
V150: Power-packed train proves AGV technology in record sprint
Railway Gazette: 01 May 2007
Laurent Charlier describes the record-breaking train that combined TGV and AGV traction technology
JUST 12 minutes and 40 seconds after starting from a standstill at Prény near the eastern end of the completed section of TGV Est Européen, Trainset V150 attained the speed of 574·8 km/h at Kilometre 194 near Eclaires in the Marne département at 13.13.40 on April 3 2007. To be more exact, the speed was 574·79 km/h and the precise location was Km 193·92.
For SNCF, RFF and Alstom, the three partner companies who funded the €30m exploit, this was just the icing on the cake in what is officially known as the French Programme of Excellence in Very High Speed. Significantly, the V150 trainset accumulated several other records, including a series of runs at more than 500 km/h that totalled between 950 and 1 000 km - both before and after the record trip. The last was on April 15.
V150 combines 'the best of what we do', according to Philippe Mellier, President of Alstom Transport. In the two power cars from POS set 4402 were complete sets of traction equipment for operation in France and Luxembourg at 25 kV 50 Hz, at 15 kV 16·7 Hz in Germany and Switzerland, and at 1·5 kV DC in France. Three double-deck vehicles were marshalled between the power cars: two end trailers (R1 and R8) which will eventually be formed into Duplex set 618 and a specially-built centre bar car (R4), which will remain as a test vehicle. On the lower deck of R4 was a complete AGV traction package powering a pair of AGV articulation bogies these were placed between R1 and R4 and between R4 and R8. Trailer bogies were fitted under the outer ends of R1 and R8. 'We wanted to take the opportunity to test the maximum number of components of our high speed technology', said François Lacôte, Technical Director of Alstom Transport and mastermind of the 1990 world speed record.
V150 had been designed to make the record attempt in the westbound direction on TGV Est Européen, running 'wrong line' on a specially-prepared section between Km 264 and Km 170. This was chosen for its favourable profile with a long gentle downgrade and only large radius curves that would not limit the record attempt.
Heading the train was power car M2, followed by R8 which was equipped as a rolling laboratory. On the upper deck were test teams from Agence d'Essai Ferroviaire with specialists monitoring dynamics, braking, traction and current collection, with the test manager's desk at the inner end. The lower deck housed the Alstom test staff and their equipment, the test team for aerodynamics and acoustics and a small rest and relaxation area.
The bar on the upper deck of R4 was laid out with one wall housing a bank of video screens the counter area incorporated materials and features that could be used in future TGV or AGV trainsets. R1 was fitted with 62 first class seats for guests and media, and power car M1 brought up the rear.
Numerous modifications were made to reduce air resistance, which at very high speed is responsible for 95% of the resistance to forward movement. Wind tunnel tests were made to determine the optimum air flows, and the measures taken on V150 were calculated to cut resistance to forward movement by 15%.
Power car M2 was fitted with a special 35 mm thick windscreen in an aluminium frame flush with the bodywork, and the windscreen wiper was removed. The leading autocoupler with its opening clamshell cover was also removed and the cover replaced by a single moulding. Wheels with a diameter of 1 092 mm instead of the standard 920 mm were fitted on all bogies along the train, and as this widened the gap between track and train, deeper fairings were attached below the nose and along the bodysides.
Rubber membranes sealed the inter-car gaps along the train, and panels were fitted below the train to ensure a smooth profile and prevent damage from flying ballast. Although bogie fairings were tested, they were not used.
The two pantographs on the roof of M2 were removed and panels were inserted to give an uninterrupted profile along the top of the car. On power car M1 at the rear, the pantograph for 15 kV and 1·5 kV DC operation was removed and the space it occupied covered over.
This left the 25 kV pantograph mounted at the front end of M1. It is a Faiveley CX25 design fitted with a single 60 mm wide contact strip designed to handle currents of 700 to 800 A. The pressure exerted on the catenary is controlled automatically by an electronic device that calculates the force needed depending on the speed and the load-bearing capacity of the pantograph, but on V150 'depending on the speed, we adjusted the electronic controls of the pantograph practically in real time', according to Lacôte. The upward force exerted by the pantograph on the contact at 550 km/h wire was calculated to be around 250 N.
The pantograph supplies power directly to the transformer on M1, and three cables were routed along the roofs of the adjoining cars to feed the other traction equipment: a 25 kV link to M2, a separate 25 kV link to the AGV traction package on R4 and a 1·5 kV DC link for auxiliaries.
The transmission ratios on the power bogies were altered to give a speed of 114·2 km/h at 1 000 rev/min on M1 and M2 and 116·7 km/h at 1 000 rev/min on the AGV bogies. Additional anti-yaw dampers were fitted on all the bogies.
The asynchronous traction motors on M1 and M2 which have a nominal rating of 1 250 kW were uprated to 1 950 kW. The AGV permanent magnet synchronous motors normally rated at 720 kW were uprated to 1 000 kW, giving a total power output of 19·6 MW. The POS motors are suspended from the vehicle frame, but the smaller AGV motors are mounted in the bogie frames, allowing the tripod transmission used on previous designs of TGV to be abandoned in favour of a simpler and lighter mechanism (Fig 4).
The POS traction equipment with 3·3 kV IGBTs and individual control of traction motors was described in RG 12.06 (p783). A Tornad onboard train management system ensures compatibility with TGV Duplex, Réseau and PBKA trainsets, and no difficulty was encountered in matching it to the V150 configuration.
The AGV equipment in R4 consisted of a centrally mounted transformer and a traction block at each end each block has two inverters, one for each traction motor. IGBTs rated at 6·5 kV are used to feed an intermediate 3 kV DC bus - an arrangement similar to that developed for the four-system Prima 6000 freight locos for SNCF. As the AGV traction control relies on more recent technology than that in the POS power cars, commands had to be passed through an entry/exit interface module in each driving cab. A multiple vehicle bus transmitted commands and data to and from the AGV traction equipment.
Launched in October 2005, the V150 programme saw assembly of R4 commence in January 2006 at the Alstom plant in Aytré near La Rochelle. The two POS power cars emerged from the company's Belfort factory in July 2006 after which they were sent to the SNCF's workshops at Bischheim to be modified for the record attempt. Cars R1 and R8 were produced at Reichshoffen, with bogies being made at Le Creusot. Ornans produced the traction motors with other traction equipment being sourced from Tarbes and electronic control devices from Villeurbanne.
Detailed studies for the V150 project were carried out by SNCF's rolling stock engineering centre in Le Mans, and Agence d'Essai Ferroviaire based at Vitry-sur-Seine was responsible for testing.
Once the power cars had been modified at Bischheim they travelled to Aytré to be married to the three centre cars. The five-car formation had its first outing on December 17 2006, and three days later it reached the Technicentre Est Européen at Pantin-Bobigny just outside Paris which was to become its home for the duration of the tests and the record attempt. The first run on TGV Est took place on January 15, with a series of tests following over the next six weeks.
Speed was gradually increased to over 400 km/h, and 40 runs were made when speeds exceeded 450 km/h. A total of 200 hours of running tests accumulating 3 200 km yielded a mass of valuable data with 800 different parameters being measured, of which 500 were on board V150.
The research and test teams monitored braking performance, energy consumption, noise, aerodynamics, dynamic behaviour, vibrations, track-train interaction, current collection and ballast uplift and much more.
Early conclusions showed that aerodynamic phenomena became extremely significant between 500 and 550 km/h. Alstom was pleased with 'the good comfort levels in the Duplex cars across the whole speed range' and noted 'the excellent dynamic performance of the AGV motor bogies which had never turned a wheel before'.
Of particular interest was the use of emergency brakes to halt the train from a speed of 506·8 km/h on March 28 after a device protecting an extensometer used to measure metal strain in a wheel became detached. With the help of the four discs on each axle of the two trailer bogies, the train halted after 16·8 km - compared with an estimate of 25 km. The discs reached a temperature of 650 ºC.
V150: 574·8 km/h eclipses the 1990 world record
Railway Gazette: 01 May 2007
Supremely confident engineers from SNCF, RFF and Alstom pushed railway technology past known limits with a dramatic dash on April 3 that shattered the previous world speed record for passenger-carrying trains. Murray Hughes reports from France
FEAR gripped the nerves of at least two newspaper correspondents on board trainset V150 as it streaked at over 500 km/h along France's yet to open TGV Est Européen line on April 3. The tension grew until speed peaked at the staggering figure of 574·8 km/h, with fear turning swiftly to elation as the train began to decelerate.
Whatever emotions may have been felt by the engineering teams on board the V150 trainset as it tore towards its triumphant moment, fear was not among them. What distinguished this remarkable exploit from the previous speed record of 515·3 km/h achieved by TGV Set 325 on May 18 1990 was the immense confidence that the engineers had in their own creation. Not only were they prepared to let 105 people ride the train on its record-breaking attempt, but they sanctioned live TV coverage of the entire adventure.
The risks may have been high, but they were calculated and fully controlled. As Alstom Transport President Philippe Mellier said after the record-breaker had arrived to a tumultuous reception at Champagne-Ardenne station, 'we knew we could do it - I was absolutely convinced'.
Indeed, it seems that the train could have gone even faster. One engineer on board the record-breaker insisted that no technical limits had been approached, and Mellier told journalists that it was 'certainly possible to cross the 600 km/h barrier' - the difficulty was that such a speed would be close to the limit where the train 'catches up with the wave in the catenary, which is like breaking the sound barrier'.
The official objective of reaching a speed of 150 m/s (540 km/h) was comfortably exceeded, and a notional limit of 575 km/h proved to be easily within reach. François Lacôte, Technical Director of Alstom Transport, confirmed that there was no intention to go beyond 575 km/h in an attempt to equal or exceed the 581 km/h twice attained by a maglev vehicle in Japan in December 2003. In his view, this could have led to a pointless speed contest. The 574·8 km/h sufficed to ensure that France was top of the league in terms of trains running on steel wheels.
The day had commenced with TGV set 533 leaving Paris Est at 10.00. On board were VIPs and selected media who were to ride the record breaker. Rendezvous was duly made with V150 at Prény near Metz, start of the high speed test section on TGV Est Européen, and final preparations began for the record attempt scheduled to start at 13.01 the time was chosen specifically to permit live TV coverage on lunchtime news bulletins.
Meanwhile, a second TGV had left Paris Est at 10.51, conveying more guests and journalists to Champagne-Ardenne station where a media centre and reception area had been set up in a temporary structure overlooking the platform where V150 was due to arrive at 13.30 after its record dash.
At Km 264 near Prény the countdown was starting for V150's record attempt. Taking their seats on board were SNCF President Anne-Marie Idrac and Chief Executive Guillaume Pépy, RFF President Hubert du Mesnil, Philippe Mellier, François Lacôte and European Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot.
Live TV transmission began at 12.22 - a battery of cameras was in place to ensure maximum coverage with 10 small and three large cameras on board the train, five trackside cameras in the zone where the record was expected, one camera in an Aérospatiale Corvette jet aircraft following the train, and two more cameras at the points of arrival and departure. SNCF press officer Philippe Mirville excitedly interviewed key personnel and engineers on board before the cameras turned on Daniel Beylot, Head of the V150 project at SNCF's Rolling Stock division.
With final checks completed, at 13.00 Beylot orders the departure of working no 093.002. Acknowledgement follows from the cab where driver Eric Pieczak is at the controls at his side are Traction Inspector Georges Pinquié and Claude Maro, Head of SNCF's Traction department.
The train eases away from Prény and those on board quickly appreciate that the rapid acceleration means that this is no ordinary train. Yet one more manoeuvre needs to be completed before the record spurt can begin. The pantograph has to be lowered at Km 255 where a neutral section separates the 25 kV catenary from the main test zone, which is fed at 31 kV from the substation at Trois Domaines.
By 13.05 the pantograph is raised again and the speed display shows acceleration akin to an aircraft taking off. I note down the location where 200 km/h is reached: Km 252. At Km 246 the train has reached 300 km/h and by Km 241 the 400 km/h barrier is passed. Still V150 gathers speed, with 500 km/h attained at Km 220.
Shots from the camera on the roof show a continuous arc at the pantograph on the contact wire, while another camera placed next to a wheel confirms that the ride is rock steady. Applause breaks out as 515 km/h is passed at Km 218.
Meuse TGV station appears, and V150 roars through the pointwork at around 535 km/h. It is 13.10. The airborne camera captures the train rocketing through the countryside with hundreds of spectators at the lineside and on bridges. Behind the arcing pantograph a dust storm rises in the wake of the streaking missile.
There is more applause as speed shoots past the official objective of 540 km/h. Excitement mounts at 550 km/h and there is more clapping. In a blur of figures 574·6 km/h flashes on to the screens - and this, by common consent, appears to be the record for the history books.
Around 13.30 V150 draws on schedule into the platform at Champagne-Ardenne where, inevitably, champagne is already flowing. Idrac, du Mesnil, Mellier and other guests disembark for photographs and interviews in front of the train. A press conference follows at which Idrac emphasises the human dimension of a remarkable technical exploit. I-télé TV presenter Nathalie Ianetta talks to Barrot - whom she describes as the fastest Commissioner on Earth' - and he assures her that there was no more movement on board V150 than in his office. At 14.20 comes the official announcement - the record speed is declared to be 574·8 km/h.
In due course V150 glides out of the platform and is replaced by another TGV. Guests returning to Paris are ushered aboard.
As the train hums towards Paris, the V150 team offers one final French flourish to end the day. Slowly trainset V150 draws alongside, and the pair run parallel at the future line speed of 320 km/h. The triumphant finale draws to a close as V150 slows to return to its home at the Technicentre Est Européen.
Reactions round the world
NO-ONE would deny that the event was a huge publicity stunt for SNCF, Alstom and French industry generally.
With exports clearly in mind, guests and media had been invited from North America, Argentina and Brazil, and headlines duly appeared in newspapers across the world.
Messages of congratulation were received from French President Jacques Chirac and Transport Minister Dominique Perben. And a magnaminous congratulatory statement was put out by Deutsche Bahn in which Chairman Hartmut Mehdorn referred to 'a majestic achievement for railways that makes our hearts beat faster'.