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Combino: Orders have now topped the 500 mark

After a slow start Siemens is making a major impact with its modular tram By Michael Taplin

The last six years have seen huge changes in the tramcar building market. Consolidation of international groups has been the name of the game, and these days if you want a new tram you do not have much choice beyond the products of Alstom, AnsaldoBreda, Bombardier and Siemens. And unless you are prepared to pay a high price, the manufacturers will offer you a product from their 'catalogue' of standard modular designs (with some fibre reinforced plastic modifications to express your own individuality). So in recent years we have all got used to the marketing names: Citadis, Cityway, Sirio, Cityrunner and Combino.

The line-up of Combinos during the open day at Siemens' Wildenrath facility, with (from left to right) Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, Hiroshima, Basel and the prototype. (Siemens

A recent presentation at the Siemens test facility in Wegberg-Wildenrath reminded us where this trend started, for there at the end of a line-up of trams for Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, Hiroshima and Basel was the red and blue Combino prototype first unveiled at the famous Duewag works in Düsseldorf on 3 July 1996 (see Tramways & Urban Transit for August 1996). The spiritual home of the modern German tram is, alas, no more, victim of the deep cost-cutting that has had to take place to retain Siemens Transportation Systems competitive edge. These days Combinos are assembled across the Rhein in a modernised factory at Krefeld-Uerdingen.

Steel-bodied trams are no longer built here. The Combino has a welded aluminium underframe and the body framework is bolted from aluminium sections. The roof comprises aluminium sandwich modules. Traction equipment is integrated into a container that forms the roof of the powered module. The powered bogie features dual outboard drives which couple the wheels in the longitudinal plane. There is no mechanical coupling of the opposing wheel pairs, which means that wheel and rail wear on curves is much reduced. Traction equipment features air-cooled IGBT pulse-width-modulated inverters, three-phase induction motors and SIBAS 32 traction control units.

The presentation was nicely timed to notch-up the 500th Combino order, though they had to cheat a bit by bringing the 51 Düsseldorf NF10 trams into the equation (which have never been labelled Combino), and with their different body profile and bogie arrangement are an example of how Duewag's oldest tramcar customer was able to call the shots on the design details when it came to the crunch. And anyway the orders have continued to roll in, with an EUR 27.5-million contract signed for 14 five-section cars for the Polish city of Poznan (plus an option for 10), a useful breakthrough into the potentially-huge eastern Europe market (now we know why Siemens bought the bankrupt Tatra's assets), plus confirmation of options for Augsburg, Erfurt, Freiburg-im-Breisgau and Nordhausen. So by the beginning of April the order book was over 500 even excluding the 51 Düsseldorf cars.

That prototype Combino has been demonstrated in 22 cities, finding 13 customers in six countries by the end of 2001. The resulting orders have been for trams ranging in length from 19 m to 42 m made up by assembling different arrangements of the modular body sections: end section with or without powered bogie (with or without cab and door), suspended centre section with one or two doors, intermediate body section with or without powered bogie. A common feature is a 300-mm floor height and a 10-tonne axle load.

The order book runs as follows for 1997- April 2002:


Augsburg (single-ended), 16 delivered plus 25 on order;
Düsseldorf (single-ended), 18 delivered plus 33 on order;
Erfurt (single-ended), 14 delivered plus 34 on order;
Freiburg (double-ended), 9 delivered plus 9 on order;
Nordhausen (single-ended), 4 delivered plus 6 on order;
Potsdam (single-ended), 16 delivered plus 32 on order;
Ulm (single-ended), 8 on order;

other European

Amsterdam (single-ended), 3 delivered out of 155 on order (including 4 double-ended);
Basel (single-ended), 28 delivered;
Bern (single-ended), 15 on order;
Poznan (single-ended), 14 on order;
Verona (double-ended), 22 on order;

outside Europe

Hiroshima (double-ended), 9 delivered plus 3 on order;
Melbourne (double-ended), one delivered out of 59 on order.

Nordhausen's 'Bambino' Combino is perfect for small systems. The last three of the 10 on order will feature dual-system straight electric/diesel electric drive, for through operation on the metre-gauge local railway. (M.J.Russell
A drawing of the interior of the Nordhausen dual-system Combino, showing the cabinet which will house the 180kW V8 diesel engine. (Siemens

Nordhausen pioneered the 19-m three-section car, quickly nick-named 'Bambino' and Erfurt's latest order for 12, plus 38 of Melbourne's fall into this category. At the other end of the scale Augsburg, Düsseldorf, Freiburg and Basel have gone for the seven-section car with a body length of 40-43 m. In between is the five-section car coming in at 29-30 m. Basel's may be the longest (and narrowest), but they have to around 11.8 m curves. Body widths range from 2.3 to 2.65 m. Three of the short trams on order for Nordhausen will be different, featuring bi-mode power (straight electric or diesel-electric), so that they can operate on the town tramway and the suburban section of the Harzquerbahn narrow-gauge railway between Nordhausen and Illfeld.

This points in one future direction that is likely to achieve some significance, for so-called diesel light rail is increasingly being considered, either as an add-on to an electric tramway, or as a method of operating suburban lines without the expense of electrification. Siemens launched its tram-train design Avanto at last year's UITP exhibition, not wanting to lose its lead achieved in Karlsruhe to later designs from Alstom and Bombardier, but this can be regarded as part of the Combino family. Having lost out to Alstom in Kassel, they are no doubt keeping their fingers crossed for the Bremen order, but in the meantime have made a significant breakthrough into the French market with an order from the state railway operator SNCF.

These days the demonstrator seems to have gone into semi-retirement, and when new customers need to be convinced, the latest product off the production line can often be used. Hence we saw Potsdam cars appear in Munich and Brussels recently. More fingers crossed for the pending Brussels and Geneva orders.

The UK market poses a particular challenge. No doubt Siemens have their eyes on Leeds, South Hampshire, Bristol, Edinburgh and Blackpool, but the involvement of manufacturers in the operating consortia of Croydon, Birmingham and Manchester makes it unlikely that Combino will be demonstrated there (though this could change; some consortia may have only a short life left as new groups are appointed to take on system expansion). Perhaps Sheffield could run one on the 'flat bit' between Meadowhall and Midland Station, but then they already have superb examples of the Siemens product do they not?

Combino trams - cities and specifications
 Basel DüsseldorfHiroshimaAmsterdamMelbourne*
Body sections77553
Length (mm)42 86039 98030 52029 20020 040
Width (mm)2 3002 4002 4502 4002 650
Height (mm)3 7103 5003 6703 5103 635
Wheel arrangementBo'2'Bo'Bo'2'Bo'2'Bo'2'Bo'2'Bo'Bo'2'Bo'Bo'Bo'
Maximum speed (km/h)6565707070
Motors (kW)6 x 1004 x 1004 x 1004 x 1004 x 100
Unladen weight (t)47.542.63534.525.8
* short version

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