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New trains offer pedal-powered traveller appeal

05 July 2015

For its new class 800/801 series train, which will be replacing existing high speed trains as part of the latest UK Intercity Express Programme, Hitachi Rail has risen to the challenge of accommodating the differing needs of rail passengers, including ‘pedal powered’ commuters and travellers.

New Hitachi Class 800/ 801 series train
New Hitachi Class 800/ 801 series train

Working in close cooperation with its design and production partners, the result has been the development of a PRM-TSI compliant, lightweight storage unit for bicycles throughout the train, located close to passenger seated areas.

The original concept for the new class 800/801 series train was to design spacious new passenger carriage interiors, including convenient bike storage facilities. Right at this early concept stage, Hitachi Rail also brought in Lyndon Newman, Engineering Director of TRB Lightweight Structures and his team. The role of TRB was to evaluate the design and provide a cost effective method of manufacturing the bike storage unit to meet all technical specifications and rail standards, and to comply with PRM (persons of reduced mobility) passenger needs. 

Hitachi Rail Europe selected TRB for this project based on a proven track record as a value-added supplier partner; TRB has already designed, manufactured, and delivered more than 200 products to Hitachi in Japan for fitting on prototype trains, as Hitachi’s procurement director, Jamie Foster explains:

“With the Class 800/801 trains, Hitachi aims to set the standard for design, quality, and weight savings. Once again the TRB engineers and designers have risen to these challenges, meeting the demands of the programme. Working with partners who provide collaborative solutions to engineering challenges is essential to the smooth progress of these types of projects.” 

The supply of bike storage units is in addition to contracts already awarded to TRB Lightweight Structures by Hitachi back in September 2014, with the first prototype units having already been shipped to Japan. The first twelve trains will be built in Japan before manufacture and assembly switches to Hitachi's new purpose-built Newton Aycliffe plant in northeast England.

A key objective for TRB was to satisfy all the weight, performance and installation requirements from Hitachi engineering for the bike unit, which must also meet GM/RT2100 - issue 5 for railway vehicles, and be fully PRM-TSI compliant.

Using the design and indicative materials specifications from Hitachi, the TRB technical team set about doing a detailed analysis and design validation of individual components, creating bills of materials, production costings and the production planning for completed bike units. During 2013, after a number of project review meetings with Hitachi, final specifications were agreed for nine ‘prototype’ left and right handed bike storage units to be manufactured at TRB’s UK production site in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.

Bike storage unit installed in the passenger carriage of the new Hitachi Rail Class 800/801 Series train (image courtesy of DCA Design International)
Bike storage unit installed in the passenger carriage of the new Hitachi Rail Class 800/801 Series train (image courtesy of DCA Design International)

The bike storage units are mostly comprised of TRB manufactured components, including wall panels, the sliding door, sills, ceiling and flooring framework. The racking inside each bike unit is custom built locally by Lordgate Engineering Ltd., a long term TRB partner, which also supplies other parts to Hitachi Rail Europe. 

To minimize weight and maximize space, aluminium honeycomb sandwich panels were specified for the walls, the sliding and folding door sections, and for the ceiling. The type of sandwich panels used are fabricated using an aluminium honeycomb core with inner and outer aluminium skins, bonded together with a high strength modified epoxy adhesive film, then finished by spray painting using a water based paint system.

Aluminium honeycomb sandwich panels have been successfully used by TRB in other rail applications, such as partitions and headers, where a lightweight, strong and durable structure is needed in minimal space. For the sliding door and gangway panels, a high pressure laminate is specified. The same door system is also specified for the catering units, also being supplied by TRB.

Flat sandwich panels are fabricated on a platen press, with the curved door sections being produced using a custom made tool, moulding the aluminium core and skins together using a lay-up and vacuum bagging process in an oven.  A number of painted fibre reinforced plastic (FRP) components are also fabricated for the bike units.

The validation process carried out by TRB for this project included extensive in-house component performance testing.  Accelerated cyclic testing (equivalent to seven years of use without failure or breakdown) were conducted on all critical moving components, such as the sliding door mechanism, door handles and latches using proprietary equipment and software developed by TRB engineers.

Impact, load bearing strength and other mechanical property tests were also carried out. The Fire, smoke and toxicity (FST) testing was carried out by Exova Warrington Fire using TRB manufactured components, including painted aluminium honeycomb panels and painted FRP panels.

The bike storage project is a good example of the end-to-end service TRB provides its customers, and the company is already collaborating with Hitachi on the next phase of development.

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