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Bombardier Helps to Prepare Swedish Rail Sector for Winter Freeze

Rail technology leader Bombardier Transportation is on standby to meet the challenges of the coming months’ severe winter weather in Sweden. Its maintenance depots across the country contribute significantly to the rail sector’s readiness for handling possible network disruptions.

Operating trains in cold Nordic winters is a challenging task. When humidity is high and temperatures are low, several tons of ice can accumulate underneath a train in just one day. Removing ice from vehicles as quickly as possible is as important in the rail industry as it is at airports during the winter.



De-icing is carried out with warm water hosing, powerful hot air fan systems or by spraying the train with antifreeze fluid. Bombardier’s de-icing facilities are on high readiness but even at modern service depots, it may take up to four hours to de-ice an iced-over train. This means normal maintenance can take up to seven hours, more than twice as long as usual.

Under the leadership of the National Transport Administration, the Swedish rail sector has carried out a major program to minimize possible impact of snow, ice and cold weather. At its services terminals in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Västerås, Gävle and Nässjö, Bombardier has made preparations in a number of areas, often in cooperation with train operators and facility managers.

Maria Swedin, Head of Fleet Management at Bombardier Transportation Services in Sweden, said: “These preparations range from reviewing service agreements to making sure we have snow clearance and ice removal at the depots and to preventive maintenance such as lubricating train windscreen wipers, changing the flush fluid mix and checking heating systems.”

Close cooperation between Swedish rail sector partners is an overall priority to ensure reliable service in wintertime. The National Transport Administration has scheduled longer intervals in train separation while SJ and other operators have adapted their timetables to make it easier to run at higher speeds to compensate for possible delays.

Bombardier’s maintenance organization is in close contact with the group’s specialist team for winterization design, which is based in Västerås, Sweden. Erik Wik is in charge of a 25-person strong group of experts tasked in part with developing solutions for adapting trains to Nordic winter conditions. One example is SJ’s new high speed train SJ 3000, manufactured by Bombardier, which entered service in February 2012 and operates at almost 100 per cent reliability. The train underwent extensive testing in arctic temperatures of -30°C to ensure operational performance during the severe conditions that exist in Sweden during the winter.

“Snow penetrates, sticks to the equipment, melts and produces humidity,” Wik said. “This affects doors, windscreen wipers, propulsion and cooling systems and other electronic equipment. Snow also sticks underneath the trains and accumulates on the power car. Up to one ton of ice and snow can stick to a carriage.”

The challenge for train designers is not only that material and electronic equipment must perform well at low temperatures. Exposed components must stand up to snow, ice, cold and humidity – and to combinations of these. Another problem is condensation, with vapor becoming water when the air temperature drops. The high technology trains of today are packed with electronics. Experts have to predict which situations may develop during extreme weather.

Electrically heated footsteps with powerful motors are one example of the winterization team’s work. These have been installed on BOMBARDIER REGINA regional trains operating all over Sweden. Their patterned metal surfaces crush ice and densely packed snow.

The team is in charge not only of winterization projects for trains built for the Nordic market. “We have a global responsibility and run projects also in North America, in China and in other European countries which have cold winters,” Wik added. “In Sweden, we have a lot of experience in this area, and other countries would like to learn from us.”

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