Almost unnoticed by most of the UK railway supply chain, the 11th SIFER exhibition took place in Lille on 26-28 March 2019. The French sister show of the UK’s Railtex, SIFER has been organised by Mack Brooks Exhibitions for the last 20 years. The leading French event for rail industry professionals to meet, discover innovations and develop business opportunities, SIFER 2019 attracted 443 exhibitors, of which some 26 per cent were international, as well as 5,400 visitors.
It’s a shame that more UK companies didn’t make the trip. Lille is easy to reach by Eurostar from St Pancras and then a short walk from Lille Europe station to the Lille Grand Palais Exhibition Centre, SIFER’s regular venue.
That’s not to say there wasn’t a UK presence. Arriving at 11:27 on the 08:55 Eurostar from St Pancras, left just five hours to walk past all 443 exhibitors – and even stop to talk with a few!
One of the most hospitable was Rosehill Rail, which had a large stand at the front of the show. Group managing director Andrew Celik and marketing manager Daniel Fletcher had time for a coffee and a chat about anti-trespass panels and security barriers, as well as level crossing installations. The stand at SIFER, and the one at InnoTrans in Berlin last September, show how important the export market is to this very British firm from Sowerby Bridge (that’s near Halifax).
Together with French partner CH2M Rail, Rosehill was showcasing its unique Baseplated System and its latest product, the Link Crossing System. Both systems are specifically designed to be quick and simple to install in order to minimise disruption and reduce costs.
AEI Cables also had a large stand. The company serves key markets in the UK and worldwide including construction, industrial, fire protection, defence, mining and rail. Sections of cable were on display, and AEI’s experts stressed that its products meet the highest industry standards including ISO 9001 and are approved by the leading approvals organisations nationally and internationally including BASEC, LPCB and Lloyds.
Camlin Rail’s Pantobot 3D three-dimensional automatic pantograph monitoring system is a fully automated three-dimensional pantograph inspection system that allows the network operator to make real-time decisions based on true pantograph condition. This is crucial as a damaged pantograph, suffering from such anomalies as excess chipping, increased carbon wear and damaged horns, has the potential to tear down the overhead line, resulting in long delays and widespread service disruption.
Cubis Systems, from Armagh in Northern Ireland, is engaged within a variety of major projects across the UK, France, Scandinavia, North America and Australia. These range from light rail upgrades to major rail infrastructure projects such as Manchester tram, the SNCF network and HS2.
All of these unique projects involve integrated network access and cable protection systems for telecoms, drainage, signalling and power applications. Cubis’ integrated product approach, developed through innovative partnering and with long-standing approvals from Network Rail and SNCF, incorporates intelligent technical design features for modular, scalable and lightweight composite access chambers, access covers and cable protection products that can be built on-site, simply, safely and with speed of installation.
Excalibur Screwbolts, last seen at the Signalling Innovations Group’s conference in York last November, was displaying its range of threaded anchors for all substrates. These have many uses in both civil engineering and rail applications and can be used to fix various items directly into all major building materials including concrete, brick and timber without the use of plugs or resin.
General benefits of Excalibur Screwbolts include using one anchor for all applications that is quick and easy to install and doesn’t stress/damage the substrate so is good for close to edge fixing. They are easily removable if required, so can be used in both permanent or temporary works, and have found use on both Network Rail and London Underground infrastructure for fixing various items including insulator pots, signalling systems and rail baseplates.
Forbo Flooring Systems, based in Ripley in Derbyshire, was showing its comprehensive and compliant flooring product portfolio for the rail sector. This includes entrance systems, vinyl floors, linoleum floors, textile carpets, flocked flooring as well as adhesives, accessories and installation tools. Forbo floor coverings are fully certified to suit many types of trains and are certified according to EN 45545-2 with a minimum rating of HL2.
Hanover Displays is a family-owned company from Lewes, Sussex, which has been designing and manufacturing passenger information systems for the public transport industry since 1985. With subsidiary offices in France, Spain, Germany and Australia, together with a second production facility in the US and representatives all over the world, Hanover has satisfied customers in over 75 countries worldwide.
The security afforded by 30 years’ experience, financial independence and a continuous product development program is further assurance of the company’s dependability, as representatives from the office in Villeneuve-Loubet, on the French Mediterranean coast between Nice and Cannes, were on hand to explain.
HVR International, from Jarrow in Tyne and Wear, pioneered the development of carbon ceramic resistances that are now used worldwide in high-voltage, high-energy, power electronics and traction applications. Today, the company’s products are used worldwide by the likes of Alstom, ABB and Siemens.
Specific products on display included SR-series compact power resistors, including the world’s first 10kJ resistance for PCB mounting, ‘Cool Power’ modular water-cooled resistances and ‘Multi-Brake’ braking resistors made by HVR Pentagon in Tyseley, Birmingham.
Many other exhibitors would be familiar to UK engineers. Alstom has approximately 8,650 employees in France. Its Petite-Forêt site, in the Hauts-de-France region, is its centre of excellence for the design, development, manufacturing, testing and validation of railway equipment such as metros, tram-trains and double-deck trains for suburban and regional use.
At SIFER, Alstom promoted StationOne, its autonomous online marketplace, dedicated to the railway sector, that connects professionals and is designed as an efficient way to both promote and access the broadest possible range of parts, commodities and services for all areas of the rail sector, including trains, infrastructure, depots and stations.
Amberg Technologies was in Lille, promoting its comprehensive solutions and services for tunnel and rail surveying, geotechnics and geophysics.
Focused exclusively on the re-manufacture, service and repair of AC and DC traction motors for trains, trams and metro systems, Associated Rewinds has been in operation in Dublin since 1986. Now a leader in rail traction technology, it partners owners, operators and manufacturers of rail vehicles worldwide.
Cembre, the leading manufacturer in Italy and one of the largest European manufacturers of crimp connectors and cable tooling, offers certified solutions for electrical connections inside convoys and railway locomotives, putting its electro-technical experience at the service of railway companies by developing solutions for electrical connections and the maintenance of railways.
Finland’s EKE-Electronics, which featured in Rail Engineer’s recent article on speed control for trams (issue 173, April 2019), was in a prominent position close to the main entrance. The company provides technology for system integration, train automation, train communications and improved safety. The range includes train control and management systems (TCMS), train communication networks (TCN), vehicle control units (VCU), gateways (MVB, WTB, CAN, serial links, Ethernet), Ethernet train backbones (ETB), Ethernet switches, remote input/output modules (RIOM) and train event recorders.
Frauscher Sensor Technology showed how its wheel detection systems, axle counters and tracking solutions allow system integrators and railway operators to obtain the information they need to run, monitor and protect their operational network.
GAI-Tronics uses state-of-the-art technology to meet the demanding communications needs of the rail industry. It works closely with French partner AE&T for all communication projects, the two companies combining their respective product expertise, technical knowledge and business experiences.
Geismar designs and produces solutions for the laying, maintenance and monitoring of railway tracks and overhead lines. For almost a century, teams from Geismar have been developing rail transport wherever there are rail networks, conventional, urban or high-speed.
The HIMA Group is a leading independent provider of smart safety solutions for industrial applications, with more than 35,000 TÜV-certified safety systems installed worldwide. In the global rail industry, HIMA’s CENELEC-certified SIL4 COTS safety controllers are leading the way to increased safety, security and profitability.
Moxa delivers flexible IP network infrastructures that are able to expand to deal with the rising number of passengers, ensuring that operational efficiency is maintained.
Focussing on securing rail networks through robust network communications with enhanced security functions and easy-to-use network management software, Moxa has deployed over 500 networks worldwide for CCTV, CBTC, TCMS, passenger Wi-Fi, and condition monitoring systems.
Nord-Lock was showing its self-locking fastener systems for use in both rolling-stock and track applications, while Pandrol, which actually belongs to the French Delachaux Group, also had an impressive stand which emphasised the fact that all of the product is now branded Pandrol.
Schwihag, manufacturer of components for switches and turnouts, was showing how use of its products can reduce maintenance costs and help protect the environment. Sekisui had examples of its FFU (fibre-reinforced foamed urethane) sleepers, which have now been fitted to more than 1,500 km of track worldwide.
The German office of American positioning systems manufacture Trimble was at Sifer, demonstrating its solutions for efficient alignment planning and accurate mapping of fixed assets as well as precise track measurement and construction.
Westermo, the Swedish supplier of data communications equipment and a company well known to Rail Engineer readers, displayed a range of equipment that is used in the demanding field of rail telecommunications and offered visitors advice on the best solutions for their applications.
And finally, Zöllner had a stand on which it was exhibiting its range of track warning systems that keep rail workers safe in live railway environments.
Conferences, round-tables and networking
The exhibition stands weren’t the only attraction at SIFER. Two seminar theatres hosted a range of presentations, seminars and round-table discussions on subjects as varied as Big Data (Capgemini), logistics for railway worksites (SNCF), innovative connectivity solutions (Harting) and COTS for the railway (HIMA).
The Networking evening after the show closed on the middle day proved popular, with exhibitors and visitors alike taking the chance to mingle and talk over the events of the day and the latest news from the industry.
As always in France, the catering was of a high standard. SIFER’s restaurant puts the arrangement at British shows to shame – not a criticism of UK organisers but a reflection on France’s views on food.
So, well fed, well informed and well impressed, it was time to head off to Lille Europe station again and, thanks to Eurostar efficiency and the time difference, to arrive back in St Pancras just half an hour later!
Hopefully, more Brits will cross the channel in March 2021, when SIFER will once again open in Lille and show what the French rail industry has to offer.