Every two years, the railway industry gathers in Berlin for the InnoTrans exhibition. Held between 18 and 21 September, the 2018 show was the biggest so far, with 3,062 exhibitors from 61 countries showing off their expertise, products and services to 153,421 trade visitors from 149 countries.
In amongst the wide variety of displays were 400 innovations, 155 world premieres and no fewer than 155 complete vehicles. Contracts were publicly signed, even though they had actually been agreed days or even weeks before behind closed doors.
For those who had never been to InnoTrans before, the lasting impression will no doubt be the huge scale of the whole event. There were 41 halls packed with railway technology and 3,500 metres of tracks outside on which sat trains, trams, locomotives and on-track plant.
Visitors had to choose which entrance to use – South (Messe Süd S-Bahn station for lines S3 and S9) or North (Messe Nord station – S-Bahn S41, S42, S46 and U-Bahn U20).
Then it was a question of actually finding what they wanted to see. It is impossible to walk the whole show, so some advance planning is essential and the internal bus services (there are four routes) are a godsend for tired feet.
So where to start?
Just how does one review over 3,000 stands? Alphabetically? By product? By country of origin?
Whichever way, it’s impossible. So here are some impressions of what visitors to InnoTrans 2018 saw over four days in Berlin, arranged alphabetically.
Alstom – Cummins
Alstom: A mixture of trains and technology was the theme for Alstom’s display this year. Inside, there was the Iconis security control centre, and Mastria, a multimodal supervision solution that demonstrates the way advanced data analytics will be central to the future of urban mobility. Outside was the world’s first hydrogen train, the Coradia iLint, as well as the Prima H4 bi-mode locomotive, the Aptis electric bus and the first POP train for Italian state operator Trenitalia.
Altpro: This Croatian manufacturer of safety and signalling equipment for rolling stock and infrastructure was founded in 1994 and now operates in 47 countries worldwide. Tin Viduka explained that Altpro axle counters and level-crossing protection systems were increasingly being chosen in Eastern Europe, with the most recent installation being in Montenegro.
Arcadis: Martin Standaart from Arcadis Nederland seemed to be the sole inhabitant of the company’s stand in hall 5.2, though it was technically an Arcadis Germany stand. Still, Martin was happy to discuss Arcadis’ latest successes which, as the company is active in 72 countries, was quite a list.
Bombardier: Emma Brett was the guide round a crowded Bombardier stand. It was quite open, and for many visitors the hospitality seemed more important than the business talk!
However, there were trains, and signalling, and innovations to discuss as well as digital technology to take visitors on a virtual journey around the world of transportation.
British Steel: During the show, British Steel announced two major contract wins. As well as an award for rails from Belgium’s rail infrastructure manager Infrabel, British Steel has also been given a £200 million two-year extension to supply rail to Network Rail. With UK transport secretary Chris Grayling looking on, both contracts were rubber-stamped at the show with representatives from all parties putting pen to paper on the deals. The contract win from Network Rail will see British Steel supply Network Rail with more than 200,000 tonnes (or 4,000km) of rail. Among the rails British Steel will be supplying are two long-life rail innovations – HP335 and Zinoco, both of which were displayed on the InnoTrans stand.
Cobham: The Buckinghamshire-based company had some very interesting solutions to the problem of maintaining mobile phone connections for passengers while their train is in a tunnel. A single box of kit outside the tunnel feeds a leaky-coax cable run through the tunnel. There is even a repeater system for longer runs. However, after the show, Rail Engineer was sent a non-disclosure agreement to sign (we didn’t), so whether the equipment should have been on display at all is a good question. Maybe it shouldn’t feature in this review either. Sssshh!
Colas: Russell Suart, from the company’s projects in Asia, explained that Lundy Projects, manufacturer of signal gantries and electrification portals, is now part of the Colas group, although its individual identity will be retained, at least for the time being. He also showed a fascinating video of a construction project in the far east, showing how elevated railway construction was carried out elsewhere.
Cummins: A large red diesel engine, which was sectioned to show the internal workings, formed the centrepiece of the Cummins display. Marcomms specialist Angela Papgeorgiou informed that it was actually built at Daventry in the UK. It was an impressive lump of technology.
Ellis Patents – Hitachi
Ellis Patents: A small stand in the Railway Industry Association pavilion allowed Ellis Patents to show off its range of cable cleats and fixing solutions. Export sales executive Kelly Brown informed that the company already has a number of distributors worldwide and was using InnoTrans to meet up with them and also handle enquiries from new contacts.
ERTMS Solutions: The developer of signalling and commissioning software was demonstrating its Balise Life Check and Track Circuit Life Check programs. Business development officer Maurizio Palumbo described how Network Rail uses the company’s CamCorder software, and discussions are taking place with TfL over Crossrail. There was also an interesting discussion with marketing manager Caroline Ernoult on Ontology – the philosophical nature of being. How does that relate to ERTMS signalling? It’s all to do with the seamless pairing of business needs and IT in a way that is both cost-effective and agile – apparently. Oh, and there were some great ERTMS socks to take away!
Ferrabyrne: A range of black natural rubber bushes was on show, along with some green ones which are fireproof to the latest EuoNorm. Max Bradley also showed off the rolling stock suspension components and anti-roll bars that the Sussex-based manufacturer had on display.
Frequentis: Patrick Wirth, project manager with this Austrian safety-critical communications expert, talked about telecommunications and IT (information technology) coming together with moves to LTE and 5G. He also highlighted how Frequentis’ Railway Emergency Management (REM) product supports the operator during incident and crisis situations by maximising cooperation and resolution speed.
Also, back by popular demand, the Frequentis ducks were a feature of the stand.
Furrer+Frey: The new lightweight electrification cantilever that Furrer+Frey developed for Nexus’ Tyne and Wear Metro, the FL200-Light, was on display in Berlin. So too were examples of the work the company is undertaking with Delhi Metro to create a digital twin of the infrastructure and to supply quick-charging stations for e-mobility buses.
Getzner: Vibration and how to reduce it was the key message on the Getzner stand. Indeed, the whole stand vibrated from time to time, simulating the noise and movement from a train in a tunnel. Product manager Stefan Vonbun pointed out that, although the whole stand shook, the floor-mounted lights didn’t – all down to Getzner technology. The Austrian chocolates were good too.
Hacktrain: The first ever Hackathon took place over four days with support from Siemens, SBB, Fujitsu, ORM joining Deutsche Bahn, SilverRail, SNCF and Network Rail. 80 young people, and 20 mentors, worked throughout the show and presented their outcomes on the Friday afternoon. A roomful of people in ill-fitting t-shirts and baseball caps worn backwards, listened and participated, cheering each other’s brief presentations. There didn’t seem to be much outside interest apart from the sponsors, and whether the results will have any impact on the real-life railway or not remains to be seen. Still, the participants obviously enjoyed themselves.
HIMA: Derived from the family name, Hildebrandt, and home town Mannheim, HIMA has been control and monitoring equipment for industry since 1936. Global PR manager Daniel Plaga explained that, today, the company operates in 50 countries and manages over 1,000 installations. Producing safety PLCs for use by system integrators, these can now be used for SIL 4 installations and can operate up to +70ºC. Used for level crossings, signalling, train doors and tunnel ventilation, a recent application was replacing relays with PLCs to control trams in Luxembourg.
Hitachi: One of the largest stands at the show, Hitachi was showing off models of its trains alongside real-time signalling displays, supported by experts from Japan, the UK and Italy. Immersive digital displays were much in evidence as the company emphasised its digital offering.
Outside, a Caravaggio train for Italy (pictured right), named Rock by its Trenitalia purchaser and due to go into service next year, attracted a lot of attention.
IRZ – Nomad
Izhevskiy Radiozavod (IRZ): The Russian leader in safety and communications systems for rail for 25 years has successfully implemented solutions on rolling stock in more than 15 countries, including Russia/CIS, China, South Korea and in Europe. Matthew Davison and Barbara Grimm explained that, because the company’s signalling products were not developed to ETCS and ERTMS standards, but to alternative, Russian ones, the main thrust was towards markets in Africa and South America that had not adopted the European ‘Norms’ of ETCS and ERTMS.
Legios: Based in Prague, Czech Republic, Legios manufactures freight wagons and also maintains and repairs them.
An example of the company’s latest freight wagon bogie was proudly displayed at InnoTrans, in the outdoor display area.
But why was it pink?
Linsinger: A call at the stand of the Austrian-based rail grinding specialist was interesting for two reasons. The latest machine was on show, and international sales manager Elvis Kozica, who spoke in the Rail Engineer Seminar Theatre at Infrarail earlier in the year, was justifiably proud of it. In addition, marketing and public relations manager Georgine Schöm offered what looked like an ice cream cone but it was actually hot – and savoury! There were curries, meat and potatoes, and even fish, all in unsweetened waffle cones. It’s a start-up Austrian company – Coney – and made a welcome hange from the coffee and nuts offered on other stands.
Mirage Rail: First seen earlier this year at Rail Live, the new Mirage mobile induction welder for joining track in-situ was on display at InnoTrans. Managing director Nick Mountford explained the concept and also that Network Rail had assisted in the machine’s development. Indeed, programme engineering manager Nick Matthews was on hand from Network Rail to lend a hand.
Mott MacDonald: The international engineering consultant was promoting its capabilities in complex and progressive assurance – its ability to check the checker. Directors Michael Barron and Chris Dulake were on hand to explain the concept of blockchain analysis. Developed for Bitcoin, blockchain has been described by the Harvard Business School as “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way”.
MTU: Rolls-Royce Power Systems and Porterbrook agreed the delivery of MTU Hybrid PowerPacks (pictured) that can convert Class 168 and Class 170 ‘Turbostar’ DMUs from diesel-only to hybrid-electric operation with the signing of a letter of intent on the stand at InnoTrans.
The agreement covers the delivery of hybrid systems for installation on two test trains for a series of trials, following which Porterbrook aims to offer hybrid conversion to a range of customers operating existing Turbostar fleets.
Nomad Digital: As well as discussing new technologies in the field of on-board communications and mobile phones, Nomad’s Vicki Sloan handed over a red stress-relieving rugby ball, which has proudly joined the editorial collection. Nice one!
Perpetuum – Rosehill
Perpetuum: The world leader in vibration harvester-powered wireless sensing systems – that’s what it says on sales manager Andy Stephens’ card. Who can argue with that?
Pilz: Major railway infrastructure owners, such as Network Rail and Deutsche Bahn, are naturally conservative. This has resulted in a slow uptake of PLCs (programmable logic controllers) for applications such as level crossing control. Pilz is now working with EULYNX, the European initiative by 12 infrastructure managers to standardise interfaces and elements of signalling systems with the aim of decreasing cost. One aspect of this is that Pilz PLCs need to talk to those of other manufacturers, and Peter Kaiser described how Pilz PLCs controlling point motors now interfaced with those from HIMA which are integral parts of interlocking controls.
Pintsch Bamag and Pintsch Tiefenbach: A large stand showed off several products from the Pintsch group, itself now part of Schaltbau.
Export manager for signalling Olaf Lachmann was keen to point out a major item on the Pintsch Bamag display – a pedestrian level crossing for the Danish rail network, designed to work with the ETCS signalling that is being delivered throughout the country.
Plasser & Theurer: Track maintenance machine manufacturer Plasser & Theurer had its usual large stand, which was busy throughout the show. Models, simulations and displays took the place of actual machines, as these are too large for an indoor stand, but there were several on show outdoors, including the new EM100VT, which is used a a testbed for the development of infrastructure test equipment.
After-sales service, and the rapid availability of spares, was the topic of many discussions on the stand.
Porr: Two different types of slab track were on show, both made by Porr Austria but for different markets. One was a conventional heavy-rail high-speed slab, the other was designed for metros running in tunnel. Narrower than the main line version, it also included cast-in rail guides, like a concrete check rail, to hold the train in place in case of a derailment and prevent damage to the tunnel lining.
R2P: Despite interruptions from well-meaning colleagues, project manager Somtapa Bhattacharya finally managed to list all of R2P’s offerings in the fields of CCTV, automatic passenger counting, passenger information systems, tracking and fleet management.
Robel: On a stand which had moved a little from previous years, but was still in hall 26, Robel showed off its range of hand-held tools for working on track. The new Rogrind HF two-part electric rail grinding tool was particularly popular and attracted quite a crowd.
Rosehill Rail: Well known for their level-crossing panels, Rosehill had plenty on display, along with the anti-trespass panels which look like an upside-down egg carton. Impossible to walk on, which is the whole point, there was a new arrangement of cones to improve the product still further. Rosehill Security’s Kirstie Emptage was also present, showing off new anti-vehicle and crowd control barriers that can either be installed temporarily or semi-permanently – ideal for special occasions and for controlling passenger and vehicle flows during temporary works.
Siemens – WSP
Siemens: Although all under the Siemens Mobility banner, with so many activities involved the stand was crowded most of the time. Rolling stock mingled with electrification and signalling, as well as other peripheral activities. Digital railway and high-speed trains (the new Velaro Novo) were the topics being discussed indoors, while the outdoor display was packed with the new tram for Ulm, new trains for the Rhine-Ruhr Express, Berlin S-Bahn (built in conjunction with Stadler), and Sofia Metro, a UK Thameslink train – this one for the Moorgate branch and Vectron and Smartron freight locomotives.
Stadler: The train manufacturer that seems to be growing fastest right now, at least in Europe, had a big stand and also an outside display. Of most interest to British visitors was the first of the new trains for Glasgow Subway – the Clockwork Orange – which looked huge parked in the outside display. But that was an illusion, not only were visitors looking up from ground level rather than platform level, but the trains’ novel four-foot gauge meant they were on accommodation bogies too, further adding to the height. Still, the interior gave a better impression as everyone but the shortest visitors had to crouch down.
Looking more conventional, the new bi-mode Flirt train for Greater Anglia was on display as well.
TE Connectivity: Product manager Rob Smeets was clearly proud of the new circuit breaker designed to be roof mounted on trains, alongside the pantograph. No longer air-insulated, nor using relays, the sealed unit is the lowest on the market and comes with a fully insulated surge arrester, to keep workers safe if they have to access the roof for any reason.
Other products on display included the range of Jaquet sensors, a recent acquisition.
Thales: Decisive technology for decisive moments – that was the slogan written on the top of the Thales stand. Below, the French manufacturer was using an interactive Digital Wall to show how it supports customers’ big ambitions to optimise network performance and create a unique passenger experience.
There was also a new immersive Experience Room where visitors could find out how Thales’ solutions help overcome obstacles at decisive moments, from network disruption to rail digitalisation.
Thermo King: The refrigerants used in air-conditioning systems are now known to be bad for the environment. As a result, the old chlorofluorocarbons and products such as R-134a (1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane) are being phased out and replaced by new products like R513a, a non-ozone depleting refrigerant based on hydrofluoro-olefin (HFO). Alexander Zankl explained how Thermo King HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) units are now ready for these new refrigerants. Combined with the well-documented reliability of the equipment – only one compressor failure on 1,300 units in Melbourne, Australia, in 12 years, and that without any leaks – and there really is little chance of environmental damage from these systems which now have an operating temperature range of +/- 50ºC.
Unipart: Virtual and augmented reality featured on the Unipart stand this year, and visitors were shown how both technologies could enhance their understanding of how depot maintenance activities can transform performance. Head of marketing communications Dave Tilmouth was also keen to explain Unipart’s concept of the condition-based supply chain, with deliveries automated to be in the right place at the right time.
University of Birmingham: Located in the careers hall, the University of Birmingham was promoting both its courses and UKRRIN, the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network. Alex Burrows, Rob Hopkin and the team were on hand to explain both offerings and also meet with several other exhibitors with which they work closely.
Viper: Developed for use on oil rigs, Aberdeen-based Viper has a neat solution to the problem of insulation breaking down on telecommunications cables at the microscopic level. Passing an electric current through the cable causes electrolysis to occur at the site and ‘welds’ the insulation back together. Of less use on railways, where the fresh water doesn’t contain enough electrolytes, the company still uses its technology to pinpoint exactly where a fault is located, allowing repairs to be focussed within a small area. Cable Guardian units are installed at various points on the network, and any failure can be pinpointed as a distance from those various points.
Welsh Government: The Welsh pavilion was displaying plans for the new £100 million Global Centre of Rail Excellence, a 7.3km 100mph (160km/h) test track to be built near Swansea. Combined with a smaller, 3.1km track for light rail and metros, supply chain development managers Mike Gillard and Alan Jones pointed out that the new facility will give manufacturers a third European test facility, alongside Siemen’s site at Wildenrath and Velim in the Czech Republic, both of which are booked up a year in advance.
Windhoff: Perhaps the slowest vehicle on display was Windhoff’s Tele Trac RW60AEM battery-operated shunter for the Warsteiner brewery. Weighing in at 35 tonnes, including 2.5 tonnes of batteries, it can tow a load of up to 1,000 tonnes. That’s a lot of beer! Other specialist vehicles were on display, including a multi-function rail vehicle which was handed over to Jernbaneverket, the Norwegian rail infrastructure manager.
WSP: Although there were a number of model railways around the show, Lego ones as well as Ho, OO and other scales, one of the best was on the WSP stand. Carsten Scharf was keeping a close eye on his model, but also discussing WSP’s engineering capabilities with visitors who called by.
So when’s the next?
The dates for InnoTrans 2020 have already been set – 22 to 25 September 2020. For the first time in a long while, it manages to miss the author’s birthday!
Some things will be the same though – aching feet, crowded restaurants, packed hotels (book yours now!), but also friendships renewed, innovations to study and new equipment and trains to look at and climb into.
The new S-Bahn stock may also be in service, which will be interesting.
Whatever happens, it will be THE place to be in 2020. Everyone who is anyone in the rail industry will be in Berlin, either exhibiting, visiting or doing a bit of both.
See you there!