One factor that weighed heavily in the choice of the Al Shoula proposal is the international fame of the Spanish train fleet, its low carbon dioxide emissions and the Spanish manufacturers’ experience with high speed trains, among many other important reasons.
The supply of the rolling stock took shape in 35 trains designed and manufactured in Spain which could circulate paired up, each with a capacity of around 500 travellers. Depending on demand, the possibility of ordering 20 additional trains was considered, with a purchase option that could be exercised within seven years after commercial operations started.
The consortium’s proposal to supply the rolling stock from Talgo, a leading company in the Spanish railway sector which has garnered recognition and an international presence because of its capacity for innovation, technology, quality, reliability and the added value of its products and services, was accepted in its entirety.
The Talgo 350 SRO
The line chosen to be the rolling stock for the Haramain High Speed Railway was a self-propelled Talgo train. The 35 Talgo 350 SRO were designed and manufactured for the high-speed railway line between Makkah and Madinah. They belong to the Renfe 112 series, whose efficacy has been proven in the Spanish high-speed railway line, although they were adapted to local operating conditions in Saudi Arabia.
With a length of 215 metres, each train set with integrated traction is made up of 15 cars, 13 of which are pulled, while the other two are the locomotives, which make up the self-propelling part of the trains and are located at either end.
Of the 13 cars, eight are meant for economy class and five for business class, one of which holds the café car. In total, each train has 417 seats, 304 in economy class (70%) and 113 in business class (30%). It also has two places adapted for individuals with reduced mobility.
The commercial speed of the Talgo 350 SRO reaches 300 kilometres per hour, with 8,800 kW of power and ERTMS level 2 signalling. During the development of the trains, in order to validate it, several dynamic tests of the train were conducted at speeds higher than the commercial speed. This speed increase process concluded in June 2017, reaching maximum speeds of 330 kilometres per hour.
The lightest, quickest and most efficient
The guidance technology developed by Talgo, coupled with its construction in aluminium, makes the train the lightest of its kind (single unit configuration). Likewise, one of the requirements of the tender stipulated by the Saudi Railways Organization was train’s interoperability. Bearing this requirement in mind, the consortium’s proposal met the ETI 2008 interoperability specifications, which led the train to be designed by positioning its floor at the height of the platform (760 millimetres). The result is that the aerodynamics of the Talgo 350 SRO is the best in class due to its low air drag because of its low exterior height.
Both factors lead to trains that are totally environmentally friendly, since they enable energy consumption to be reduced without diminishing their capacity for acceleration. In this sense, the dynamic system and braking enable circulation speeds of up to 350 kilometres per hour, with the ability to maintain a higher track-slope than any other train of its kind.
In short, the Talgo 350 SRO trains offer journeys which combine optimal times with the utmost energy efficiency, merging environmental respect and comfort in trains which are exemplary models in international high-speed railway travel.
Capacity and accessibility
The Talgo 350 SRO trains, following the Spanish 112 model, have low-to-the-ground, continuous floors throughout the entire train, which enables passengers to ‘board’ the trains instead of ‘climbing in’. The interior layout was also designed to optimise these entries and exits for train passengers, leading to short cars with a single exit and better passenger movement, as opposed to versions with longer cars and two doors on either side. The client’s choice of this kind of short car also revealed their interest in having more space for luggage, better visual control and more overall comfort for passengers.
Likewise, when designing the trains, other details were also taken into account, such as ensuring that the entrance doors do not align with the columns on the station platforms. Every design decision sought to improve passenger comfort while also increasing their safety.
The Talgo 350 SRO trains in the desert
The Talgo 350 SRO trains, a version known in Spain as ‘Patos’ (Ducks) from Renfe’s 102 and 112 series, were adapted to the extreme temperatures and sandy conditions in Saudi Arabia. Their design and construction were consistently focused on operating in extreme environmental conditions.
With the goal of combating the high temperatures, the trains needed an air conditioning system that was heavily reinforced in each car. The outcome is an air conditioning system with a double independent circuit which provides a high degree of redundancy and guarantees half the power in the event of a breakdown in one of the two compressors. The vestibules, bathroom areas and personnel departments are also air conditioned, and the conductors’ compartments have their own independent air conditioning equipment.
The equipment also has a system that allows it to continue operating even when there is an interruption in the energy feed. Likewise, a premium-quality filtering system which constantly treats the air was added.
The trains have been adapted to the extreme climatology and geographic particularities, by incorporating what is called the ‘desert pack’, which encompasses more than 30 additional technologies developed for this project.
- Each train locomotive has two blowers installed to remove sand from the track. This measure is complementary to track maintenance and cleaning. The goal is to protect the wheels and lengthen their life span.
- Each train is covered in a special paint with the goal of protecting them from the abrasion and corrosion caused by the suspended dust in the desert.
- The windows in the passenger cars and the lights on the locomotives are also covered by a protective film on the glass to prevent them from being scratched by this suspended dust.
- A series of filters has been installed in each train to expel the dust that may enter the passenger cars. This technology was developed by Talgo and is based on the filters used by military helicopters.
- Some equipment that used to go on the lower frame of the train has been moved to the ceiling to avoid external exposure and damage from the suspended dust and extreme climatic conditions.
- The joints were specially designed (exterior and interior components) to maintain the level of air tightness needed to keep out the dust in each area of the convoy.
- Each train has more protection and insulation against dust and the water from the electrical equipment, which also enables the equipment to withstand temperatures of over 50 degrees Celsius.
- The rolling stock is designed and manufactured to withstand violent storms and heavy rains without damage or a loss in efficiency.