Belarus: The national operator Belarusian Railways (BR) has put into operation the last five-car EPM FLIRT EMU on the Minsk-Brest line as part of a contract for the supply of 10 trains of this series, concluded in January 2019. The rolling stock was produced at the Stadler plant in Fanipol near Minsk, whose activities are now limited due to sanctions.
At the end of October last year, the EPM FLIRT train received a certificate of compliance with the requirements of the EAEU technical regulations. This was preceded by a whole range of tests that the five-car train has been undergoing since 2020. At the first stage, static and several dynamic trials were carried out on the territory of the plant, which took place on an 1.8 km electrified line. At subsequent stages, braking, functional, acceptance and certification tests were carried out, the impact of the train on the track was assessed, compliance with the requirements for electrical equipment, control and monitoring devices, fire and environmental safety was checked. It is worth noting that in 2015, the Fanipol plant produced the first two seven-car EPM FLIRT trains, which were also tested and put into operation in 2016.
The EPm Stadler FLIRT electric train on the route Khalch – Zhlobin, Belarus. Source: Evgeny Pashkovsky, railgallery.ru
The development of EPM FLIRT began in 2012 and was due to the need of updating the BR regional trains fleet in terms of the increase in electrified lines, as well as the gradual replacement of locomotive-hauled cars with multiple-unit rolling stock. The new train was created on the basis of the FLIRT 3 platform, in which the body width was increased to 3,480 mm, in addition, the body structure and crash systems were strengthened.
EPM electric trains have a modular layout and can be formed into trains from 3 to 8 cars, which, depending on the design, can be coupled with articulated bogies or special design couplers. Two trains can be operated jointly in a multi-unit system, with control from the same driver’s cab.
The salon got an inter-regional design, in a five-car train there are 262 seats of 1st and 2nd class. 1st class zone (increased comfort) includes 16 seats and is located in the head car. Doors with a width of 1,000 mm are designed for boarding and unloading passengers from low platforms with a height of 200 and 550 mm. The maximum speed is 160 km/h, the acceleration at the start is 0.9 m/s².
1st class cabin of the EPm Stadler FLIRT electric train. Source: BR
Inside the EPm Stadler FLIRT electric train. Source: Maria Amelina, Sputnik
In addition to Belarus, 3 EPM FLIRT trains are to be put into operation in Azerbaijan. The corresponding contract worth €115 mln was signed in November 2019 and includes the total deliveries of of 10 Stadler FLIRT trains of various modifications, starting in 2022. Also, in August last year, EPM FLIRT was tested in Ukraine. Stadler hoped to win the Ukrainian tender for the supply of 80 commuter trains for 31.5 bln UAH (about $1.2 bln USD). At the same time, the Swiss manufacturer is required to establish the rolling stock production in the country. However, the tender was canceled this March, the official reason is force majeure circumstances.
However, during the execution of the contract for Azerbaijan, Stadler may have challenges. In March, the owner and president of Stadler Rail, Peter Spuhler, in an interview with a number of Swiss publications, said that from June 4, the company’s site in Fanipol would face a shortage of electronic and electrical products due to EU sanctions against Belarus affected by the situation in Ukraine. Production processes are planned to be distributed to Stadler Rail sites in Switzerland and Poland. As part of the production transfer, the relocation of employees is also underway.As Spuhler said, the increase in costs to the manufacturer will be not significant and “totally manageable”