Interim operator –
Rail operation between rollout and the start of operations
RailAdventure is a neutral service provider for the rail industry. From rolling out the first, newly developed prototype to transferring the latest vehicles in a series to the customer, we look after our customers’ products during this phase and handle their at times very demanding rail operations. We provide support during the sometimes complex and lengthy approval phase of a new locomotive, multiple unit or carriages, from the initial test runs to obtaining official approval from the regulatory authorities. Here, the focus is not just on the transport, but also on the test runs required with regard to the approval and readiness of the series to go into production as well as the necessary permits. This temporary operation can take just a few hours; however, it can also go on for several years. Our specially trained staff and the particular assets we have available to us ensure we can we accomplish these tasks to a high quality standard. As well as locomotives, these include our coupling adapters and brake force wagons, which are used to safely transport brand-new products to test centres, ports and customer depots. To transport trains with different track gauges, we use our in-house and patented transport system Loco Buggy. As a home base for ongoing vehicle projects, we operate a “Zughotel” for our customers at our Braunschweig site.
The phase after operations have started
We help renowned passenger and freight rail operators overcome their specific challenges. We use the specific resources we have to handle any transfers required at short notice and workshop test runs, leaving our customers to concentrate on their passengers or goods transport. In the case of malfunctions or accidents, we can respond at short notice and take care of their valuable assets. Our portfolio also includes a control centre for coordinating and monitoring our customers’ transport operations. We can also take on the last run to the recycler as well as any of the preparation required.
A safety management system specifically developed for these special requirements and a specific insurance landscape provide the appropriate framework for the actions we take. Confidential handling of information is the top priority for our employees. Our company does not handle regular goods and passenger transport itself and so we are not in competition with our customers. Our sole focus is supporting them.
As an experienced logistics company, it’s our daily job to ensure that the rail industry’s brand-new rail vehicles reach the customer and are transferred over to them reliably and without sustaining any damage. The quality of the services we provide is sometimes key to the contractual fulfilment of supply contracts. This means preparation for the transport, which sometimes involves going through several countries, very often starts several months in advance and is done in close cooperation with the vehicle manufacturer. In doing so, treating the technical information provided with the utmost confidentiality is our highest priority. Obtaining the transport permits is usually one of the first of the various tasks we have to undertake and is particularly challenging, for example, in the case of extra-wide trains or vehicles intended for export.
Upon request, RailAdventure is ready to accept the challenge of discreetly taking as-yet-unseen prototypes to trade fairs or product presentations. We have our Loco Buggy system available for transporting trains that require different track gauges. We consider it our responsibility to also develop safety concepts on rail ferries and coordinate these issues with the representatives of the insurance companies involved. Of course, we also handle customs clearance and carry out constant monitoring. Our technical team takes on all the preparatory work to get the trains ready for transport, as well as separating the train units prior to shipment.
Dynamic optimisation and cost reduction for logistics projects
Long before the prototypes are delivered to the end customer, we provide the necessary logistics for test circuits and test tracks. Specific assets, developed in-house, also make it possible to transfer vehicles with couplings that are incompatible with locomotives and brake systems that are not yet active. By constantly sharing and exchanging technical information with our customers, we are able to continually optimise our transport concepts using increasingly progressive verification and approval processes and thus be more cost-efficient. At the start of a project, a train unit is still very often transported with the brakes switched off. Once the relevant assessments have been received, this is no longer necessary. After a few months, it is often possible to switch from towed mode to self-propelled transport to further reduce costs.
In the case of a supply contract for a new rail vehicle, manufacturers are obliged to obtain the necessary approvals for the products sold in good time. Penalised availability guarantees are also agreed so that due to both factors, a comprehensive test run programme is carried out long before the customer handover to prove the necessary technical parameters and reliability. On top of the applicable European guidelines, the manufacturer must also comply with any national requirements that relate to features specific to the country concerned. So, for example, proof of brake systems, derailment safety and driving technology can also be provided in countries other than the subsequent country of operation, while train safety systems and electromagnetic interferences are usually subject to national consideration.
During this phase, which can last several months, RailAdventure deals with the logistics between the test sites and handles the rail operations of the actual test runs. The service we provide starts a few months before the first dynamic test when we determine and agree the technical and operational compensatory measures to achieve the required level of safety and obtain the required approval. Besides needing an extensive and holistic knowledge of the railway system and its subsystems, this also requires in-depth knowledge of railway technology and experience of rail operations so we can correctly and safely integrate the new vehicle technology during the test phase into the whole railway system.
Accredited institutes are commissioned to test each different aspect of the vehicle. After coordinating the test run programme with the relevant experts, we review the feasibility with the infrastructure operator. In addition to any technical issues, we also have to review the options from an operational point of view as they must be timed to fit in between the regular trains that are running. Our application and approval management team are also constantly taking into account the findings from completed runs and updating the approval situation in close coordination with the authorities and infrastructure operators.
Some test runs are carried out in towed form whilst other units under test are already being driven under their own power. Our “Zughotel” in Braunschweig is available for prior equipment with measurement technology, such as measuring wheel sets and a pantograph measuring system.
Concentration and experience
Test runs also demand maximum levels of concentration from our test managers and locomotive drivers. Runs taken at speeds that are sometimes significantly higher than those permitted in regular operation or runs carried out with the train protection system switched off sometimes require three people to be in the driver’s cab. For example, on runs in the “Green Wave” operating procedure used in Germany, the operations test manager is in constant communication with the test engineers monitoring the measurement and limit values, while the second locomotive driver concentrates on the predetermined brake threshold and assists the first locomotive driver. Discipline on board and constant communication with the personnel involved in the trial are the key parameters we guarantee to ensure it is carried out in a safe manner.
The opening and liberalisation of European rail transport allows, for example, for a train to be built in Germany for a Norwegian customer and for it then to complete the majority of its test runs in Spain. This happens despite the fact that it is classified on the German rail network as extra wide due to its large dimensions.
Having handled over one hundred test campaigns throughout Europe, RailAdventure has a wealth of experience handling test runs. Our neutrality and openness enables us to collaborate with a wide variety of testing institutes as well as our customer’s preferred service provider.
As an interim operator, we look after maintenance supervision, security services for vehicle surveillance and any administrative issues with the energy suppliers. Our industry customers are able to fully focus on their brand-new rail vehicles while we handle the whole preliminary operation before they are subsequently put into regular operation.
So that you, as operators, can focus on your core tasks, we offer you our own specific resources. Whether it’s for a test run at short notice, a transfer required to the next deployment site or getting your vehicle to a workshop appointment on time. We also deal with trains that can no longer be driven and have trained personnel specially for fault clearance, investigation work and onward journeys. This also applies if we have to drive to destinations that are outside of the operator’s normal operational area. Our ad-hoc team is available 24/7 and can respond at very short notice to relieve other transport companies of these additional needs as quickly as possible.
We provide our rail knowledge to renowned rail freight operators and operate our own control centre in the Netherlands to coordinate their European transport. Our multi-lingual colleagues monitor operations 24/7 and look for solutions in the event that any anomalies occur. This service package includes continuous coordination between interfaces, constant communication with and information flow to our customers and their end customers, as well as the relevant documentation. Neutrality and confidentiality towards our customers, some of whom are in competition, is our highest priority.
Accidents in rail transport are very rare. In these exceptional situations, however, RailAdventure offers quick, simple and above all professional support and looks after the vehicle involved. It’s not uncommon for the situation to get rather hectic in terms of getting the track cleared quickly and further avoidable damage can occur. Our specialists keep a close eye on the valuable assets, assess their transportability and prepare the vehicles for removal. If it isn’t possible to remove the train on its own wheels, we can use our transport system Loco Buggy. We coordinate our activities directly with the emergency management team responsible. Discrete handling, structured privacy screen to guard against unwanted photographs and vehicle surveillance are standard.
The last run of a rail vehicle after has come to the end of its useful life is made to transport it to the recycler. Given that most vehicles have not been operated for a long period of time, the last run is often still a major challenge as the relevant maintenance cycles have no longer been kept up with or the vehicle is often already in bad technical condition. Our team of technicians are therefore often needed to carry out the appropriate preparation and investigation required. We hold regulatory authorisation in accordance with Section 54 Waste Management Act in Germany (or equivalent authorisation in other countries).