Multi-system vehicle

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A two- or multi-system vehicle is an electric rail vehicle that can obtain its drive energy from at least two different traction current systems via overhead lines and / or busbars . This differs from a single-system vehicle, which is only designed for a single traction current system .

If in case the available traction power to alternating current is, he must possibly by means of transformer and inverter for the traction motors are reshaped. This includes, for example, locomotives for European, cross-border traffic that support different traction current systems on the individual route sections. Light rail vehicles are also designed as multi-system vehicles if required. These can then be operated both with the tram power supply (mostly 600 or 750 V DC) and with the traction power supply (e.g. 15 kV AC). Examples of the latter are the GT8-100C / 2S vehicles of the Karlsruhe AVG (since 1992), as well as those of the Saarbahn in Saarbrücken .

The combination of electric and diesel drive in one vehicle is also sometimes referred to as a multi-system vehicle, but vehicles with such a bimodal drive are usually referred to as dual-powered locomotives or dual-powered rail vehicles . An example of such a vehicle is the RhB Gem 4/4 . Also, hybrid locomotives , who, in contrast to conventional multi-system and two motor vehicles an additional energy storage on board, are sometimes referred to that way.

Two- and multi-system locomotives

Depending on the design, there are two, three and four-system locomotives and multiple units. Multi-system locomotives have been in use since the early 1960s. The time-consuming locomotive change at the borders can thus be omitted. However, these locomotives must meet the regulations and technical requirements of the various countries in order to support interoperability . For example, these locomotives have several pantographs with different pallets and safety devices such as train control systems .

Traction vehicles for two power systems are possible as dual voltage, dual frequency and dual system vehicles.

Two-voltage vehicles for direct voltage operation are relatively easy to implement with classic resistance control if the ratio of the voltages is 1: 2 (in Europe primarily 1.5 and 3 kV). In this case, the traction motors are usually connected in pairs under 1.5 kV in parallel and under 3 kV in series. Classic direct current locomotives for 3 kV can also be used with reduced power below 1.5 kV. This method was used, for example, at border stations between France and Italy and Spain to simplify the construction of the contact line.

Dual-frequency vehicles can be used under both of the usual AC systems. The main transformer needs taps for both voltages, a dielectric strength for the higher value and the larger iron cross-section for the lower frequency. This increases the total mass.

A two-system vehicle for a direct current and an alternating current system is a direct current vehicle with an additionally built-in transformer with a fixed gear ratio.

Three-system vehicles are relatively rare, most of them are available for the combination of 25 kV, 50 Hz as well as 1.5 and 3 kV DC voltage. Every other conceivable combination could be expanded to a four-system vehicle with little effort, at least with classic control. This has changed with the introduction of the three-phase drive with a direct current intermediate circuit. This has simplified the construction of vehicles for two AC and one DC voltage system, the second DC voltage system in turn requires more effort (for example, due to traction motors that can be switched from star to delta connection ). In many multi-system vehicles, the drive powers differ under different contact wire voltages. Only control by power electronics made it possible to achieve the same performance under different voltages, with the high currents below 1.5 kV and their transmission to the vehicles still having a limiting effect.

Class 181.2 locomotive
Two-system railcar ÖBB 4855
Two-system locomotive 371 002 of the České dráhy in Dresden Central Station

The two-frequency locomotives of the class 181.2 run as scheduled on the lines of Deutsche Bahn AG and SNCF in France , dual-system locomotives of the class 180 on the lines of ČD ( Czech Republic ) and PKP ( Poland ).

Four-system locomotives can run on all electrified standard gauge lines throughout Europe with the exception of southern England; z. B. the locomotives of the class 189 of the Deutsche Bahn AG or earlier the locomotives of the class 184 of the Deutsche Bundesbahn . However, the facilities for the country-specific train control systems must be available in the locomotives .

Vehicles for more than four power systems are technically possible, but at least so far there has been no need for them.

Particularly problematic with three- and four-system vehicles in classic control was the multi-part design, the associated increased susceptibility to failure and, in addition, a significantly higher mass compared to single-system vehicles with the same performance. Therefore, they could not be generally accepted, their distribution always remained very limited. That only changed when the converter drive with three-phase asynchronous motors was ready for series production. With these, the multi-system capability is associated with significantly less weight gain. The different train control devices remain problematic.

The SNCF uses numerous multi-system vehicles. Since there are two traction current systems in France (1.5 kV direct voltage and 25 kV, 50 Hz alternating voltage ), dual-system locomotives are also used in domestic traffic, e.g. B. SNCF BB 26000 . The TGV multiple units and the RENFE 100 series derived from them, as well as those from Eurostar, are also capable of two or more systems. The SNCF also provided e.g. B. 1964 ten four-system locomotives of the series SNCF CC 40100 in service. These impressive locomotives were used in the TEE traffic to Belgium , Germany and the Netherlands . The top speed was 180 km / h, the continuous output 3670 kW. Today Thalys units operate on these routes .

Other railway administrations use multi-system locomotives z. B. SNCB (Belgium), ČD and ÖBB (Austria). Because of the location of the Belgian network, which is connected to a different electricity system at each border, four-system machines were built for SNCB relatively early on. There are also multi-system locomotives in domestic traffic in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as the route network is partially electrified with 3 kV DC voltage and 25 kV, 50 Hz AC voltage . ČD also owns locomotives that are identical to the German BR 180 under the series designations 372 (120 km / h) and 371 (160 km / h) for 3 and 15 kV.

The multiple units of RENFE series 130 are one of the few examples of two-system drive trains, the additional operating between Iberian broad- and control track umspurbar are.

Since the opening of the European internal market , private rail locomotives have also been running on European routes.

The problem in Europe is the country-specific train control systems . The locomotives must be set up for this. However, this requires high costs. In the meantime, the radio-based train control system ETCS has been developed, but it is not yet available everywhere, so that cross-border use of the locomotives is still difficult.

Deutsche Bahn

In the EDP ​​numbering plan introduced by the Deutsche Bundesbahn in 1968, the master number range 180 to 189 was provided for multi-system locomotives. With the transition to three-phase drive , however, this number range turned out to be too scarce, the Vectron and Smartron locomotives were given the series designations 193 and 192. Since the changeover to the UIC EDP numbers, this number range is no longer taken into account, the two- frequency Eurodual -Locomotives from Stadler were classified as class (2) 159.

model series 180 181 182 old 182 new 183 184 185 189
Commissioning 1988 1967 1959 2000 1962 1966 2000 2003
Retirement - 2018 1982 - 1969 2002 - -
Number of units built 20th 29 3 25th 1 5 400 1 100
Wheel alignment Bo'Bo '
Electricity systems ~ 15  kV , 16.7  Hz
- 25 kV, 50 Hz
Power systems =
3 kV
- - - - 1.5 kV
3 kV
- 1.5 kV
3 kV
Continuous output 3080 kW 3200 kW 2500 kW 6400 kW 2150 kW 3000 kW 5600 kW 6400 kW
Top speed 120 km / h 160 km / h 120 km / h 230 km / h 100 km / h 140 km / h 140 km / h 140 km / h
1 400 units of the 185 series have been ordered, and by the beginning of 2007 around 280 locomotives had been accepted

Two- and multi-system multiple units

Thalys PBKA
A three-system Flirt 3 between Arnhem Centraal and Düsseldorf Hbf

There are also multiple-system-capable multiple units, especially in the high-speed range. Early on, during the high-speed test drives between Bordeaux and Dax in 1953, those responsible at the SNCF realized that the necessary power with the 1.5 kV direct voltage system could not be reliably transmitted due to the resulting high currents. After it had also become apparent in the 1970s that the operation with gas turbine multiple units would not be economical in the long term, it was determined that the French high-speed lines should be electrified with 25 kV AC. In order to be able to transfer to the existing network, the TGV units were designed with dual system capability for 1.5 and 25 kV right from the start.

For the TEE network, the Swiss Federal Railways acquired the RAe, the first four-system multiple units for all four overhead line voltages in the European standard gauge network, as early as 1961 , still with classic drive technology and, for reasons of space, with a machine car running in the middle of the train.

One of the first multi-system multiple units in Germany were the Thalys units, which have been running between Cologne and Paris since December 14, 1997. In the Thalys PBKA version, they are equipped for four European mainline power systems and have train control systems for three countries.

Two units of these four-system Thalys trains are owned by Deutsche Bahn and are known there as the 409 series. The design of their power cars is based on the TGV Duplex . They operate in a common pool with the units of the SNCF and NMBS and are also received by the SNCF.

A variant of the German high-speed train ICE 3 was also developed with the ICE 3M (series 406; "M" for multi-system capability ) with which the networks of foreign railways can be used. The multiple units of this series are also capable of four systems and can be equipped with the corresponding train control systems. Deutsche Bahn has 13, the Dutch State Railways 4 units of this series. The 17 trains run mainly in cross-border traffic between Germany, the Netherlands (since November 2000), Belgium (since December 15, 2002) and France (since June 2007).

As early as 1998, two-system multiple units of the ETR 470 series built in Italy were operating in Switzerland and Germany. Since June 2007, TGV- POS TGV trains have been running between France and Germany and Switzerland , which are equipped for the traction current network of the German-speaking countries and two traction current systems in France.

Three- system multiple units of type Flirt 3 from Abellio Rail NRW operate between Düsseldorf Hbf and Arnhem Centraal as Rhein-IJssel-Express RE 19 on the Oberhausen – Arnhem railway line . On this route, three-system capability is required because in addition to the German contact wire voltage of 15 kV at 16.7 Hz and the 1.5 kV direct voltage in the Dutch network, the border section up to the branch of the Betuweroute in Zevenaar is operated with 25 kV at 50 Hz.

Dual-system S-Bahn vehicles

Hamburg multi-system S-Bahn multiple unit for conductor rail and contact line operation

So that the Hamburg S-Bahn can also develop the city of Stade in Lower Saxony , two-system S-Bahn trains of the ET 474 series were purchased. This made it possible to extend S-Bahn operations to lines that can be used jointly with the long-distance railway without having to electrify them twice, which is expensive in terms of material and, due to the necessary galvanic separation of the supply voltages, also problematic with busbars and catenary. In the first section, the two-system multiple units will be used on the Niederelbebahn between Neugraben (previous end point) and Stade. 33 train units were converted or newly purchased for this purpose. Operations began with the timetable change on December 9, 2007. From 2016 onwards, the Hamburg S-Bahn will purchase units of the 490 series for further route extensions .

A similar project for the Berlin S-Bahn , as requested by the passenger associations since 1992, has so far been rejected by both the railways and politicians. These trains could run as an extension of the S9 from Spandau to Nauen and Berlin-Schönefeld Airport to Zossen . Project studies to counteract the underutilization of the capital's new north-south long-distance railway tunnel with dual-system trains are not currently being officially pursued.

Dual system light rail car

Two-system multiple unit type GT8-100D / 2S-M for the Karlsruhe light rail network

For the tram-train operation, two-system vehicles are also required in most cases. In Germany, both the provisions and regulations of the tram operating regulations of BOStrab (in tram operation) and the provisions of the EBO railway law (in railway operation) must be met when operating tram-train . Other countries have similar regulations. This also applies to light rail networks and tram networks, the routes of which are partly also run on railway lines, such as the light rail vehicles in Karlsruhe , Chemnitz , Kassel and Saarbrücken . In addition, there are double requirements for the clearance profile , for different wheel tire dimensions, for the train control systems (e.g. IWS in trams and PZB in railway operations) and the exterior lighting (e.g. direction indicators in tram traffic and triple headlights and display of the end of the train on railway lines).

The Karlsruher Verkehrsverbund uses two-system railcars on a large scale, which automatically switch between 750 volts DC voltage in the tram and 15 kV AC voltage in the long-distance rail network when they drive through the system separation points . The concept, which was realized in 1992 as a Karlsruhe model, became a model for many companies, for example the Saarbahn since 1997 and the RegioTram Kassel since 2004. As a world first, there are two-system trams and two-motor vehicles with an additional diesel-electric drive that operate in the 600 V network and also can be used on non-electrified routes. Combino twin-power trams have been using the interconnected networks of the Harz narrow-gauge railway and the Nordhausen tram since 2004.

Dual voltage tram cars

Many tram operators increased the contact wire voltage from 550 to 600 to 750 volts as part of the expansion of the tram . The relatively small difference cannot be compensated for by connecting the drive motor groups in series and in parallel . In some cases, old railcars with only a limited period of use, in which the traction motors were neither changed nor rewound, were given ineffective series resistors in the long term; newly purchased vehicles were designed by the manufacturer in such a way that they can run with both voltages. The higher voltage also enables the higher power required in light rail operations. Examples are the type M / N tram and the Variobahn units from Chemnitz-based CVAG .

foreign countries


British Class 700 for power rails and overhead lines

In the English railway network, conductor rails with 750 V DC voltage are used primarily south of the Thames , while overhead lines with 25 kV AC voltage with 50 Hz are used on the rest of the island , if the lines are electrified at all. This is why multi-system vehicles are in use in London on the Thameslink route, which runs in north-south direction and crosses the Thames . The system separation point is located in Farringdon station .

Two-system multiple units are used on lines B, C, and D of the Parisian S-Bahn system RER . These work with 1500 volts direct current from the urban RATP S railway lines and the south-western SNCF direct current network and with 25 kV alternating current from the northern regions of Paris. These vehicles are available in both single and double-decker versions. They belong partly to the RATP, partly to the SNCF.

The Portuguese state railway CP procures dual-system trains for 1.5 kV direct and 25 kV alternating voltage for the Lisbon S-Bahn network.

Some trains of the Russian version of the Velaro (Velaro RUS) are also equipped for two power systems (3 kV DC and 25 kV AC voltage); likewise the Italian Eurostar Italia ( ETR 500 ).

Between the Danish region of Copenhagen and the Swedish region of Malmö, multiple units of the series X31K and X32K , which are equipped for 25 kV / 50 Hz and 15 kV / 16⅔ Hz, operate on the Öresundståg system . The system separation point is on the island of Peberholm .

United States

Bf Trenton, ALP-46 4627

There are only a few electrified routes in the USA; a real route network only exists in the northeast around the Northeast Corridor . To make matters worse, there are several power systems in a small area due to the never centralization. The routes to New York's Grand Central Station are electrified with power rails and 650 V DC. For the further route in the direction of New Haven , the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad used an overhead contact line with 11 kV at 25 Hz AC voltage that was built between 1907 and 1920. For this purpose, appropriate multi-system locomotives were procured in order to travel the route without changing locomotives. In addition, there are lines with 12.5 and 25 kV at a frequency of 60 Hz. An example of a three-system locomotive for the three AC voltage systems is the ALP-46, derived from the German 101 series. The Acela Express multiple units are also capable of three voltages and two frequencies.

Because of the often only short electrified sections in inner-city tunnels, there are a relatively large number of dual-power locomotives , and some are also multi-system capable to use the existing contact lines. One example is the Bombardier ALP-45DP .


  • The German multi-system locomotives - EK-Special 77. EK-Verlag, Freiburg 2005.

Individual evidence

  1. White Train, Green Banana and Black Peter. In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of March 4, 2003
  2. 80,000 passengers use the ICE. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of September 3, 2002