Pendolino Tilting Train, Italy

Pendolino is a high-speed tilting train manufactured by Alstom Ferroviaria. It travels at a top speed of 250km/h on the conventional tracks, eliminating the need for specially laid tracks.

The high-speed train is named 'Pendolino', meaning small pendulum in Italian, due to its mechanism to tilt at the bends.

Pendolino trains have been in operation for more than 40 years. The technology was originally developed by Fiat Ferroviaria. Alstom inherited it after acquiring Fiat Ferroviaria in 2000. Pendolino is manufactured at Alstom's Savigliano site in Italy.

There are currently around 400 Pendolino trains operating in 11 countries across Europe including Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, UK, Switzerland, China, Germany and Romania. 

Pendolino variations

"The high-speed train is named 'Pendolino' meaning small pendulum in Italian"

The first working prototype was developed and launched by Fiat Ferroviaria in 1969. Known as ETR Y 0160, it had an electrically powered tilting car body and was the first to be given the name Pendolino. The prototype was followed by the construction of two more units of electric multiple unit-ETR 401.

The first unit was launched for public service in 1976 on the Rome-Ancona route operated by Italian State Railways.

The second unit was delivered to Spanish rail operator Renfe to operate on its wide gauge. ETR 401 had four cars and could travel at 295km/h.

Fiat acquired patents for the tilting technology used in the UK's Advanced Passenger Train (APT) project in 1982. APT was an experimental project developed by British Rail which did not take off.

Fiat made several improvements over the original technology and introduced an advanced first generation-ETR 450 on the Rome-Milan route. It was the first Pendolino to enter regular service. It was a nine-car train with a restaurant coach configuration. It ran at a top speed of 250km/h and covered the journey between Rome and Milan in four hours. It could tilt at an angle of 13°.

The second generation-ETR 460 was introduced in 1993. It was designed by design firm Giorgetto Giugiaro. It had several improvements over the first generation such as the powerful AC asynchronous motor, installation of anti-tilting action pistons in the body and bogie-to-body connection. The tilt angle was reduced to 8o to provide more safety and comfort.

ETR 460 maintains a low axle load of 14.5t/axle that allows the train to run at 35% more speed on curves compared to conventional trains. Further advanced versions of ETR 460 are the ETR 470 built for Cisalpino, an Italo-Swiss company and the ETR 480 for Trenitalia.

New Pendolino

After making several improvements, Alstom launched the new Pendolino ETR 600 and ETR 610 in 2006. The trains were developed for Trenitalia and Swiss Federal Railways. Both these variants are more reliable than earlier versions as they have improved power traction units and high component and equipment redundancy.

The ETR 610 is more advanced than ETR 600 as it supports the voltage and signalling system used by Switzerland and Germany.

Design and features

The new Pendolino trains come in two versions. Trains with a bodyshell width of 2,830mm are suitable for UIC track (1,400mm). They operate in temperatures ranging from -25°C to +45°C. Trains with a bodyshell width of 3,200mm are manufactured for wide tracks (1,500mm). They can operate in temperatures below -40°C.

The trains come in four to nine cars accommodating 200 to 600 passengers. Each car is 26.2m long, 2.83m wide and weighs 387t. It also has heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems with in-built redundancy.

The cars are custom-built and are fitted with a European train control system, which complies with European rail traffic management system (ERTMS) for cross border operability.


The trains use Tiltronix technology. They come with hydraulic tilting bogies. The tilting rods installed in the bogies activate the tilting. The train's wheel forces have been minimised by reducing suspended masses. The bodyshell sits centred with the use of active lateral air suspension system.

The latest Pendolino trains have tilting pantographs fixed on the roof of the cars. Whenever the train tilts, the carriage slides sideways under the influence of an active counter-translation hydraulic system. This helps the pantograph to remain centred.

Current orders

China Railway High-Speed (CRH) has ordered around 50 electric multiple unit (EMU) cars with Alstom, design based on the new Pendolino. The first order for 30 cars was placed in 2009 and the remaining in 2010. However, these are non-tilting trains.

The latest order received was in June 2011 from Polskie Koleje Panstwowe (PKP) Intercity, a long distance rail operator in Poland. Valued at €665m, the rolling stock contract calls for supply of 20 New Pendolino trains with the first train scheduled for delivery in 2014.

"There are currently around 400 Pendolino trains operating in 11 countries across Europe"

The new fleet will run the existing routes between Warsaw-Gdansk and Warsaw to Katowice at a speed of 250km/h. In addition to rolling stock, the Poland contract also includes the supply of maintenance service for 17 years and construction of a 12,000ft² maintenance depot.

Although the design of new Pendolino trains for Poland has not yet been finalised, it is expected to be close to the ETR 610. PKP has proposed the internal and external design of the trains but has not yet finalised it.

Pendolino sustainability

The new Pendolino trains are claimed to be 95% recyclable. The electric brake systems save up to 8% of energy consumed. Alstom says about 97% of the power is recycled and fed back into the catenary system.

Sound insulation under the body and optimised aerodynamic design reduce sound penetration through the roof. A shock absorber dumping system vibration under the wheels also contributes to lower noise pollution.