In recent years, the railway industry has been focusing increasingly on the active and passive safety of railway vehicles. Being one of the leading manufacturers in this field, Voith Turbo Scharfenberg has taken up this chal-lenge and offers the full range of frontend energy absorbing components for all types of rail vehicles as a systems supplier.

Depending on the type of vehicle and its purpose, many different factors have to be considered when developing adequate energy absorbing systems. In trams, for example, the main focus lies on the protection of passers-by and other road users. Until quite recently, these vehicles were equipped with rigid couplers, dangerously protruding from off the train’s open front. Nowadays, the front side of the train is completely closed. Front flaps conceal the foldable cover when it is not in use. In some cases it is even cushioned with polyurethane foam.

For the Avanto trains operated in Paris, Voith Turbo Scharfenberg has gone one step further by designing a coupler which folds twice and thus fits into an extremely confined space. For coupling, the front flap is automatically opened and the coupler is extended. These and similar solutions allow train operators to flexibly respond to changing ridership and vary the lengths of their train sets as required - automatically and without putting at risk personnel or passers-by.

In main-line traffic as well, the use of energy absorbing components and fully fledged front end systems has become increasingly established. Reasons here: Improved aerodynamic characteristics and the protection of passengers and vehicles in case of an accident. As an example, the German high speed train ICE 3 was equipped with a four-stage system, featuring an energy absorption level of up to 1 MJ in the coupler alone. This allows for compensating impacts of up to 22 km/h (former systems covered 3 km/h).

For the Spanish high-speed trains Talgo 250 and 350, Voith Turbo Scharfenberg has designed a complete front end system including front nose module, driver’s cabin roof and automatic coupler. When uncoupled, the coupler is retracted behind the front flaps, which form a streamlined body with perfect aerodynamic -characteristics. Here, energy absorption amounts to 3 MJ - 1 MJ is absorbed by the coupler, an additional 2 MJ are taken care of by the special frame structure of the front nose module. This way, the vehicle structure is protected, and costly damage - which can be caused by collisions with even small animals – is reduced to a minimum by additional crash absorbing and damping elements.

Adverse environmental and weather conditions, too, can be “diffused” with a front end system protecting against dirt, water, ice and snow. In this way, the coupler is always fully operational. Example: The Swedish X40 train, which was provided with a frame consisting of a housing and movable front covers. The gap between coupler and car body is closed by a snow-gaiter.

Another energy absorption problem is presented by the rigid connections of carriages linked by Jacobs bogies. Energy-absorbing joints solve this dilemma. They maintain the required resilience between the car bodies and provide the necessary safety in case of an impact. Projects that have already been realized operate with energy absorption levels of 300 and 560 kJ.

The above solutions help to minimize accidents and personal injury and hence also reduce consequential costs. Voith Turbo Scharfenberg supplies these systems from one source, perfectly adapted to each other.