Haramain the Desert Train
When Talgo secured the contact to supply high-speed trains for the Haramain project in Saudi Arabia in 2011, the company took on what is probably the most demanding technological challenge in railway history to date: to provide a fleet of high-speed trains capable of operating at 300km/h in the most inhospitable environment on Earth. The Talgo trains, with their unique construction and technical features, are now ready to face the extreme temperatures and the abrasive effects of desert sand.
In 2011, Saudi Arabia awarded a Spanish consortium the construction and operation contract for the 450km high-speed corridor between Mecca and Medina. Talgo was commissioned to provide 35 trains for the service, with an option for supplying a further 23 trains. Talgo will also be responsible for providing maintenance for the following 12 years. The train chosen for the Saudi Railways is the Talgo 350.
Designing and manufacturing the Talgo 350 for the Haramain project required the development of many patents including guaranteeing protection from sand and dust, passenger comfort and safety in extreme climates, and ways to reduce wheel and rail wear in the desert.
High-speed to maximise capacity
The Haramain project has been developed to transport a significant share of the more than 11 million pilgrims that travel to and from the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. To properly manage this large number of passengers, operators need to maximise seating capacity and offer a high service frequency.
Talgo's Haramain high-speed trains will operate at 300km/h and offer excellent acceleration, allowing up to five trains to operate in both directions every hour. This, together with the fact that each train can seat up to 417 passengers across 13 easy-to-access coaches with sufficient room for luggage will greatly increase capacity on the line.
Under the burning sun
It is common for temperatures to rise above 40ºC in the Saudi desert between the months of May and October. To combat this, Talgo has designed a high-performance air conditioning system that includes an auxiliary power supply in both power heads.
It is comprised of generators which are able to guarantee that the air conditioning system continues to function for at least two hours in case of an interruption of the overhead power supply. The technical specifications of this equipment include a thermal resistance that ranges from 0ºC to 50ºC.
Protected against sand
Talgo has managed to avoid the devastating effects of airborne sand, which acts as an abrasive element on car bodies and windows, and may filter into the insides of the units.
To combat the damaging effects of sand, Talgo Haramain trains are equipped with:
- Control units and traction systems under the train roof.
- Special finish on bodyshells and windows.
- Protection panels, special paints and coating.
- Special polyurethane sheets to protect the curved windows in the driving cab.
- Track clearing system that works by blowing air.
- Water-tight mechanical and electrical connections with improved sealing for mechanical elements.
- High IP rating on electrical elements.
- Equipment fitted with several air filtering layers.
- Equipment specially designed to cool the converters with coolant fluid.
- High inner pressure and special sealing on external doors.
Faster passenger flow
The 450km corridor on which the Haramain operates has five stations. To ensure good operating speeds, trains have to allow passengers to get on and off quickly.
As is the case with all Talgo trains, the units designed for the Mecca - Medina corridor are unbeatable in terms of their accessibility due to the floor of the trains being at exactly the same height as the platform. Passengers do not have to climb stairs to access the train, and once inside, there are no obstacles at same level, allowing passengers to move freely without being hindered by inner obstacles or stairs.
Accessibility is made even easier thanks to the uniform distribution of access doors along the train, which helps to avoid crowds from forming at peak times, which is expected to happen on this line.
The best travel experience
The carefully designed interiors of the Talgo trains, which meticulously follow the client's instructions, provide passengers on the Haramain high levels of comfort at high-speed, thanks to the layout and the quality of materials used:
- High powered air conditioning that ensures a pleasant room temperature at all times.
- Sufficient room for luggage.
- Wi-Fi access in every car.
- Bidet showers adapted to local cleanliness habits.
- Silent and smooth running gear through the desert landscape.
The Talgo 350 trains destined for the Haramain line are equipped with the most advanced safety systems.
- On-board control system ETCS and wireless communication GSM-R guarantee smooth traffic flow and ensure vehicle protection in all kinds of conditions, even when sandstorms dramatically reduce visibility.
- Independent air conditioning equipment keeps temperatures comfortable during the time needed to fix any failures.
- Even distribution of doors and absence of inner obstacles and barriers ensure a quick evacuation in case of an emergency.
- Articulated train with rolling assembly comprised of independently-rotating, self-guided wheels, which offer increased levels of safety at the wheel-rail interface.
Low consumption and smart maintenance
Due to its design, the Talgo 350 for Saudi Arabia is the most efficient and reliable high-speed train available today.
- Improved traction performance from fewer but more powerful engines, and a large acceleration capacity which cuts travel times.An improved weight-per-seat ratio thanks to the structure of the vehicle bodyshells and the running gear system.
- Regenerative braking systems that convert braking energy into electricity, which reduces overall energy consumption.
- Sturdy design and predictive maintenance systems both increase the operating cycle and minimise the amount of time the train spends in the workshop. More availability means higher profitability.