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The Trampower City Class Light Rail Vehicle as a prototype is currently being tested on the Blackpool Tramway. It is a two car articulated electric tram, which can run off a power supply between 550V and 800V DC. Blackpool like most of the first generation systems operates at 600V DC, whereas most modern tramways use a 750V DC supply to provide enough power for heavy LRV typically drawing 1500A on acceleration . The City Class tram is notable for being Blackpoolmarker's first and so far only LRV, Blackpool having had classic tramcars running since 1885 continuously to the present day.

The City Class tram began life as a Research Paper in 1987, which addressed the question of LRV increasing in weight and cost. Since then a systematic research and development programme has been conducted. This programme was inspired by the PCC development program of 1929-1934 which aimed to create a standardised vehicle that could out perform private automobiles which were threatening the Streetcar systems of the USA. The resulting PCC, first operated on the Brooklyn system in 1935, was one of the most successful public transit vehicles, with nearly 30,000 built to the patented designs created by the Transit Research Corporation.The City Class development programme began with computer simulations, progressed to laboratory and bench testing. A 4 tonne quarter size mock up was built in 1993. The first practical experience was got with a Slave vehicle. This was a redundant 1930s tram in Blackpool, where the original equipment at one end was replaced by the patented City Class running gear. The Slave vehicle ran for 2 years (1995-1997) in Blackpool, before it was withdrawn and the equipment checked for wear and fatigue problems. A full size 29m long prototype LRV was built in parallel, with the Slave vehicle equipment at one end and an exact copy at the other. This prototype vehicle ran until 2000, when the TRAM GROUP, which had sponsored the project, ran out of money.

In the absence of volume production to reduce costs, the City Class is based on using mass produced components off the shelf (COTS), where there is a variety of suppliers and compatibility of equipment to offer operators a variety of options for economic long term maintenance. A more fundamental approach to reducing costs has been to address the heavy LRV problem, and design the City Class so that it has a weight per passenger nearer the long term norm. The City Class prototype is designed for 200 passengers, with 82 seats, 2 wheelchair spaces and 120 standees at 4 per sq.m. It has a total unladen weight of 22tonnes, about 110kg per passenger. On accelerating with a full load at 1.5m/s/s it draws 600A.

The prototype was then parked outside on a rail siding until 2005, when TRAM Power Ltd. was able to raise enough new money to continue the programme. During 2005 the prototype was completely stripped down at the Birkenhead Tramway Depot, and rebuilt to replace the weather damaged interior, and at the same time, to use the next generation of COTS, which had continued to develop since 1995. As an example, the original traction motors weighed 1000kg, had a continuous power rating of 90kW, and were 700mm in diameter. The new motors weigh 750kg, have an output of 100kW, and are 550mm in diameter.

After this rebuild, it was operated 5 days a week, 8 hours per day between Sept. and Dec. 2005 on the Birkenhead tramway, during which its performance was monitored, and a profile of reliability established. In Dec. 2005 it was taken to Blackpool to complete its proving testing, up to passenger carrying service. The Blackpool system being old and in places needing replacement due to want of maintenance, the prototype had to be modified to cope with the problems created by the antique infrastructure. These modifications and retesting continued until Nov, 2006, when it was agreed that provided trouble free mileage was accumulated, it could enter passenger service and run until October 2007. By 24th Jan. there was only another 2 weeks of test running left before the reliable mileage was accumulated.

24 January 2007 Fire

On 24 January 2007 the City Class LRV was badly damaged by a fire on its way back to Rigby Road depot. It had run a 10hour day normally. The entire cab section of one car was severely damaged in the fire. The driver escaped without injury and was checked for smoke inhalation at Blackpool's Royal Victoria Hospital. There were no other casualties. A passerby called the Fire Brigade which extinguished the fire.

The Insurance Company employed a Forensic Fire Investigator to examine the vehicle and the British Government Railway Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) also examined the vehicle, the driver and causes of the fire.

The vehicle was taken on 21st Feb 2007 to a specialist heavy vehicle accident repair workshop for a full rebuild including the fitting of further smoke and heat detectors. The RAIB also required TRAM Power Ltd to prepare a full Risk Assessment for the City Class tram. A panel of UK tram experts met for a Workshop in Blackpool, in the Directors Suite in the Football Stadium. This spent a day advising TRAM Power Ltd of the likely risks to be faced by a new tram. A full report was submitted to the RAIB in satisfaction of their requirement.

The rebuild has now been completed.

Some General Points

Once the rebuild has been completed, the City Class LRV will complete testing and enter passenger service. The 22tonne unladen weight (38tonne fully laden), means that the purchase cost of the vehicle can be recovered in about 10 years from power savings. From measurements completed to date, the average power consumption is under 0.9kWh per km run. Lower current draw alsomeans the OHL system can be lighter, substations smaller, and on existing systems, service frequency can be increased without any enhancement of the power supplies. The advanced computer control is also 95% efficient, making this one of the most advanced LRV designs today.

The 22 tonne weight also means that for new systems, structures can be lighter and therefore cheaper, making new systems and extension affordable, where today LRV is being considered in many countries as too expensive. Exercises with this modular design have a family from a 16m long rigid, to a 38m long double articulated vehicle, all with the same running gear making standardisation and maintenance practical. This also means that the 29m long version can be stretched to 38m without any basic modification, by replacing the 1m long articulation carrier with a 10m long centre section. Like the earlier PCC, TRAM Power Ltd. is willing to provide a licence agreement to any manufacturer. A fuller description of the development and testing of the City Class vehicle can be found on the TRAM Power Ltd [423836] website.

City Class applications

The City Class tram is being considered for the new tramway in the City of Galway, (pop. 85,000), where a two line network, 21km long is being planned. This will need 17 trams with a 200 passenger capacity. Information on the Galway project can be found on the GLUAS [423837] website.

The CROST project for central London is filling the vacuum from the withdrawal of public funds for the planned Cross River and Oxford Street tramways. Buses which presently operate these routes receive a subsidy of about £1 per passenger. The streets of central London are above the EU limit for health threatening emissions, of PM10 and NOX. The economic evaluation shows that the CROST tramway can operate without subsidy when each of the two lines carry about 30million passengers pa. Transport for London forecast 96million pa for the Cross River tramway by 2026. Fuller details on CROST can be found on the dedicated [423838] website.

The City Class tram was offered by TRAM Power Ltd. to Toronto in the bid submission in 2008.Bombardier was the only other bidder. According to the Transit Commission's presentation of August 27, 2008, TRAM Power Ltd. was deemed not to be commercially compliant and thus failed Stage One of the evaluation, having failed to submit required documentation including a Form of Proposal and a Bid Bond. The Bombardier tram was disqualified at Stage Two where the Commission decided it failed a derailment analysis. TRAM Power was not invited to bid again. TRAM Power Ltd. offered the City Class tram at under CAN$2.9million each, and offered to supply 100% low floor LRV's at under CAN$4.9million each.

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