Four years passed between InnoTrans 2018 and the most recent trade fair in September 2022. Held in Berlin, the trade fair was eagerly awaited. Both the interest in the railway industry and the need for dialogue is great.

The InnoTrans in Berlin is the world’s largest international trade fair for transport technology and mobility. Plasser & Theurer’s stand is always in the centre of the Railway Infrastructure segment. This year again, it attracted many visitors all day long. During the four days of the trade fair, maintenance companies and infrastructure managers met at Plasser & Theurer’s stand. And there is always something new regarding machines, concepts, and cooperation. Nothing can replace seeing each other again, exchanging ideas, and taking part in expert discussions in person. The InnoTrans was of great interest for visitors and exhibitors, although it had only been a few months since 19 Plasser & Theurer machines have been put on shown at the International Exhibition for Track Technology (iaf) in Münster.

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First fully electric Unimat for Deutsche Bahn AG

DB Bahnbau Gruppe GmbH, a Deutsche Bahn AG company, received the first fully electric tamping machine by Plasser & Theurer for the German market. The Unimat 09‑4x4/4S Dynamic E³ is the first machine of its kind that has to go through the lengthy approval procedure. It was the centre of attention. In a naming ceremony, Johannes Max‑Theurer and representatives of the customer named it the “Hulk”. It was chosen by employees of DB Bahnbau Gruppe. Admittedly, this Hulk is not like Marvel’s green avenger, but the entirely green tamping unit will always work powerfully and energetically. At the same time, it protects the environment thanks to the fully electric, emission-free, and very quiet drive: a drive with a green heart. Hulks heart will beat even greener by using green traction current.

The Unimat 09-4x4/4S Dynamic E³ is an all-in-one machine with electric 1-sleeper tamping unit for plain line tracks and turnouts, 3rd rail lifting unit, and 4-rail tamping technology with 16 adjustable tamping tines. The machine and transformer trolley includes a dynamic track stabiliser. A trailer with sweeping unit and ballast hopper complements the vehicle shown in Berlin. The efficient electric drive enables the machine to be operated with low emissions in every way and it reduces operating costs significantly. The diesel engine and generator only take over when necessary. In the contract concluded with DB Bahnbau Gruppe in 2019, an option for a second, identical Unimat from the E3 series has been agreed upon.

A world’s first, the ATMO, and much more

A world’s first has been celebrated at InnoTrans when a first model train was handed over to Andreas Matthä, the CEO of Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB). ÖBB will receive 56 fully electric maintenance vehicles with E3 hybrid drive within the next five years. They are powered via energy from the contact wire or by traction battery. A diesel power pack is only included as a backup for exceptional cases. The three machine types are part of a common modular design concept with many identical parts. They are a prime example of consistently applied ModularCustomizing, reducing investment and maintenance costs noticeably.

Another one-of-a-kind prototype, which was also on display in Berlin, is the Plasser ATMO, a rail grinding trailer for urban rail networks. It’s oscillating grinding technology sets standards. At the stand, a large team of experts provided information on ModularCustomizing, innovations related to machine, fleet, and infrastructure as well as life cycle enhancement, eco-retrofits, and used machines from the Customer Services division.

Seminar on green transition

As part of InnoTrans, a seminar evening was fully devoted to “The green transition in track maintenance – opportunities and challenges”. Four keynote speeches held by speakers from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland focused on environment and sustainability in railway construction and machine procurement. For example, Sarah Weber, Project Manager Environment/Sustainability SBB, referred to the role model effect of the first E3 machine of Krebs Gleisbau. Switzerland can only report on good experiences. Additionally, the savings potential when diesel is not used and the reduced emissions that come with it were shown. This change in trend is also initiated for the machine fleet of DB Netz AG. Timo Eschtruth, Head of Machine Fleet, said that there will be no new purchases of diesel-powered machines when alternative drives are possible. The “Hulk” Unimat mentioned above will be the first electric machine next to 320 self-propelled and diesel-powered machines and work vehicles. Further, Sven Schirmer, Corporate Procurement Coordinator of ÖBB Holding AG, and Andreas Prüller, Product Management, Plasser & Theurer, gave a presentation. One conclusion was that also maintenance companies want to upgrade to alternative and energy-efficient drives that are low on emissions. However, more incentives are needed.

InnoTrans 2022 in numbers

The impression in the halls and the outdoor area was not misleading. After the pandemic break, InnoTrans was strongly attended again. The four days of the trade fair were organised by Messe Berlin and attracted 137,394 visitors (2018: 153,421) from 131 countries (149) despite travel restrictions here and there. 2,834 exhibitors (2018: 3,062) from 56 (61) countries presented 128 rail vehicles on the site. Further, about 250 world’s firsts were introduced to the world for the first time. Almost 60 percent of the trade visitors came from abroad, two thirds of them from EU countries. The 14th InnoTrans will take place from 24 to 27 September 2024 at Messe Berlin in the usual two-year interval.