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Disabled-Friendly Streetcar
March 31, 2015   
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A team of engineers from the Warsaw University of Technology and railway vehicle manufacturer Pojazdy Szynowe PESA from the city of Bydgoszcz have designed a low-floor streetcar that is disabled-friendly and packed with the latest technology.

Older types of streetcars used in Polish cities require passengers to climb two or three steps to get on and off. Modern low-floor streetcars have doors and at least a part of the floor at the platform level, so passengers in wheelchairs can also travel in such vehicles. Low-floor streetcars are also much easier to board for senior citizens and little children.

The streetcar designed by the Warsaw and Bydgoszcz engineers has a low floor along its entire length and no stairs or varying floor levels.
A prototype of this disabled-friendly streetcar was built in December last year. Work on the prototype was overseen by Jacek Konop, director of PESA’s research and development department. The science aspects of the project were coordinated by Prof. Andrzej Chudzikiewicz from the Warsaw University of Technology. In order to obtain funding for the project, zl.11.2 million in total, PESA formed a consortium with the Warsaw University of Technology. The consortium received over zl.5.1 million in co-financing from the National Center for Research and Development (NCBR) as part of its Demonstrator+ program.

In order to ensure that the whole streetcar is a low-floor vehicle, the designers had to eliminate traditional undercarriages where the wheels on either side of the vehicle are directly connected by a simple axle. The wheels in the new streetcar rotate independently of one another due to an innovative transmission system enabling independent control of each wheel. The new type of undercarriage features a state-of-the-art, lightweight framework. The wheels are connected using innovative portal axles.

The project managers, Łukasz Raszczyk and Łukasz Będziński, say the Polish design is more innovative than similar low-floor streetcars abroad. They add that the Polish streetcar is partly built from composite materials, so it is lighter than other vehicles of this kind, uses less energy and is less harmful to the environment, according to Raszczyk and Będziński.

In addition to advanced mechanical systems, the Polish engineers have fitted the streetcar with an online control and diagnostics system. This hi-tech system enables technical crews to monitor the work of the vehicle remotely.

Before the engineers built their prototype, they ran multiple computer simulations and tests on models of the streetcar. The tests included dynamic action analysis in which new technical concepts were tested in motion. Some of the tests were devised by expert construction engineering labs to calculate the durability of the vehicle and its components.

The streetcar has passed the first round of tests. The engineers have conducted automated simulations and computations. They have also compiled a list of incidents that could occur in a running vehicle and then they simulated various scenarios to check how the streetcar’s individual components performed under unusual circumstances. A special diagnostic test station for the streetcar was built and launched by engineers from PESA.

The prototype streetcar will soon be tested in the streets. It is expected to travel 5,000 km on selected streetcar routes in Warsaw. In the process, data will be collected on how the vehicle behaves in motion, how its on-board systems function, and how effectively they are operated by the drivers. If the tests are successful, the prototype will go into mass production.

According to Raszczyk, the streetcar should enable PESA to enter the market for such vehicles in Western Europe. PESA is already taking part in several bidding procedures abroad in which it has offered its product.

Karolina Olszewska
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