A Chinese-style high-speed rail network is needed to connect Europe, Siemens Mobility rolling stock CEO Mr Albrecht Neumann told IRJ in Potsdam on August 23. 

Speaking exclusively to IRJ at the demonstration of the autonomous tram in depot project, Neumann said that he believed such a network was required because flying for short journeys is no longer attractive.  

Even though China has already constructed the world’s largest high-speed rail network, it now plans to double the size of the network by 2035, with 49 HSR projects in China in various stages from feasibility studies through to construction and commissioning according to IRJ Pro.  

Neumann says that routes such as Paris - Madrid would be perfect for high-speed services. He told IRJ that he thought journeys of around 2h 30min by air would make sense to transfer to high-speed rail, but that the infrastructure was required.  

He compared the speed of planes in the air, around 800km/h, to the speed of a high-speed train, around 360km/h, but said that while that may not be competitive, once the time spent waiting in airports as well as the journeys to and from the airports is taken into account, then rail becomes much more appealing.  

The future 

Siemens Mobility sees the rolling stock market as a sector that will be very attractive, Neumann says. “We see cities growing and mass urbanisation with more people travelling to and from their work,” he said. Asked about the impact the pandemic has had on commuting and whether that would affect the company’s view on the market, Neumann says: “the pandemic could be a setback, but we are quite sure the same demand will return.” 

He says there will soon be a need across Europe, and further afield, to replace ageing fleets with more modern trains. “Governments want people off roads and onto trains, but riding on trains from the 1970s isn’t great, people do not like this. Brand new trains with air-conditioning and Wi-Fi - that makes it more attractive. 

“Governments are willing to fund this, for example we just won a big order in the US, and that’s good for the industry and also for innovation.” 

Night train possibilities 

“The Austrian NightJet is a big idea,” Neumann told IRJ when asked about international travel. Siemens Mobility has won contracts to build a total of 33 Nightjets to enter service by 2025, however he believes the concept can be used elsewhere.  

“We would be happy to deliver such trains, and it is also push-pull too, so the multi-system Vectron locomotive is perfect. Nightjets are 200km/h trains, but we have multi-system locomotives that can operate at 230km/h,” he says, suggesting the overnight services could be accelerated.