KAZAKHSTAN Railways (KTZ) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Wabtec for the supply of 150 FLXdrive battery-electric shunting locomotives and modernisation work to convert the railway’s existing mainline diesel fleet to liquid natural gas (LNG) using the supplier’s NextFuel technology.

The MoU is worth approximately $US 600m.

The shunting locomotives will be 100% battery powered and offer an output of more than 1.5MW/h. Wabtec says the shunting locomotives will enable KTZ to reduce the fuel costs associated with yard operation by $US 75,000 per shunter per year. The FLXdrives also will reduce scheduled maintenance by up to 97%.

Wabtec will provide NextFuel kits to convert the diesel locomotives to LNG, which will increase the operational range of travel from 1300km to 3000 km and cut fuel costs by up to 26%.

In addition, Wabtec and KTZ will collaborate on introducing digital technologies for the fleet, including Trip Optimiser, which Wabtec says will provide fuel-efficient operation modes for freight trains to reduce fuel consumption by at least 5%. Pilot testing is planned for the fourth quarter and with successful results it will be deployed on KTZ locomotives.

Wabtec will manufacture the battery shunting locomotives and convert the diesel units to LNG at its plant in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan. Production will begin in 2024.

“Battery power is an ideal solution to reduce the environmental impact and costs of yard operations,” says Mr Rafael Santana, president and CEO of Wabtec. “Using the FLXdrive in a rail yard can significantly improve local air quality and reduce noise for neighbouring communities. We are proud to partner with KTZ on this strategic investment.”

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