A look at Bombardier FLEXITY Light Rail Vehicle

FLEXITY is a family of light rail vehicles (LRVs) manufactured by Bombardier Transportation under its urban mobility product portfolio. Currently, a total of six FLEXITY models are in revenue service in various cities across the world.

FLEXITY LRVs include low-flow vehicles (100 per cent or 70 per cent), high-floor vehicles, as well as dual-system solutions. Low-flow vehicles, suitable for tram operations, allow for easy access to disabled passengers in wheelchairs. Most models incorporate multi-purpose areas for luggage, wheelchairs and pushchairs. FLEXITY LRVs can be unidirectional or bidirectional.

Key Design Features of FLEXITY LRVs

The frame of FLEXITY LRVs is made of carbon steel while the under-frame is made of corrosion-resistant steel. The cabin is built using stainless/carbon steel and glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) for the driver’s cab.

FLEXITY 2, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.
Credit: Bombardier

FLEXITY LRVs incorporate a modular design that allows customization to meet specific client’s requirements. The cab, aluminium roof and stainless-steel sidewall are separately built and bolted to the steel car body. The modular design also allows for replacement of the modules in case of damage.

The LRVs can be equipped with the Obstacle Detection Assistance System (ODAS) which assists drivers in critical situations. ODAS improves safety by detecting and tracking even non-metallic obstacles and warning the driver of potential risks. As an option, ODAS can autonomously initiate smooth braking for increased safety.

FLEXITY trams’ energy consumption can be reduced by up to 30 per cent when equipped with Bombardier’s MITRAC Energy Saver from the ECO4 product portfolio which emphasises energy, efficiency, economy and ecology. The MITRAC Energy Saver, for recuperating braking energy, is an innovative technology which enables the braking energy of trams to be stored directly in the vehicle and then fed back during acceleration. The energy is stored on a purely electrical basis in double-layer capacitors (ultracapacitors) on the vehicle roof and can be used again during acceleration or autonomous operation of the vehicle. The MITRAC Energy Saver enables catenary-free operation for short distances and as a part of Bombardier’s PRIMOVE solution for long distances.

Bombardier FLEXITY LRVs Around the World

FLEXITY LRVs have been deployed in a number of urban transit networks in major cities around the world.

Bombardier won its first order from Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) in April 2007 for eight LRVs, with option orders for 112 additional LRVs in several batches. The most recent order for 27 vehicles was announced in July 2018, bringing the total number of LRVs ordered for TfGM’s Metrolink system to 147 LRVs. The vehicles are based on the FLEXITY Swift family of LRVs.

In 2006, Bombardier signed a framework agreement with the Berlin Transport Authority (BVG) for a maximum of 206 FLEXITY vehicles. BVG originally ordered four pre-series vehicles for testing followed by 99 FLEXITY Berlin trams in 2009. The concept behind the FLEXITY Berlin tram was developed jointly by BVG and Bombardier to meet Berlin’s requirements. The FLEXITY Berlin tram has step-less entrances that provide 100% barrier-free access. As at May 2020, Bombardier had delivered 200 FLEXITY Berlin trams out of a total of 231 trams ordered by BVG.

Bombardier signed a contract with Frankfurt Transport Authority (VGF) in December 2001 to deliver 60 FLEXITY Classic vehicles. This was followed by one of the largest LRV contracts in March 2006 where VGF ordered 146 FLEXITY Swift vehicles. With several option orders, the number of LRVs ordered by VGF stood at 299 in 2017, with Bombardier delivering 125 LRVs by May 2014.

In September 2010, Bombardier signed a contract with the Department of Transport in Victoria, Australia to supply 50 FLEXITY Swift LRVs, with an option for a further 100 vehicles. By February 2020 a total of 85 Melbourne E-Class trams are in revenue service on Melbourne’s tram network. In 2011, the Queensland Government and Bombardier signed a contract for 14 FLEXITY 2 trams for the Gold Coast Light Rail system, followed by an option order for an additional 4 LRVs in 2015.

In December 2007, Bombardier signed a contract with the Rotterdam Transport Authority (RET) to deliver 43 FLEXITY Swift vehicles for the Erasmus and Caland lines. In February 2014 RET exercised an option for an additional 16 FLEXITY Swift vehicles for the Hoekse Lijn which were delivered in 2016.

As of August 2019, more than 4000 trams and light rail vehicles from Bombardier were already in revenue service or on order worldwide.

Competition from Other LRV Manufacturers

The success of the FLEXITY family of LRVs has been against the backdrop of stiff competition from other manufacturers’ light rail vehicles. The most notable ones include Alstom’s Citadis, Siemens Mobility’s Avanto, Combino and Avenio, CAF’s Urbos, and Stadler Rail’s Variobahn and Tango.

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