Et was a very long break: due to the corona virus, it took four years before the leading trade fair for transport technology, Innotrans, could take place again. Industry representatives from all over the world have been meeting since Tuesday to “see, hear and smell the products”, as the head of Messe Berlin, Martin Ecknig, puts it. When it comes to buses and trains, it’s less about hearing or smelling – the rule here is: less is more. But, as Ecknig adds, you can of course take a test seat on the exhibition grounds, which not only have 42 Innotrans halls, but also 3.5 kilometers of tracks for rail vehicles. With 250 world firsts, 2834 exhibitors from 56 countries represent the wide range of an industry that ranges from train manufacturers and infrastructure providers to service providers.
With the motto "The Future of Mobility" at the fair, the aim in Berlin is to make it clear: the future belongs to rail. In Germany, given the disastrous state of the German train just doubting it. But EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean, who attended the opening along with Transport Minister Volker Wissing, assures us: "In the coming years, rail will be the focus of European transport policy."
"Railway industry is climate protection industry"
Not only the railway operators benefit from this. The railway industry also benefits from this. "The railway industry is a climate protection industry," advertises the German industry association VDB. The European goal of climate neutrality by 2050 will drive demand in all market segments over the next few years, expects the President of the European industry association UNIFE, Philippe Citroën. Many manufacturers are already looking forward to record sales and full order books. In the coming years, the world market will grow by a further 3 percent annually and reach a volume of almost 211 billion euros in 2025, according to Citroën's forecast.
With regard to the climate argument, one's own sustainability is also one of the major issues in Berlin. In Germany, for example, only 61 percent of the routes are electrified - but a continuous expansion would be too expensive, and diesel locomotives should be kept on the sidings not only according to the opinion of the industry. "Wherever there are gaps in electrification, the use of hydrogen trains and battery vehicles is an option," says Rüdiger Wendt from the Association of German Engineers (VDI). The battery for shorter distances, the hydrogen for longer ones.
The range on offer at Innotrans is correspondingly extensive. Industry giant Siemens Mobility, supplier of the ICEs for Deutsche Bahn, is showing the next generation of hydrogen trains with the local transport model Mireo Plus H and the Mireo Plus B, which is equipped with a modular battery system. The hydrogen-powered Coradia iLint passenger train from competitor Alstom is already in commercial use in Germany. Stadler presents its hydrogen-powered Flirt H2 multiple unit for American passenger transport for the first time. The Japanese manufacturer Hitachi also has a battery on board its passenger train and thus three types of drive in one train.
How do I take the train tomorrow?
In Berlin, a lot is about drives, but not only. The train passenger should be even more interested: How do I take the train tomorrow? The DB offshoot Südwestbayernbahn (SOB) has developed an idea train that is supposed to offer possible answers and that is also sold as a “world first” and “revolution in rail travel”. That's probably a bit of a stretch - but at least the concept opens up some interesting suggestions. In the idea train, as it is called, ten different areas with new developments address the different needs of the passengers. In four "office cubicles" you can work in peace behind closed doors. If you don't feel like it, you can sit comfortably with colleagues, friends or passengers in the "Stammtisch" area.
Speaking of sitting: all the seats on the Idea Train have been newly developed and redesigned. A “new luxury” is promised for first class, as well as “an extra portion of relaxation in the relaxation seats”. At the Innotrans, people don't just think about the train equipment. The Upper Palatinate manufacturer Grammer, which also produces car parts, is presenting its "Ubility One" product family for bus and train seats in Berlin.
It was "developed with a focus on people and their usage profiles in public transport", it is promised. Anyone who completes medium or longer distances can use the "Ubility Air", a so-called lightweight seat in twin-sheet technology: "The outer and inner shell form a stable, comfortable structure with air chambers and a total weight of just four kilograms." The "Ubility Shift” therefore, a next-generation solution around the entrance and exit. These are padded, body-high supports for leaning on, handles and "clever kinematics" with which a small seat can be extended.
Seats are what every customer sees first on a train. But the Innotrans also goes deep into the invisible areas of the rail and railway system. The supplier Armacell advertises with a super-thin, high-performance thermal insulation. Barantech from Israel offers a "robust and hygienic alternative to conventional switches and buttons" for contactless door opening. Bio-Circle Surface Technology wants to make the cleaning of fresh water systems in trains easier with a stainless steel system and the "Power Cleaner DB". The examples show that the railway industry and its suppliers are cultivating a wide field – one that certainly promises to be future-proof.