Front and rear panel of the 'front runner' train

Commissioned by NedTrain, NPSP realised 'just-in-time' a large series of high-quality and reliable products. The noses of the leading train were made of composite material, which is lighter and cheaper than the previously partly steel noses. Design and production technology ensure savings in installation costs, energy consumption, CO2 emissions and maintenance. The fastening points are incorporated in the mould, thus guaranteeing tolerances on the joints. In addition to being strong and rigid, the new nose is resistant to all weather conditions. Because several moulds are used, several panels can be produced simultaneously.

In 2010, the 25-year-old Intercity trains of Dutch Railways were in need of a facelift. The 285 front runner trains had a front and rear nose with two doors where passengers could walk from one part to the other while the train was moving. However, the doors failed more and more when coupling trains and also the passengers did not like to go through the narrow corridor when moving from one part to the other. So it was decided that the two steel doors needed to be replaced. But how? Together with the engineering department of NedTrain (Dutch Railways), NPSP developed a high-quality, reliable, very light double-curved sandwich composite front and rear panel that met all technical requirements. The development resulted in major energy savings, because they were so light. And this development was done within a tight deadline.

In addition, strength, stiffness and impact resistance were optimised. Before production started, the elements were extensively tested in Austria. DSM Resins advised on which resin should be used to fulfil the physical; properties in combination with the VA-RTM production process. Airborne Composites did part of the product engineering. 3M developed the special foil that was used instead of the environmentally unfriendly spray paint methods.

The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs supported the development through Rijksdienst Voor Ondernemend Nederland.

The 5 concrete innovations:

1. Due to the lower weight of the panels (1000 kg per train), the power consumption is lower, especially for acceleration. Dutch Railways has calculated that per lighter kg the train uses 5 kWh less energy per year. This means a saving of 5 MWh of electricity per train and therefore a saving of 500 euros in electricity costs per train per year.

2. 1 kWh of electricity is comparable to an emission of 0.5 kg of CO2. This means that each train emits 0,5 ton less CO2 per year.

3. Use of environmentally friendly VA-RTM production technology, resulting in low styrene emissions.

4. Instead of being sprayed, with high solvent emissions, NedTrain decided to switch to innovative 3M films.

5. The logical next step is to use natural fibres. A prototype for this was unveiled by the then Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment, Jacqueline Cramer.

For this project, NPSP together with NedTrain was nominated for the sustainability prize of the International Union of Railways.