Hydrogen trains in Poland are the future – Hubert Meronk, Siemens Mobility
From the beginning of January 2022. Hubert Meronk took over as CEO of Siemens Mobility in Poland, replacing Krzysztof Celiński, who is retiring after nearly 50 years of professional work. We talk about the new CEO’s plans for the company’s development in Poland and Siemens’ position in Europe.
First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your new position in Siemens Mobility. What are the company’s plans for the coming years?
Siemens Mobility has been operating on the Polish market for over 30 years, implementing projects in the area of rolling stock, railroad infrastructure, service and components. The company delivered, among others, the first Inspiro metro vehicles in Warsaw and Combino streetcars in Poznań, and for over 10 years has been supplying components for rolling stock and railroad systems manufacturers all over Poland. Siemens Mobility is also the largest supplier of multi-system locomotives (Eurosprinter, Vectron and Smartron) in Poland, used on a daily basis by PKP Intercity, PKP Cargo, DB Cargo Polska, CARGOUNIT, Lotos Kolej and Laude Smart Intermodal, among others. Now it is time for the next step. We want to maintain our leading position in the field of multi-system locomotives, as well as a large-scale implementation of our other rolling stock solutions covering regional and high-speed trains and electrification and railroad traffic control systems, which will contribute to the modernization of the entire system of railroad transport in Poland. Our long-term focus is also on digitalization, cyber-security, and the emergence of modern systems that enable safer, easier, and more efficient travel planning for both passengers and rail operators in Poland.
Environmental protection is a very important topic these days. What systems are in place to generate energy savings in your solutions?
As the most environmentally friendly mode of transport, rail has a huge role to play in the decarbonization of Europe by 2050. Siemens Mobility’s guiding principle in the production of all rail vehicles is to care for the environment and reduce operating costs. This is why our vehicles have a very high recycling rate (95-98%), which is verified on a project-by-project basis. In order to achieve as low a carbon footprint as possible, we not only use environmentally friendly materials but also apply advanced manufacturing technologies. This translates into a higher production price for the vehicle, but lower life cycle costs. Vehicles designed from the start to be environmentally friendly consume less energy, make less noise and require fewer component replacements – all of which translate into real savings over the course of their lifetime.
Ecological solutions are present, for example, in the latest hybrid vehicles – the hydrogen train Mireo H or the battery train Mireo B, which over their entire life cycle are cheaper than the latest diesel train. And Germany’s DB Cargo is reducing its fuel consumption by 8 million liters and its carbon dioxide emissions by 17,000 tons each year by purchasing 400 Vectron Dual Mode hybrid locomotives.
Another very tangible example of the link between lifecycle costs and environmental protection is the use of special windows with an applied structure to improve the communication range inside the vehicle. The use of such windows eliminates the necessity of installing a network of ICT devices which will require power supply, maintenance works or even subscription costs throughout their operation. They are used, for example, on Desiro RRX commuter trains in the Ruhr area, increasing the radio and internet signal by 50%.
One of Europe’s climate-fighting strategies is the renaissance of night trains. Is Siemens also participating in related work?
Europe faces many difficulties in international traffic – four power systems, a dozen safety systems. We need to make train travel from country A to B easier, and one way to do that is to make night trains more popular. As Siemens Mobility, we have a big part to play in this endeavor by designing brand new Nighjet vehicles for OBB. They will be launched in 2022 and the first vehicles will go on the tracks in 2023.
The next-generation Nightjet consists of two regular cars, three couchette cars and two sleeping cars. Their design combines ultra-modern elements with an even higher level of passenger comfort. The new couchette concept also offers additional mini-suites for single travellers to ensure a pleasant journey and a relaxing arrival. Sleeper car travel will be even more comfortable, as each of the standard and deluxe compartments has its own toilet and shower. The previously offered regular compartments will of course still be available, with an upgraded look.
New to the upcoming Nightjet generation is free network access, previously only available on the long-distance Railjet along with the option to use the ÖBB Railnet package. The new trains are also adapted to the needs of people with disabilities – each will have a multi-functional carriage with a lowered entrance, a barrier-free couchette and a toilet for people with disabilities.
How do you cooperate with other manufacturers operating on the Polish railroad market?
The history of Siemens Mobility’s cooperation in Poland with domestic manufacturers is long and constantly developing. Since 2010, we have been providing, among others, gears and other components for the vehicles of Bydgoszcz-based Pesa, and together with NEWAG we are implementing Inspiro metro projects for Warsaw and Sofia, while equipping their vehicles with our on-board devices.
At the beginning of 2022, we are also starting a joint project with Kombud for PKP PLK on the installation of ETCS Level 1 systems on line 226 (Pruszcz Gdański – Gdańsk Port Północny). We also provide our switch drives to customers all over Poland on a regular basis.
We are very open to the development of cooperation in large infrastructure projects such as CPK or related to the use of alternative power sources such as hydrogen or battery systems.
How could the company participate in the CPK works?
The CPK project is very interesting for Siemens Mobility. We have participated in the technical dialogue with NCBiR and we are in touch with CPK partners regarding cooperation in particular phases. Siemens Mobility could find itself in this project in two key areas – by providing equipment and facilities for new railroad lines, including electrification system and remote control system, and of course in the rolling stock part – by creating vehicles, which would run to CPK and throughout Poland. We foresee cooperation with Polish manufacturers in this regard, to develop Polish industry and technological thought.
Do you intend to develop hydrogen trains on the Polish market?
We offer a technologically advanced and energy efficient vehicle for regional traffic – the Mireo, which we also offer in battery (Mireo B) and hydrogen (Mireo H) versions. Our hydrogen train has a speed of 160 km/h, a range of 600 km for the two-car version, and 1000 km for the three-car version. Refuelling takes no more than 15 minutes, which is the same as refuelling a diesel train. However, a hydrogen vehicle alone is not enough; the accompanying infrastructure is equally important. Together with DB and the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Transport, we are implementing such a comprehensive project in Tübingen – from the production, express fuelling and storage of hydrogen to the delivery of the hydrogen train. This vehicle will run between Tübingen, Horben and Pforzheim, replacing the diesel multiple unit that runs there. We estimate that the change in propulsion will save around 330 tons of CO2 in one year. Hydrogen trains in Poland are the future.
Hubert Meronk – Graduated from IT studies in Norway and the USA. Gained managerial and professional experience working in leading positions for CapGemeni in Norway, VingCard in the USA and in Poland, Bank PKO BP, Bank BOŚ Bank, LOT Polish Airlines. He has extensive knowledge in the field of railways, process modeling, building and implementing digitization strategies and IT systems on the Polish market. In 2017-2022 he was a board member of the Metro Warszawskie. He also has valuable local government experience as a city councilor in the Konstancin-Jeziorna municipality in the committee devoted to smart city issues. From January 2022, as the CEO of Siemens Mobility Sp. z o.o.