A V250 at Innotrans 2008 in Berlin
|Franchise(s):||International joint operation
Service began in 2009
|Main station(s):||Amsterdam Centraal,
|Fleet size:||19 V250 sets (AnsaldoBreda)
NS Hispeed class 186
|Stations called at:||10 V250 (expected)|
|Parent company:||NS International and NMBS/SNCB|
|Fyra route map|
Fyra (pronounced [fiːraː]) was an international high-speed rail service between the Netherlands and Belgium using the AnsaldoBreda V250 train. The service used the HSL-Zuid and HSL 4 railway lines to connect Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport, Rotterdam, Antwerp and Brussels. Continuous technical difficulties suspended the service, and it was eventually permanently halted due to reliability and safety concerns.
A Dutch domestic service also using HSL-Zuid was branded under the same name. Despite using the tracks built for high speed trains the service between Amsterdam and Breda uses conventional trains propelled by a TRAXX locomotive. Its name was changed into Intercity Direct to avoid confusion with the failed international service.
The name "Fyra" represents pride, and is derived from the Dutch word fier and the French word fière, both meaning proud. Fyra is also the Swedish word for four, and is said to represent the four important cities which the new trains were intended to serve — Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp and Brussels.
NS International services start at Amsterdam Centraal station. They include two trains per hour to Rotterdam, two trains per hour to Breda and one train every one or two hours to Antwerp and Brussels. All trains stop at both Schiphol Airport and Rotterdam. Services outside the Netherlands will be operated in conjunction with NMBS/SNCB, Belgium's national railway operator.
An hourly high-speed service between Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport and Rotterdam was introduced in September 2009. In October 2010 this was increased to a half-hourly service, and in April 2011 the service was extended to Breda. On July 29, 2012 the V250 made its first revenue earning service carrying passengers from Amsterdam to Rotterdam and back. The service to Antwerp and Brussels started on 9 December 2012. The service was temporarily suspended after various major technical difficulties on January 17, 2013.
After the manufacturer had been proven unable to address the issues in the contractually foreseen period, NMBS/SNCB permanently withdrew the service and annulled the contract for the delivery of 3 trains on 31 May 2013. NMBS/SNCB is also seeking a refund of its down payment, and maybe also damages.
The Fyra has a poor reputation for reliability. After a month of operations more than 5% of all trains were cancelled and less than 45% of them ran on schedule. In the middle of January 2013 further problems arose: 3 trains were damaged because of ice (among other technical problems). Further commercial service was even forbidden by the Belgian rail safety regulator. This led to several complaints from user associations and tourist information services. Both Dutch and Belgian parliament are planning to start hearings about the problems.
The continuous problems with Fyra have caused public outcry in both Belgium and the Netherlands, including accusations in the Belgian and Dutch media that only financial considerations were behind the decision to purchase V250 trains from AnsaldoBreda. Initially the maximum speed requirements were fixed at 220 km/h, which would have reduced the purchase cost per seat drastically. However, after comparing offers by Alstom (manufacturers of the French TGV) and Siemens (who manufacture the German ICE trains) with that of AnsaldoBreda, it transpired that the Italian producer was able to offer a cheaper train with a higher speed of 250 km/h, which ultimately gave the Italian company the edge. The V250's failure in December 2012 and its ultimate withdrawal from service have spawned several Dutch-language nicknames, such as "Spaghetti-boemel" (spaghetti slow train, refers to the train's paintjob) and "ALDI-trein" (ALDI-train). ALDI is a German discount supermarket chain with multiple branches in both Belgium and the Netherlands. The association of Fyra with its brand name triggered protests from ALDI management.
End of service
On 31 May 2013, NMBS/SNCB announced that they would exit the Fyra project and cancel the contract with AnsaldoBreda. on the basis of technical issues which remained unresolved during the contractual period of three months. NMBS/SNCB further noted that the late delivery alone would be sufficient reason to annul the contract. In a press conference Marc Descheemaecker, CEO of NMBS/SNCB illustrated his arguments; a metallic strip affixed to the roof had come undone on a moving train and had bent upwards towards the overhead cables, a potentially dangerous situation. Rust was found on an axle of a nearly new train which could lead to premature breakage. Other areas were also badly affected by stray current corrosion blamed on inconsistent assembly. In all there were 26 top issues which needed resolving. The problems were confirmed by reports from external partners Mott MacDonald (commissioned by NMBS/SNCB and NS) and Concept Risk (commissioned by NMBS/SNCB). Engineers of NS also subjected two partial trains to a standardised test, known as a stofkam analyse (English: fine-toothed comb test) in which they respectively scored 1157 and 2019 penalty points. The usual limit for approval of a train is 10 points. Although all problems are theoretically resolvable it is estimated this would take at least 17 months and the sheer number of issues would prohibit a practical inspection regime. Additionally, the lengthy repair scenario was considered risky due to the poor financial situation of the manufacturer. Which a report of Ernst & Young illustrated with a solvency of -47.5% and low credit ratings for its parent company Finmeccanica.
On 3 June 2013 NS also announced that the V250 is no longer considered a viable option. The decision was confirmed four days later by the Dutch government, and NS was given until October to come up with a new plan to utilise HSL-Zuid.
The failure has also led to a parliamentary investigation into the project in the Netherlands. In Belgium the justice department was asked to investigate the public procurement procedure and the Court of Audit will be asked to investigate the project.
In a press conference on 6 June, AnsaldoBreda dismissed the reports as "baseless and unfounded", and claimed that all problems result from improper usage. Two legal attempts by AnsaldoBreda to obtain information from the reports have been rejected by the Dutch courts.
NMBS/SNCB filed compensation claims of 40 million Euros against AnsaldoBreda in September 2013 seeking from the court to reclaim cash paid in advance for three trains that it had never accepted. AnsaldoBreda filed a lawsuit in the Netherlands in October against NS seeking payment for the seven trains not accepted by NS as well as damages for alleged breach of contract. NS filed a claim on 25 September against Finmeccanica seeking reimbursement for the trains it wants to return to AnsaldoBreda as well as compensation and damages.
On 17 March 2014 NS announced a settlement with AnsaldoBreda had been reached. The 9 NS trains will be returned to AnsaldoBreda for a refund of 125 Million Euro, 88 Million Euro less than originally paid. NS will receive an additional compensation for each resold unit to a maximum of 21 Million Euro.
NS International ordered 16 V250 trains from AnsaldoBreda, with NMBS/SNCB ordering a further 3 sets. They were used on Dutch domestic services and NS International services to Brussels. These sets are eight carriages long and have a top speed of 250 km/h. They entered service in December 2012 - five years later than originally planned. They were taken out of service the following month due to numerous technical issues. Four months later only two of the 9 already delivered trains were still capable of performing test runs.
Between 2007 and 2008 in order to dispense with the increasingly unreliable[not in citation given] SNCB Class 11 locomotives on the Amsterdam-Brussels services, NS International introduced twelve Bombardier Traxx F140 MS electric locomotives hired from Angel Trains, numbered in the range E186 111 to E186 122, augmented from 2011 by E186 144 and E186 239.
|Traxx||Electric locomotive||100||160||14||2005–2007||Interim usage. Leased from Angel Trains.|
|ICRm (Prio)||Carriage||100||160||?||Amsterdam - Schiphol - Rotterdam - Breda,
Amsterdam - Schiphol - Rotterdam
|V250||Electric multiple unit||155||250||19 (planned; 9 delivered)||2009–2011||Tricurrent; taken out of service after less than two months due to suspension of operating licence following safety concerns|
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- "HSA strengthens Fyra shuttle service". Railway Gazette International. 2010-10-06.
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- "fyra service prohibited". De standaard. 2013-01-18.
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- "Belgian Rail demands 40 million in damages from Fyra builder". 2013-09-26.
- "AnsaldoBreda sues NS over cancelled Fyra contract". International Railway Journal. 2013-10-02.
- "Battle over Fyra trains contract intensifies". International Railway Journal. 2013-09-27.
- "Fyra launch delayed again". Railway Gazette International. 2010-07-01. Retrieved 2010-07-02.
- "Angel Trains Cargo E186 series". Railcolor.net - Modern Locomotive Power. Retrieved 16 December 2008.