The Variobahn, formerly known as the Variotram, is a German-designed articulated low-floor tram model. Since its introduction in 1993, the Variobahn has been manufactured variously by ABB, Adtranz, Bombardier Transportation, and since 2001 by Stadler Rail. As of 2009, 254 trams have been ordered, with an additional 110 on option. A unit costs about €2.5 million.
Operators include the Graz Holding, the Bergen Light Rail, the Chemnitz Tramway, Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr, the Helsinki Tramway, the Rhine Neckar Area Tramway, London Tramlink and the Sydney light rail network.
Prototypes and early deliveries
The Variotram was first developed by ABB Asea Brown Boveri at Henschel and a prototype was launched in 1993 for the Chemnitz tramway in Germany, operated by Chemnitzer Verkehrs-Aktiengesellschaft (CVAG). The serial delivery, with minor modifications, was made between 1998 and 2001—bringing the total number of units for Chemnitz to thirty. Of these, twenty-four were operated by CVAG and six by City-Bahn Chemnitz. In 1995, ABB's train division merged to become Adtranz. One prototype the following year sold to the Duisburg Stadtbahn, but serial production was never initiated for Duisburg.
In 1996, six trams were delivered to serve on the light rail between Mannheim, Heidelberg and Weinheim, Germany, operated by Oberrheinischen Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft. From 2001 to 2007, it ordered additional 20 trams. These were supplemented in 2002 by 8 trams for the Heidelberg Tramway, and in 2001–07 by 16 trams for the Mannheim Tramway. In 1996 the Sydney light rail system, in Australia, took delivery of seven trams, which were built in Dandenong, Victoria.
Forty Variotrams were delivered to Helsinki City Transport (HKL), Finland, between 1998 and 2003 for use on the Helsinki tramway, at a cost of €76 million. In service the Variotram was found to be ill-suited for Helsinki's tram network, and the trams have suffered from numerous technical problems, e.g. cracks in the bogies and vehicle body shells. Before 2009 often less than half of the trams have been in working condition.
HKL considered returning the trams to Bombardier as unsatisfactory, but after a long series of negotiations a compromise was reached in May 2007, when the responsibility for maintaining the trams was transferred to Bombardier. The contract agreed in May 2007 states that, from May 2008 onwards, if more than four Variotrams in Helsinki are not in operational condition, Bombardier must pay a daily fine to the HKL for every non-operational tram. If more than eight trams are in non-operational condition, HKL has the right to cancel the contract and return the trams to Bombardier, who are obliged to return the €76 million that HKL paid for the trams. In order to cope with the requirements of the agreement, Bombardier established its own maintenance workshop in Helsinki in mid-2008, located in premises of the former VR Group electric locomotive workshop in Pasilan Konepaja.
Fourteen Variobahns were delivered to Münchner Verkehrsgesellshaft (MVG) between 2008 and 2011. In December 2014 MVG took seven Variobahns out of service due to cracks in vehicle bodies. In January 2015 all Variobahns had to be withdrawn for repairs. MVG chose not to exercise options to buy any more Variobahns.
Following the acquisition of Adtranz by Bombardier, an agreement was reached between Bombardier and the European Commission where Bombardier would divest the Variotram division to Stadler Rail of Switzerland.
Stadler has since secured contracts for delivering 8 Variobahn trams for use on the Ludwigshafen tramway, 30 trams for the Bochum–Gelsenkirchen tramway, 8 trams for the Nuremberg tramway, 14 trams for the Munich tramway, 12 trams for the Bergen Light Rail, 45 trams for the Graz tramway, 19 trams for the Potsdam tramway, and 6 trams for the Croydon Tramlink in London.
As of 2009, 254 trams have been ordered, with an additional 110 on option. A unit costs about €2.5 million.
The Variotram is a low-floor light rail tram designed for city center operation. Since passengers both consist of existing and new systems, and their specifications vary, the Variotram has flexibility in specifications. It can be built as single or bi-directional, with 70 or 100% low floor. Rail gauge can be standard gauge or metre gauge. Width options include 2.3 metres (7 ft 7 in), 2.4 metres (7 ft 10 in), 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) and 2.65 metres (8 ft 8 in). The length varies with either three, four, five or seven articulated modules. The floor height is 350 millimetres (14 in) over the rail. The seating and standing arrangements are flexible, and the trams feature 1,350 millimetres (53 in) wide doors. The tram has hub motors on all wheels, thus eliminating the need for axles and bogies. These compact motors are the key to the low-floor concept, since they can be placed under the seating. This allows the full length of the tram to be step-free accessible from the platforms.
Several of the configurations of the trams are customizable to fit each tramway. In addition to the four possible widths and choice of gauge, the trams can be custom built for the necessary length. Trams are built modally, such that they can later be rebuilt extended. All trams built so far have five modules and twelve wheels. The trams are available with four motor settings: four or six wheels powered with 95-kilowatt (127 hp) motors, or eight or twelve wheels with 45-kilowatt (60 hp) motors. Of the models built so far, the length has varied from 24.4 to 42.8 metres (80 to 140 ft) (Helsinki and Mannheim, respectively). Similarly, tare weight varies from 35 to 50 tonnes (34 to 49 long tons; 39 to 55 short tons). Seating capacity varies between 38 (Graz) and 100 (Heidelberg), while standing capacity peaks at 193 for the Duisburg version.
|Chemnitz Stadtbahn||Chemnitzer Verkehrs-Aktiengesellschaft||14||1993–2000||31.4 m (103 ft)||2.65 m (8 ft 8 in)||Standard||Uni||89||123||8 x 45 kW|||
|City-Bahn Chemnitz||City-Bahn Chemnitz||6||2001|
|Mannheim Tramway||MVV Verkehr||6||1996||32.2 m (106 ft)||2.5 m (8 ft 2 in)||Meter||Bi||90||100||4 x 95 kW|||
|16||2002–07||42.7 m (140 ft)||2.4 m (7 ft 10 in)||Uni||129||130||6 x 95 kW|
|20||30.5 m (100 ft)||Bi||80||90||4 x 95 kW|
|Duisberg Stadtbahn||Duisburger Verkehrsgesellschaft||1||1996||33.8 m (111 ft)||2.3 m (7 ft 7 in)||Standard||Bi||38||193||8 x 45 KW|||
|Inner West Light Rail||Transport for New South Wales||7||1997–98||28.0 m (91.9 ft)||2.65 m (8 ft 8 in)||Standard||Bi||74||143||8 x 45 kW|||
|Helsinki Tramway||Helsinki City Transport||40||1998–2004||24.4 m (80 ft)||2.3 m (7 ft 7 in)||Meter||Uni||55||80||12 x 45 kW|||
|Heidelberg Tramway||Heidelberger Straßen- und Bergbahn||8||2002||39.4 m (129 ft)||2.4 m (7 ft 10 in)||Meter||Bi||100||130||6 x 95 kW|||
|Ludwigshafen Tramway||Verkehrsbetriebe Ludwigshafen am Rhein||8||2003||30.5 m (100 ft)||2.4 m (7 ft 10 in)||Meter||Uni||88||90||4 x 95 kW|||
|Bochum–Gelsenkirchen Tramway||Bochum-Gelsenkirchener Straßenbahnen||30||2007–11||29.6 m (97 ft)||2.3 m (7 ft 7 in)||Meter||Bi||68||120||8 x 45 kW|||
|Bochum Stadtbahn||Bochum-Gelsenkirchener Straßenbahnen||29.6 m (97 ft)||2.3 m (7 ft 7 in)||Meter||Bi||68||120||8 x 45 kW|
|Nuremberg Tramway||Verkehrs-Aktiengesellschaft Nürnberg||8||2007||33.8 m (111 ft)||2.3 m (7 ft 7 in)||Standard||Uni||87||147||8 x 45 kW|||
|Munich tramway||Münchner Verkehrsgesellschaft||14||2008–11||33.8 m (111 ft)||2.3 m (7 ft 7 in)||Standard||Uni||87||147||8 x 45 kW|||
|Bergen Light Rail||Hordaland County Municipality||20||2009–14||32.2 m (106 ft)||2.65 m (8 ft 8 in)||Standard||Bi||84||128||8 x 45 kW|||
|Graz Tramway||Graz AG Verkehrsbetriebe||45||2009–||27.0 m (88.6 ft)||2.3 m (7 ft 7 in)||Standard||Uni||38||113||8 x 45 kW|||
|Potsdam Tramway||Verkehrsbetrieb Potsdam||18||2010–||32.2 m (106 ft)||2.3 m (7 ft 7 in)||Standard||Uni||57||118||8 x 45 kW|||
|Tramlink||Transport for London||6||2012||32 m (105 ft)||2.65 m (8 ft 8 in)||Standard||Bi||72||134|||
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