Melbourne trains on the streets of France

As the most numerous type of train in the fleet, X’Trapolis trains are a familiar sight in Melbourne, but there one place you’d never expect to see one – the streets of France!

X'Trapolis 146M citybound between Richmond and Flinders Street

Here we see a single X’Trapolis carriage wrapped in plastic, being paraded through the streets of the French port city of La Rochelle.

Final X'Trapolis bodyshell arrives at the port of La Rochelle for loading (via Alstom media release May 4th, 2004)

We see the train parked by the water beside local politicians, along with a small band.

Partners in front of final X'Trapolis bodyshell (via Alstom media release May 4th, 2004)

And the message on the side: “Livraison de 58 trains pour la ville de Melbourne”.

Final X'Trapolis bodyshell in commemorative covering en route for the port of La Rochelle (via Alstom media release May 4th, 2004)

The backstory can be found on the website of Alstom, manufacturer of the X’Trapolis train fleet.

On May 4th 2004 ALSTOM celebrated the completion of the manufacture at our site in Aytré-La Rochelle, France of 58 X’TRAPOLIS trains for Melbourne.

One of the last body shells of the contract, resplendent in its commemorative covering, left the site for the Port de la Pallice in La Rochelle, whence it will soon begin its two-month sea journey to Australia. Upon arrival it will travel to our facilities in Ballarat, just like its predecessors, for assembly and testing, before entry into service at the end of this year.

The first order of X’Trapolis trains for Melbourne was made by Connex back in 2000, with the first of 58 3-car trains entering service in December 2002, and the last in December 2004. Trade magazine Railway Gazette detailed the construction process.

Recognising concerns about local industry, the Victorian Government’s Transport Reform Unit required Australian firms to be involved in the contract. The result was a significant element of technology transfer.

Under the terms agreed, the first two sets are to be fully manufactured in Aytré, where initial testing takes place. To permit trial running, Alstom added a third rail to its short factory test track to suit the 1600mm gauge. The following eight units are being mainly built in France but tested in Australia. Sets 11 to 58 will have bodyshells supplied from Aytré and bogies from Le Creusot, but fitting out will take place at Ballarat in the Melbourne suburbs.

Traction control equipment was designed at Alstom’s British plant in Preston, where the initial packs were manufactured. Later batches will be put together in the Alstom factory at Milperra in the Sydney suburbs, although traction motors will be supplied from Ornans in France.

The auxiliary converters were designed at Charleroi in Belgium, where the initial batch was produced; supply will later transfer to Milperra.

Given a heavy workload at Aytré at present, Alstom has subcontracted the supply of several major component groups. Labinal, for example, is responsible for all the cabling, and the company is supplying complete wiring and cabling kits to Aytré, where its own staff carry out installation. All interior panelling, ceilings, air ducts and door pockets are the responsibility of Alcan, which supplies kits for Alstom staff to install. Both Labinal and Alcan have agreed to find their own subcontractors in Australia, and a number of other components will be furnished directly by Australian manufacturers.

The expansion of the X’Trapolis fleet commenced in 2007, when the Victorian Government ordered 20 new 3-carriages trains. The same technology transfer arrangements applied as with the initial order – body shells imported from overseas.

New X'Trapolis body shells sitting on the wharf at Appleton Dock

Then moved by road to the Alstom plant at Ballarat to be fitted out.

Another view of the yard full of body shells

And finally delivered by rail to Melbourne for final commissioning.

T413 and the rest of the train rejoin the loop line at Bungaree

The only difference this time around is where the work happens overseas – Alstom now builds the bodyshells at their plant in Katowice, Poland then trucks them to Savigliano, Italy to be fitted out.


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