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Alpha Trains / RBSAF E186: 111-125  

Both Hispeed and Transalp configuration are approved for running on the Dutch BetuweRoute freight corridor.

A very remarkable E 186 sub serie is a batch of 15 locomotives with Hispeed configuration, equipped to haul passenger trains up to speeds of 160 kph. Remarkable because the E 186 series is officially developed for long-haul freight services only, and therefore not very quickly associated with very high speeds… About the history of the E 186 Hispeed;

Freight locomotives for Hispeed services? How come?
From 2000 to 2007, a brand new high speed line has been built, connecting Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Antwerp, Belgium. Passenger trains are now able to connect both cities with top speeds up to 350 kph. The HSL-Zuid, the official name of the line, is part of the north-south route from Amsterdam to Paris.
For the 350 kph non-stop services, already existing Thalys-TGV train sets will be retrofitted. Next to these intercity services, 250 kph fast shuttle trains will run on the HSL-Zuid.
NS Hispeed, the operator that will exploit passenger services on the HSL-Zuid has therefore ordered new 19 train sets. The Italian manufacturer of rolling stock Ansaldo-Breda was awarded with the order in 2004. Starting delivery was scheduled for 2006, the complete HSL-Zuid should be ready by then and regular services than could start in April 2007. This never happened. Finally, first revenue service with the AnsaldoBreda trains commenced in December 2012, but where cancelled in only a few weeks. The NS/NMBS considered the train too unsafe.

Nevertheless, NS Hispeed and the Dutch/Belgian government have singed an exploitation contract, and the government made very clear that it would keep NS Hispeed to its promises, to start with shuttle services in April 2007. Also on very short notice, the operator had to find a acceptable alternative for the V250 train sets.

Finally Angel Trains was requested to provide locomotive power for these temporary shuttle trains, that then would be composed out of 160 kph fast multi-system electrics, with ERTMS and refurbished Dutch ICRm intercity-coaches. The lease company proudly accepted the award and adjusted its initial order for Traxx 2E F140 MS locomotives in January 2006, raising the number on order from 26 to 35. 15 machines of this batch then would be available for ‘high speed’ services on the HSL-Zuid by April 2007, until 2009. 12 of them would be leased to NS Hispeed, and three would be running the Belgian railways. For manufacturer Bombardier this order change resulted in a new challenge: explore the possibilities too use the MS locomotives up to speeds of 160 kph in commercial service. As they were originally designed for freight traffic, the machines have a propulsion system with nose suspended motors, only approved for Vmax = 140 kph. This latter technical issue could be solved by Bombardier, as was proven in 2007. The Hispeed E186s got a full permission for 160 kph for services at the HSL-Zuid (and also in Germany additionally).

In September 2006 the very first E186 made its first public appearance, at the international rail way fair Innotrans in Berlin. It was the designated E 186 111, fully configured as Hispeed locomotive. After the event the machine returned to Kassel for the finishing touch, to enter its future service domain for the very first time on December 4th 2006, when it came to the Netherlands for its first trials. What followed was an endless period of trials. First with the three ‘prototype’ locomotives, E 186 111, 112 and 113, built in advance to secure homologation, later on also E 186 114-118 were spotted on Dutch and Belgian territory many times.
In March 2007 the refurbishment of the first ICRm coaches started, but it was already very clear that by April, no final approval of these temporary shuttle trains would be available. As already told, the infrastructure was not even finished by then. As the months went by all 15 machines, E 186 111-125, were completed, but none of them were used for any regular service.

In the Autumn of 2007, E 186 123-125 went to Antwerp as they would be rented by the Belgian railways to secure shuttle services from Brecht to Antwerp. In 2008 they got Blegian service numbers (2801-2803) and started their commercial career with hauling freight trains. Trials runs with Belgian passenger coaches started in June 2008.

At the end of 2007, finally, the very first two machines were officially delivered (113 and 114) to NS Hispeed. E 186 114 was the first to change its appearance and came back from a metamorphosis in a red Hispeed livery with white fronts. Logos were not applied. Between January and June 2008 also E 186 112, 115, 116 and 118-121 were handed over to NS Hispeed and are since then most of the time parked at their new home base, Amsterdam Watergraafsmeer. E 186 113, 115 and 116 got a red livery in February 2008 too. On 17.09.2008 finally the last three machines included in this contract (E186 111, 117, 122) were transported to Amsterdam.

E 186 114 was the first Angel Trains machine to change colour: here present in its future Hispeed basic livery.

alternative purposes
As the lease-contract for these Hispeed machines started in the summer of 2007, so they cost money. And as the HSL-Zuid is considered being not safe enough and the locomotives are still not approved for services in Belgium, NS Hispeed started a search for alternative purposes.
Since September 2007 therefore one speculated on using E 186 111-122 for the conventional Benelux-shuttles, that also run from Amsterdam to Antwerp, and originally would have been replaced by the new V250 trains. For these trains the Traxx machines would then replace the Belgian 11 series locomotives, that suffer from many malfunctions lately, and have become very unreliable.

This plan did not became reality until 11.08.2008. That day it really happened! All administrative and technical difficulties were finally solved and E186 119 had the honour to be the first Traxx locomotive actually hauling a commercial Benelux train from Amsterdam to Brussels. That day Hispeed started to use Traxx machines for two services in total, for which E 186 119-121 were available at that time. Two machines are being parked at both end statiions, while the third one is hauling the train. As per 08.09.2008, six additonal services were taken-over by Traxx machines. E 186 117 and 118 being the next ones to be equipped for these services.

And the HSL-Zuid? It was really quiet overthere until 08.09.2008. NS Hispeed and Prorail than started trials on the new the high speed line between Amsterdam and Rotterdam, continued until 24.10.2008. Its the next phase of the so called 'Intergraal Proef Bedrijf' during which a regular one-hour service will simulated, according to the time table that one would like to introduce in December 2008. Two locomotives type E 186 with ETCS level 1 and two rakes of NS Hispeed Prio-coahes were be available for these tests.

Finally, revenue servcies with the Traxx locomotives on the HSL-Zuid started in 2008. Since then they run with shuttle trains on the route Amsterdam Centraal - Schiphol - Rotterdam Centraal - Breda. The Belgian railways refused to homologate the Traxxs for Belgium.

After the debacle with the AnsaldoBreda trains in January 2013, the Traxxs will continue their services on the HSL-Zuid. 186 111 was sent to Belgium for approval. Political pressure forced the NMBS and NS to come with an alternative for the V250 trains. Traxxs will be a part of this for sure.