Fyra dispute settled as AnsaldoBreda buys back V250 trainsets
Railway Gazette, March 18, 2014
NETHERLANDS: Under an agreement announced on March 17, AnsaldoBreda will take back all 16 V250s ordered by NS and return €125m to the operator, which says its loss on the debacle is now capped at €88m. Having taken legal advice, both parties agreed that a compromise would be more beneficial than continuing the protracted legal action, and allow them to ‘fully concentrate’ on their normal business. AnsaldoBreda is currently building 50 V300 high speed trains for Trenitalia in partnership with Bombardier.
Ordered as long ago as 2004, the V250s were withdrawn in January 2013 after little more than a month of international service, following a series of technical failures. Belgian operator SNCB subsequently cancelled its contract for three trains which had not been delivered, and NS decided in June 2013 to abandon the Fyra project despite having already accepted several trains and put them into operation....
AnsaldoBreda will take responsibility for recovering the V250s that have been stored near Amsterdam. The supplier will then be free to refurbish or modify the trainsets to meet the needs of another operator. (Honolulu, maybe?) In the event of a successful sale, the agreement provides for additional payments to NS up to a maximum of €21m....
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Main article: Fyra
V250 train units were delivered to NS over five years later than originally contracted. Soon after the trains went into service in the Netherlands and Belgium, the V250 suffered a number of technical problems. When the first snow fell in the winter of 2012/13, some V250 trains started losing parts of their bottom plates due to ice build-up. Consequently the Belgian railway company NMBS/SNCB declared the V250 unsafe, and the trains were taken out of commercial service on 16 January 2013. Dutch railways is now seeking compensation for damages and Dutch politicians have called for a parliamentary inquiry into the problems with the V250 train quality issues and AnsaldoBreda's failure to rectify them in a timely manner. On 22 January Belgian railways called on AnsaldoBreda to fix all deficiencies that had been independently identified with the V250 units within 3 months, as agreed in the purchase contract, or the contract would be declared void.
In May 2013, the Belgian railway company cancelled its contract with AnsaldoBreda, after a technical examination of a pair of V250 train halves. The inspections yielded 1159 and 2019 deficiency points, where a total of 9 per full train was the permitted tolerance before rejection. The report mentioned, amongst others, the following defects: during a test run, an iron plate of the roof bent towards the overhead wire, axles were severely rusted, with a risk of breaking in moving trains, the brakes were not suited for high-speed trains, wiring was not shielded from rain and snow, a bottom plate came loose and fell down on the railtrack, batteries overheated in carriages that had been already taken out of service, resulting in fire and subsequent scorches in the carriages, earthing points were wrongly connected, causing electric driven heavy oxidation, the door sliding mechanisms were faulty, assembly varied from train to train.
On the same day the report was published, the Belgian public broadcasting organizations RTBF and VRT got hold of photographs showing the wrecked conditions the V250 trains were in. However, because of major technical problems with these trains, the trains were taken out of rotation within weeks after the start of the service.
On the 31st of May 2013, the NMBS/SNCB cancelled the Fyra project entirely. On June 3, NS also announced it was stopping operation of V250 trains. According to their survey of the trains it would take at least 17 months to repair all construction flaws, and entry into service would not be expected before 2018. In addition, even if trains were to be repaired, the maintenance cost would be much higher and the lifetime of the trains much lower than agreed in the contracts with AnsaldoBreda. It is currently unlikely that the V250 will enter commercial service again.
In a response to the Dutch and Belgian complaints about damage to the trains, AnsaldoBreda blamed the operators for being irresponsible in running the trains at the certified top speed of 250 km/h in winter, and not performing the recommended daily maintenance. Belgian rail operators claim the latter is not true, and that the problems encountered can only be caused by structural problems with the trains.
On March 17 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.