The Germans helped Russia bring the "Swallow" (Lastochka) to perfection, by Olga Samofalova for VZGLYAD. 03.30.2023.
The departure of Siemens from Russia last year called into question the possibility of producing the Lastochka electric train. However, Russia was able to make completely domestic trains, which will be put on rails in the second half of the year. This means that passengers in Moscow, Sochi and other regions of the country will continue to travel in modern comfortable Lastochkas. How did Russia manage to completely replace imported components in Lastochka trains in just a year?
Trains "Lastochka" will become completely domestic, and Russian Railways will be able to buy them. Purchase volumes were halved, however, after Siemens left Russia in March 2022, the question was generally about a complete cessation of supplies.
Now the German concern will not be needed to continue the production of these trains. “Deliveries of a completely Russian DC train are planned for the second half of this year, and the delivery of dual-system trains is planned for 2025,” said Oleg Belozerov, head of Russian Railways. For understanding: dual-system traction allows you to use not only current from the network, but also use batteries for autonomous operation.
According to Belozerov, the collective West deliberately interferes with the normal operation of Russian Railways, for example, the EU Council declared passenger trains for Russian citizens as luxury goods, so their supply and use are blocked by discriminatory acts.
Earlier, Andrey Vasiliev, Deputy General Director for the Development of Urban Transport at Transmashholding, said that in 2023 the level of localization of Lastochka would be 99%. True, he spoke about the first quarter, now the deadline has shifted to the second half of 2023. However, this is still a very short period, because Siemens announced its withdrawal from Russia just a year ago.
How did Russia manage to completely replace imported components in Lastochka trains in such a short time? The history of this train is indicative. In the 2000s, the wear and tear of the rolling stock was critical. And Russian Railways turned to the German concern for help, which has already seriously settled in our country. In 2010, Sinara - Transport Machines (STM) signed a contract with a German concern, and since 2013 Lastochki and other freight locomotives have been produced at the Ural plant. The Lastochka was built on the Siemens Desiro platform specifically for Russian railways. And already by the opening of the Olympics in Sochi, these modern high-speed electric trains began to run. Now "Lastochka" runs in 30 regions of Russia, mainly on suburban passenger lines, and even on the international route Moscow - Minsk. These trains run from Moscow to Kursk, Nizhny Novgorod, Smolensk, as well as to significant cities in the Krasnodar Territory. "Swallows" began to walk around the MCD. In Moscow alone, tens of millions of passengers use these trains.
In the 2000s, the creation of a joint venture was a logical decision. Russia did not have its own technologies and experience in creating such comfortable trains. Designing from scratch required significantly more time, money and resources.
Cooperation with the Germans greatly facilitated and speeded up the task. Siemens AG as a whole has become the main supplier of modern German trains for Russia. At the same time, initially it was not about importing ready-made trains, but about creating their production on Russian territory, not to mention the fact that a separate product was technically created specifically for the Russian gauge and needs. And even then, in 2014, domestic manufacturers were involved in the project. The first trains produced in 2014 already had a production localization level of 62%. That is, imported parts accounted for less than half. A year later, the share of domestic components increased to 80%.
“From the very beginning of the project, it was said that these electric trains would eventually become domestically produced, that they would have more Russian components,” says Dmitry Baranov, a leading expert at Finam Management. Work on the localization of components was carried out all the time. As an example, the expert cites how the PSO group of companies (Chelyabinsk) launched the production of aluminum-composite heating elements ZEBRA-EVO 300, which are used in Lastochka and other rolling stock. And the TAYRA Novosibirsk Power Engineering Plant began to produce a completely localized cooling unit for Lastochka, which was originally supplied by a foreign company.
A difficult problem was the traction motor, which continued to be imported. The heart of a machine is always the most difficult element to design and manufacture.
However, work on creating its own engine for such trains in Russia was also carried out before 2022. And this probably played an important role in the fact that it was possible to create a completely domestic Lastochka in such a short time after the German concern left the market.
It was reported that the Perm enterprise Novomet (Rosnano's portfolio company) would create a domestic electric motor, including for the Lastochka line of high-speed electric trains. Because this company, back in 2021, on its own initiative, developed a basic model of a traction motor and tested it. The only thing left to do was to adapt the engine to railway components, taking into account the norms and regulations, and conduct a full range of tests.
“Sinara, together with Ural Locomotives, is now able to continue producing Lastochkas with a localization of more than 90% with a Russian traction drive. Completely Russian Lastochkas, of course, will not be called that, and there is an opportunity to improve the design both outside - the head part, and inside: Russian Railways has made great strides in the ergonomics of new cars, ”says Alexander Timofeev, Associate Professor of the Department of Informatics at the Russian University of Economics. Plekhanov.
The emergence of completely domestic Lastochkas in the second half of 2023 means that the West has not been able to paralyze the Russian railway network in Russia, and it is huge. This story is an example of when the sanctions were a great motivator to bring the matter of replacing imports in Lastochka to the end.
We are talking about the localization of Lastochka by 99%, and the remaining 1% is an electronic database. And here Russia really has problems. There are manufacturing enterprises, but they are very few, and there is still a technological gap, and it takes a lot of money to overcome it, not to mention time. Perhaps China and re-export through third countries can help here. “Part of the components for this train can probably be purchased in other countries, but it is possible that their production can also be established in Russia, if such a goal is set,” says Baranov.
Russian Railways plans to purchase Lastochka passenger electric trains for 67.5 billion rubles in 2023-2025. In particular, in 2023 Russian Railways is waiting for 23 five-car electric trains, that is, 115 cars. This was discussed in the September materials for the draft adjusted investment program of Russian Railways for three years. Prior to this, Russian Railways wanted to purchase 160 cars of the Lastochka electric trains.
As production develops, Russia can offer its new product for export to neighboring countries, where there is the same railway gauge as in Russia.
“Continued production of Lastochka will make it possible to offer trains to other countries in a space of 1520 mm, which meets the task of increasing the export of complex products and will contribute to the development of technologies in Russia,” says Baranov.