Škoda Transportation has so far invested in the development of the fastest and most efficient domestic locomotive Emil Zátopek about one billion Czech crowns. The fact that the locomotive contains about thirty kilometres of cables and that it has more than ten thousand electric connections testifies as to the complexity of the production of this new machine. In its production Škoda Transportation used the latest materials – e.g. fibre composites similar to those used in Formula 1 cars which significantly improve driving properties of the vehicle and reduce the strain on the track.
The homologation process of the locomotive Emil Zátopek involved tens to hundreds of people in various countries. Hundreds of professionals from the Škoda Transportation company take part in the development and production of the vehicle itself. Further tens of workers produce the necessary components for the locomotive. In the testing laboratories tens of experts worked on type tests and other professionals devoted themselves to the European approval process of the authorized body and to the national approval of the individual railway offices.
The locomotive Emil Zátopek (the Czech Railways designate it as series 380) is assigned for homologation in six states of the European Union. It is designed for the transportation of passenger trains in particular on corridor tracks in the Central Europe. This includes the Czech Republic and its neighbouring states – Germany, Austria, Poland, Slovakia – and also Hungary. As the assignment stated that the locomotive should have the maximum speed of 200 km/h, it was included among high-speed machines. In order to receive a permission of operation it was therefore necessary to obtain a certificate of conformity with technical specification for interoperability of the European high-speed railway system for the subsystem of rolling stock vehicles (TSI High Speed RST from 2008).
The locomotive was only the second in the world to successfully receive this TSI High Speed RST certificate. The machine thus meets the specific track conditions and electrification systems with alternating voltage of 25 kV/50 Hz or 15 kV/16.7 Hz, possibly also with direct-current voltage of 3 kV. Emil Zátopek is one of the most powerful locomotives in the world in the category of four-axle locomotives. The maximum power of the locomotive is approx. 7 200 kW on all electrification systems if the systems allow it.
The high power of the locomotive was checked by the so-called traction tests in which, for example, traction and braking characteristics are tested and tests for ascertaining energy characteristics, start and acceleration tests and traction power tests are performed. All of these tests examine the ability of the vehicle to provide high performance. These tests can be divided into short-term tests (e.g. start and acceleration tests) and long-term tests (e.g. a heating test of the main components of the electric equipment).
The majority of tests in the Czech Republic are performed on the railway circuit in Velim. This is because local conditions make it possible to drive up to 200 km/h. The type test of the “Maximum Operational Train Speed” in which it is tested that a locomotive has the appropriate residual acceleration for a set load (a set of passenger carriages of 450 tonnes in weight) at a maximum operating speed was also successfully passed there. This means that even at the maximum speed the locomotive with a trainset has the possibility to go faster. Driving and technical tests are used to monitor the safety of driving from the point of view of the dynamic behaviour of the locomotive – higher speeds than the maximum operating speed are used – in this case a speed of up to 225 km/h was reached in the Federal Republic of Germany.
The aerodynamics tests and noise measurements were the most difficult from the organizational point of view on the circuit. It was necessary to coordinate the work of many companies and people not only from Škoda Transportation but also from the Czech Railways, VÚKV (Research, Development and Testing of Railway Rolling Stock) and VZLU (Aerospace Research and Test Establishment). In the case of the aerodynamics shifts were ordered also with regard to the weather – according to the weather forecast so that it would not be windy or raining. It was therefore necessary to wait for windless conditions. On the basis of experience of the VUKV late afternoon and early morning were chosen as the most suitable times. The resulting shape of the locomotive body was therefore designed following the performed tests to minimize the occurrence of aerodynamic noise and the front resistance at high speeds.
After the performance of tests in the Czech Republic, there followed access tests in the individual countries. Generally, these are very complex tests from an organizational perspective. It is necessary to find a transport company with a licence for the given country and to solve all required administration. For example, the German railway authority requires extensive safety analyses and repeated tests which are time-consuming and financially demanding for the producer in order to add several texts in German in the displays for the drivers. In addition, the infrastructures of every state differ in a certain way from those of other countries. The progress of the access tests in the individual countries is generally similar, only in Austria a part of the driving tests was conducted on Semmering in the Alps.
In the first weeks of trial runs without passengers the locomotive was used mainly on the track between Plzeň – Beroun –Prague. This was followed by its trial operation with passengers when the first drives took place in adverse weather conditions as the temperatures reached twenty degrees below zero, and there was snow and snowdrifts. In spite of these extreme conditions the locomotive successfully passed the trial operation.
In addition, thanks to the electronic system Data Rail it is possible to monitor individual parameters and driving defects during the regular operation online. By means of a special device information from a superior locomotive control is transferred to a special server where it is archived. Professionals from Škoda Transportation can use remote connection to access the locomotive and to find out what is happening in it at a given moment. The results are continuously assessed and help to provide a perfect service. Any problem can be therefore solved directly with the locomotive drivers.
Škoda Transportation also devoted its attention to providing maximum safety. The new locomotive therefore meets the strictest safety limits laid down by binding regulations. The construction of the locomotive is a proof of this – for example, in the driver’s cab there are deformation zones which in the case of a collision should absorb a significant amount of energy. The fixing of the pilot on the front of the locomotive is designed in a similar way. Deformation elements which can be easily disassembled and replaced in the case of damage form an integral part of the frame and the pilot.
Within the framework of simulations locomotives must be able to withstand four scenarios of collision. The first two scenarios are collisions against the buffers at a speed of 36 km/h with the same trainset and with a goods wagon of 80 tonnes in weight. In the case of an extreme collision into an obstruction similar to a goods wagon with a tank of 15 tonnes in weight at the speed of 110 km/h, the space around the driver will remain undamaged and without deformations. In the case of a collision into a lighter low obstruction (e.g. a car), the locomotive must suffer only minimum damage. The windscreen must be also safe and able to withstand the impact of an aluminium projectile of 1 kg in weight shot from the distance of 10 m at the speed of 400 km/h. In addition, thanks to its resistance it is relatively simple to repair the locomotive.
The TSI certificate also confirms that the locomotive Emil Zátopek is one of the first machines which meet the latest requirements and regulations of the European Union, in particular regarding the safety of operation. Within the framework of tests the locomotive also successfully passed fire protection tests. Fire sensors and active fire extinguishing devices are installed in the machine. For example, the partition between the cab and the engine room withstood fire for the period of fifteen minutes.