Pittsburgh-based Firm Wins Contract to Operate Battery-Powered German Passenger Trains

A Pittsburgh company has landed a contract to operate battery-powered passenger trains in Germany.

Railroad Development Corporation, which is headed by Henry Posner III, will operate the multiple-unit regional trains that will operate on five routes in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

The equipment will be operated by RDC subsidiary RDC Deutschland, whose “RDC Autozug Sylt” business unit is already based in the north of Germany.

That business carries cars and freight to the rail-connected island of Sylt, plus long-distance overnight services from Sylt and Hamburg to Salzburg, Austria.

RDC expects to begin service in December 2023. The battery-powered trains will replace existing diesel-powered multiple units.

The contract is one of three offered by German officials to operate a fleet of 55 new two-car battery EMUs being built by Stadler, which will also maintain the fleet.

The government is paying for the $725 million contract agreed in 2019 and will lease the trains to the selected contractor-operators.

Posner told Trains magazine that RDC’s intercity passenger operations in Europe have been growing in recent years.

“The idea of bidding for this tender made sense because it is in our core territory of Schleswig-Holstein, and was another opportunity to demonstrate to the market the breadth of capabilities that we have built in our German organization,” Posner said.

The battery-electric MU concept is new and the Stadler fleet will be one of the first to provide widespread service in Europe.

Batteries enable trains to operate away from overhead power lines. Some routes RDC will operate lack electrification except at some of the main stations.

Trains will therefore need to make round trips of around 90 miles on battery power before being recharged.

RDC, which is the majority owner of U.S. regional railroad Iowa Interstate, also has operations in Peru, France, England, and Belgium.

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