Desiro trains leave much to be desired

The new Desiro trains, manufactured by the German company Siemens Transport, are giving Belgian Rail CEO Jo Cornu headaches. It turns out that the trains, the newest in Belgian Rail's fleet, have a technical problem every 8,000 kilometres. "Unacceptable", says Jo Cornu in the weekly Knack.

The latest order by the Belgian rail company NMBS included 300 Desiro train units. 200 of those have been delivered by the German company Siemens. Mr Cornu confirms that many of these are having teething troubles, despite being manufactured by a German company with a solid reputation. The most frequent problem is the opening and closing of the doors.

The new Desiro trains are having a technical problem every 8,000 kilometres, compared to 30,000 kilometres on average for other trains. "I talked to the boss of Siemens Transport about this, asking him whether he would be happy if his car showed a technical failure each 8,000 kilometres", Cornu told VRT's radio news channel Radio 1.

He added that the Desiro hiccups are bad news for the NMBS's punctuality statistics. "They cause delays that are having a big impact on our figures. When a train is late, this is due to technical problems in 35 per cent of the cases."

He says the main problem is a lack of standardisation within the European rail network. Every country has its own demands which urges manufacturers to make new adaptations time and again, which cause teething troubles. "When a rail company orders a new train, it doesn't just pick an existing model that is doing well elsewhere. No, a new order involves dozens of adaptations, often the smallest details like the colour of the buttons to open the doors." He said Siemens are also touched by the latest problems as it is costing them money.