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A well-wired partnership


Some are made up above, others on the tracks. What do they have in common? Electrical wiring essentially acts as the nervous system in both planes and trains. This was the basic observation behind a railway electrical systems engineering center of excellence, created in October 2018 by Safran, Alstom and the software company IGE+XAO.

Located in the site of Safran Electrical & Power' aviation electrical systems experts, in Toulouse, the CoE combines the expertise of its three founding companies: Alstom's in railway construction, Safran Engineering Services' (a subsidiary of Safran Electrical & Power) in high-tech engineering, and that of IGE+XAO in software for the design and manufacture of electrical facilities.

Bridges between air and rail

The service provided by Safran Engineering Services is part of an ongoing, multi-year collaboration between Safran and Alstom. It follows on from a technology cooperation agreement on electric propulsion, signed by the two industrial groups in June 2017. "Aviation and rail share many of the same constraints", says Sébastien Kim, sales manager of Safran Engineering Services, in charge of the Rail Activities program. “So, the mobility solutions that Alstom offers must be increasingly flexible to meet the needs of each customer and cover more uses and services, such as Wi-Fi, passenger comfort, security, predictive maintenance, etc. This results in increasingly complex embedded electrical systems, as is the case on board aircraft. They also share a drive for compactness of equipment, as well as globally-scaled teams, customers and suppliers, and the same engineering approach, whereby all systems are developed simultaneously to ensure they interface correctly”.

Standardizing practices

Until now, harnesses and electrical cabinets for rolling stock have been developed at a number of different Alstom sites in France and abroad. All of these activities have now been brought together in the new Toulouse CoE. Its remit covers the definition of tools and processes with the support of IGE+XAO, the design and industrialization of electrical systems by Safran Engineering Services, and a policy of innovation sharing between the three partners, both in terms of methodologies and technologies.

Sized with a view to future growth, the CoE is already home to the on-board electrical systems of the forthcoming Ile-de-France RER train, known as the "Next Gen RER", soon to be followed by the systems of the "TGV of the future". "Eventually", says Sébastien Kim, "Safran Engineering Services could expand its contribution by taking on the partial manufacture of the electrical systems, by providing ultra-modern electrical distribution equipment based on aviation technology, or by offering services derived from virtual or augmented reality, such as installation support, fault detection, etc. Although this is still to be discussed, we do have the necessary expertise and capabilities”.


Find out more

What is an embedded railway electrical system?

These are the electrical wiring and distribution cabinets found on board trains that provide power and allow the various systems to communicate with each other: propulsion, passenger comfort, safety, maintenance sensors, etc.