Toronto Street car moving along downtown street
Trains Heading

This company’s innovative technologies are helping railroads around the world achieve their environmental commitments.

Globe illustration with trains planes around the globe

Overseas, the world’s first hydrogen-powered passenger train is an encouraging indicator of what’s possible. Alstom’s Coradia iLint has been in service in Europe since 2018, and has been introduced into countries like Germany, Austria, Poland, and Sweden, where it’s been effectively showcasing the potential for emission-free regional rail transport. The zero-emission train is representative of Alstom’s aim to facilitate a global transition to a low-carbon transport system. Michael Keroullé is the newly appointed president of Alstom’s Americas Region (which includes North America and Latin America) and says that while rail has a lower carbon footprint than most other modes of transportation, there are still improvements to be made. “We continue to invest in research and development (R&D) to reduce the carbon footprint of our solutions, and we are also focusing on developing green trains for non-electrified lines, such as battery-powered and hydrogen-powered trains,” says Keroullé.

Alstom employs 72,000 people worldwide, 4,300 of which are here in Canada. Alstom is one of Canada’s primary mobility partners for many regions across the country, and the first private rail operator in North America.

Alstom has been in Canada for more than 80 years, in the areas of naval and rail transport, along with power generation and transmission. However, in 2015, Alstom returned to its roots and refocused all of its efforts on mobility, which led to them acquiring Bombardier Transportation in January of this year. Through this new alliance, Alstom became a new global leader centred on smart and sustainable transportation, with unparalleled R&D capabilities and the most comprehensive portfolio of products and solutions in the industry.

As Keroullé says, they now manage all components – from building all kinds of trains, to operations and maintenance, to implementing signalling systems that allow trains to operate safely. They also offer a complete range of mobility infrastructure systems such as tracklaying, electrification and the supply and installation of electromechanical material along the entire track, and in stations and depots.

Today, Alstom employs 72,000 people worldwide, 4,300 of which are here in Canada. Alstom is one of Canada’s primary mobility partners for many regions across the country, and the first private rail operator in North America. Here in Canada, their clients include transit agencies and operators, and railroads including Toronto Transit Commission, Société de transport de Montréal, Metrolinx (including GO Transit and UP Express), and Vancouver’s SkyTrain, among others. “Our specific strength is our ability to customize solutions to customers’ specific needs and unique operating environments,” says Keroullé. “For example, Toronto’s streetcars have become a visual signature for the city. They were designed made-to-order to the specificities of Toronto’s operating environment, taking into consideration things like turning radius and gauge.”

As this new chapter begins for Alstom, exciting projects are on the horizon, like their plans for the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) in Montreal. “This project is going to be a game changer,” says Keroullé. “It will be the first time in North America that a public transit system of this size will be operating driverless and 100 percent automated. Our system is equipped with platform screen doors that are an innovative system in itself, and a major element for the safety and fluidity of the automatic system.” These glass doors are located along the station platforms, separating the platform from the tracks, and are designed to open automatically and only when the metro is stopped at the station. This technology is being used in cities like Paris, London and Tokyo and offers many advantages, from increased service reliability and safety, to improved passenger flow and minimized heat loss between the cars and the station.

Alstom’s innovative technologies are also helping railroads around the world achieve their environmental goals, and this can be seen in a Product Test Agreement that was signed with New York’s Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) in the spring of 2021. This agreement with the busiest commuter railroad in North America provides an opportunity to explore one of Alstom’s innovative and environmentally friendly traction technologies. Together, they will test converting the railroad’s M-7 cars to battery-operated electric multiple units (BEMUs) and assess their operational viability. Ideally, the units will one day replace the use of diesel locomotives on non-electrified lines and allow passengers to travel without having to change trains. With projects like this on the go, Alstom is hopeful that in time they will bring the first battery-powered commuter trains to North America.

While converting existing products is key, Alstom’s engineers are additionally tasked with implementing solutions that minimize environmental impact at all stages of product development, whether it’s through increased energy efficiency by recovering electrical braking energy, permanent magnet motors, LED lights, sensor-based HVAC solutions, and so on.

Continual innovation is key when you have 150,000+ vehicles and partnerships with more than 300 cities worldwide. As a global trailblazer, they are in a unique position to make a positive impact around the world and have thankfully answered the call for sustainable mobility.

“In many ways, it is a privilege for all of us at Alstom to work on innovative products and solutions that will contribute to solving the biggest challenge of our society going forward, which is how to enable mobility at a lower expense to our environment,” says Keroullé. “I am very proud of being a part of it and humbled to lead our teams in this amazing region.”

Recommended Posts