A subsidiary of VR Group, VR FleetCare offers services for rolling stock maintenance, life cycle management and modernization projects. Comatec has been VR FleetCare’s design partner for many years, and owing to the companies’ similar growth targets, this cooperation is deepening into a strategic partnership.
Under their bilateral framework agreement, Comatec provides VR FleetCare with design and reports concerning maintenance and life cycle management on a continuous basis. Lauri Nurttila, an engineering manager at Comatec, considers this cooperation significant for a number of reasons.
“VR FleetCare is practically the only – and therefore vital – rolling stock maintenance specialist in Finland, with excellent technological expertise. Thanks to our continuous cooperation, we have also been able to develop our own expertise in rolling stock, which is highly standardized. I believe that the mutual trust we have created along the years enables us to engage in even closer cooperation, and to expand into the project business,” he says.
Growth from project business
VR FleetCare was corporatized at the beginning of 2019, and now operates as a subsidiary of VR Group. Corporatization mainly targets international business growth in near-lying regions, and also in other rail traffic.
“Previously the primary and almost exclusive task of the maintenance unit was to keep VR’s own rolling stock in working order. After corporatization, we have been able to seek growth also among other rail operators, with the ongoing renovation project of metro trains in the capital region a case in point. Comatec was involved in the project’s planning and prototype stage, and I believe we will be involved in similar cooperation also in the future,” says Teemu Halonen, Head of Project Services, Passenger and Freight fleets.
The renovation project that started in 2019 will be completed by June 2023. During the project, 102 metro trains will be upgraded to include a new passenger information system, passenger cabin interiors and driver cabins.
VR FleetCare’s first international project concerned the modernization of eight sleeping cars for Norwegian Vy Group. The project included surface treatment, upgrade of the fire alarm and electrical systems, lighting and railing solutions and a new door system.
“The Vy Tåg carriages have now been in operation for a few months, and we have received good feedback for the project management and the results. Credit also goes to Comatec that was our main partner in terms of the design,” says Halonen.
Design partner must have versatile expertise
When designing rolling stock maintenance, life cycle management and modernization projects, you always aim for solutions that improve safety and customer experience, sustainable development, and optimal life cycle costs.
“It is typical of our projects that a wide range of expertise is required. Owing to the increasing use of automation and smart solutions, electrical and software design has become more and more important in recent years. Rail transport has low emission levels as it is, but especially through life cycle management, we will try to extend the useful life of rolling stock even further,” says Halonen.
Rail transport including the rolling stock is highly regulated by the EU.
“The regulations and standardization stem from traffic safety. Standardization affects rolling stock modernization to a great extent, as any changes to carriages must be approved by an independent party comparable to the authorities. Comatec’s long experience comes in useful here, too, as good knowledge of the standards makes the design process much easier,” says Halonen.
International projects require wide range of expertise
VR FleetCare’s is seeking growth especially abroad – the Nordic and Baltic countries, and to some extent Central Europe. According to Teemu Halonen, just taking part in competitive tendering has been an education, and the results have been promising.
Competitive tendering is demanding, as the suppliers are challenged right from the start to present innovative and sustainable solutions, in addition to being scrutinized about security of supply and reliability matters.
“It’s very important that we have greater width through our partner network – both in terms of the solutions we offer and from the viewpoint of risk management and credibility. In my view, Comatec is in an ideal position to be more involved in our international projects. What’s more, the trust that has been built over the years increases our interest in a more strategic partnership,” he says.
Text: Marianne Valta
Photos: VR FleetCare