VBZ's InnoTram makes innovations visible

Zurich’s public transport operator VBZ is testing small and large innovations in its new InnoTram. Its eye-catching stickers make hidden features and innovations visible and show how VBZ is improving passenger comfort, saving energy and optimizing processes behind the scenes. City Councillor Michael Baumer, Head of the Department of Industrial Operations, and VBZ Director Marco Lüthi presented the InnoTram to the media as VBZ’s new innovation platform.

The VBZ streetcars have been in service for around forty years. After they have been placed on the market at the cutting edge of technology, the years of use make technical achievements look old over time.

In order to further optimize processes relating to the operation and maintenance of vehicles and infrastructure, VBZ technicians sometimes have to test new technologies on the network and check their acceptance by passengers. The innovation streetcar, which is used in regular service, serves as a test platform for major and minor improvements.

See what otherwise remains hidden

Innovations in public transportation usually remain hidden from passengers. "The InnoTram makes the technology of the streetcar visible and thus - with the additional information provided - directs passengers' attention to the work behind the scenes of public transport," explains City Councillor Michael Baumer, Head of Industrial Operations for the City of Zurich, about the eye-catching InnoTram stickers. "This allows them to experience how VBZ is working every day to make its services even more convenient, sustainable and efficient," Baumer continues.

Probably the most striking innovation that the VBZ is testing are contactless door opening "buttons". A radar sensor registers approaching hands and triggers the door mechanism. This solution can make everyday life easier, especially for people with disabilities. The practical test in the InnoTram will now show whether it proves itself in operation and whether all streetcars and buses will be equipped with it in future.

Another visible innovation is a sun protection film, which is designed to reduce the rise in temperature in the vehicle interior in summer in order to reduce energy consumption for cooling. The new LED lighting, which requires around 80% less energy than the previous solution, should be seen in a similar context. The InnoTram also shows - at least by way of example - how VBZ can make a further contribution to the city of Zurich's net-zero targets.

Optimizations in operation

Thanks to an antenna that has been put through its paces in the InnoTram, vehicles can be precisely located in the depot. In the future, this should simplify the exit regime in particular, when the vehicles leave their depots in the morning to go into service. The condition of the wheels is also monitored using specially developed polygon sensors. For various reasons, these can gradually take on the shape of a polygon and need to be ground round again before riding comfort suffers. An innovative RailEar sensor also listens to the vibration of the wheels. This provides VBZ with data about the streetcar and the tracks. This means that damage can be detected and repaired at an early stage.

In addition to new technologies for new applications, the InnoTram is also testing components that replace old ones. For example, a microphone that the tramp pilots use to make announcements. Replacement is necessary because the old appliances are reaching the end of their service life. Here too, the InnoTram serves as a test platform. Because you only want to retrofit with products that pass the everyday test.

VBZ is constantly looking for innovation potential - and collaboration

Last but not least, the Cobra streetcar with its unusual livery is also intended to be a platform for new collaborations. VBZ works together with companies and research institutions time and again to improve public transport services. For example, the cooperation with ZehnderZurich, a partner specializing in track construction and maintenance, has resulted in a solution that uses lasers to record the condition of the tracks and automatically transfers it to the network plans. This significantly simplifies this operationally relevant work and has aroused the interest of other transportation companies.

"We live and breathe innovation," emphasizes VBZ Director Marco Lüthi, while at the same time pointing out the limits: "Our primary mission is to meet the transport needs of our passengers safely and punctually and to use the resources available to us efficiently. Nevertheless, we are always able to initiate innovations that benefit passengers and operations and attract the interest of the industry and other local transport companies."

Innovation is fostered and promoted in the city of Zurich. For example, the transport companies (VBZ), the electricity company (ewz) and the water supply company, which belong to the Department of Industrial Operations, exchange information about their innovation projects at an annual innovation market. "In this way, we are promoting a cross-departmental culture of innovation and ensuring that we achieve the greatest possible benefit for the population with the resources deployed," emphasized Michael Baumer at the inauguration of the InnoTram.


Media contact:

VBZ media office

Phone: 044 411 47 47

E-mail: medien@vbz.ch

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