Joint project for road and rail.

New Unimog for lightning-fast service and rescue operations in Magdeburg.

The flexibility of the Unimog is legendary. Examples of this are the road-rail vehicles that can switch from road to rail in less than three minutes. The Magdeburg public transport corporation (MVB) recently put such an all-rounder into service - a unique multifunctional vehicle to which numerous specialist companies contributed.

The journey begins at the world's largest truck plant.

When the new Unimog U 423 for the MVB rolled off the assembly line in Wörth, it looked just like a “normal” Unimog. From there, it embarked on a journey which was to take it through a series of specialist processors, until it ultimately no longer looked like a con­ventional Unimog at all. What has been in service with the MVB in Magdeburg since May of this year is a quite extraordinary Unimog. Equally suitable for road and rail, it provides lightning-fast emergency and service call-outs for any number of “single-mode vehicles”. Because the Magdeburg fleet includes 87 trams, 13 work trucks, as well as three workshops for rail vehicles and more than 130 kilometres of rail network.

Top-class technology that delivers extreme flexibility.

Bernd Eberhard, project manager for tram and vehicle projects at MVB, played a key role in the procurement of the new vehicle. Describing the requirements, he comments: “We ordered the Unimog because we need a vehicle that can be deployed extremely quickly in critical situations, such as a tram breakdown, and can be on the track at the site within just a few minutes.” “So we needed a perfect­ly equipped replacement for the predecessor - also a Unimog road-railer, built in 1992.”

Bernd Eberhard's equipment wish list was corre­spondingly extensive: It had to be a Unimog featuring very special rail guiding technology, a large crew cabin, and lots of storage space for recovery tools. The desired package was implemented with the help of three specialist companies. The first stop was the assembly line at F&B Nutzfahrzeug Technik in Hagenbach.

There, the wheel­base was extended to 4500 millimetres, and a number of chassis components were relocated to make room for the planned double cab mounting and for the box body. Then the Unimog was sent to body specialist Kronenburg at Wanroij in the Netherlands. That was where the aforementioned double cab was installed, providing space for the crew, as well as for the special onboard electronics which the Unimog needs when switching from road to rail.

The Unimog can be placed almost anywhere on the track.

Bernd Eberhard, Project Manager Tram and Vehicle Projects, Magdeburg public transport corporation (MVB)

Finally, it was turned into a fully-fledged rail vehicle by the road-rail vehicle experts at ZAGRO in Bad Rappenau. The bogey type rail guiding system - the basis for operation on rails - were mounted on the axles. The total of eight rail wheels keep the vehicle safely on the track, while the Unimog's standard production tyres provide propul­sion directly on the rails. The special swivelling bogey rail guide sys­tem was required because MVB's tram network features very tight bend radii of around 18 metres.

When called upon, the Unimog drives on the road to get as close as possible to the incident - if necessary also with flashing blue lights, at speeds of up to 90 km/h. On the rails, a speed of up to 50 km/h is technically possible, but the vehicle runs more slowly when pulling a tram.

Fast access times - just a few minutes change-over time.

Each rail axle is equipped with its own camera as well as a separate light­ing unit for safe on-tracking at night. This means the crew always has an eye on the rail guide system when switching from road to rail. In rail mode, the Unimog’s steering is manually disabled so as to transfer sole control to the guide wheels. Bernd Eberhard comments: “Five metres of straight track is enough to move the Unimog onto the track from the road, meaning the Unimog can be placed on the track at almost any point as long as there is free vehicle access to it. Even more astounding is the short change-over time of just three minutes to switch from road to rail mode.”

In case of emergency, the U 423 can tow thanks to its optimal traction an entire tram.
The extension of the wheelbase to 4,500 Millimetre creates installation space for the double cab and the box body.
In case of emergency, the U 423 can tow thanks to its optimal traction an entire tram.

The right answer to urban traffic congestion.

The Unimog has already had to prove its worth since being put into service. Bernd Eberhard: “We run a 24-hour service, with an average of 70 trains on the 130 kilometre rail network - which of course also means that incidents occur which we have to resolve rapidly. Like a derailment a few weeks ago, when the new vehicle made sure that the traffic was back running normally within the hour. Here in Magdeburg, congestion is getting worse from year to year, so it's important to have fast access in order to keep the traffic moving.” One of MVB's key requirements was that the U 423 should be able to tow a tram in an emergency. The factory-fitted torque converter clutch, and optimum traction thanks to permanent all-wheel drive, make the Unimog the perfect solution - even on gradients of up to six percent as occur in Magdeburg.

All twelve of the drivers scheduled to work shifts operating the Unimog have now undergone their induction, and are in top shape to handle the new technology. And it has proved highly successful in its early weeks in operation. Bernd Eberhard: “I estimate that with the new Unimog we are twice as fast as before.” That's a crucial advan­tage for a well functioning public transport system.

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