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February 26, 2021
BUSINESS

Softronic, the only high-speed train company in the former Eastern European bloc

Companies that rekindle Romanian industry

In the past one of the most powerful countries in the railway equipment domain, Romania has been left, as most of the states in the East, without an industry that could ensure the sustainability of the railways. Until 1999. Back when the activity of research and production of railway locomotives and carriages restarted in Craiova, the Eastern European center for the productions of locomotives and railway equipment.
In parallel with the decline of Electroputere Craiova, the industrial colossus which was producing electric and diesel locomotives with engines from Resita, several companies developed in Craiova, most of them being set up by former employees and specialists from the Electroputere plant. Softronic SRL is one of the aforementioned companies. The company’s shareholders were Ionel Ghita, Augustin Popescu, Ion Garnita and Oana Miulescu. Oana Miulescu being none other than Oana Mondea, the daughter of Cornel Mondea, the former director general of Electroputere SA. Ionel Ghita, the chairman of the shareholder’s council, was in the past a French language teacher, teaching at one of the city’s high schools. His brother-in-law Augustin Popescu, as well as Ion Garnita, were researchers at the National Research, Development and Testing Center for Electro-technical Equipment (ICMET) Craiova – an institute tied to Electroputere Craiova. As its name suggests, Softronic focused at first on the software side of Romanian locomotives, equipping them with speed measurement systems. These systems were researched within the Institute, the researchers’ own company registering a patent for it after 1990. What is certain is that the company developed and its shareholders formed a group around it, a group that includes several entities: Romtronic SRL, Softrans SRL (railway transportation), Compania de Mecanica Feroviara SRL (whose main line of activity consists of general mechanical operations).
The Craiova-based Softronic company has built its first electric train this year (Hyperion), financed by Garanti Bank with EUR 4.3 M. The train can reach a speed of 160 kilometers per hour. The development of the prototype took two and a half years. From 1 August 2014 on the train has been used on the Craiova-Bucharest-Constanta line, and is now being used on the Bucharest North – Craiova – Brasov line.
Ionel Ghita, the president of the Craiova-based Softronic company and one of the shareholders of the company, the only one in Eastern Europe that produces frames and electric locomotives, states that next year he will stake on Hungary and Turkey for the sale of the electric locomotives and of the Hyperion train.
“We had relied on the fact that the Hyperion train which we built will go into the service of CFR Calatori, however that didn’t happen, there was no financing, so next year we will not stake on the Romanian market.”
Softronic Craiova, the only locomotive plant in Southeast Europe, relied on a EUR 4.3 M credit from GarantiBank for the production of the first electric train in Romania – the Hyperion.
“Hyperion was produced in Craiova by using the latest technology in the domain and by respecting European interoperability standards. This represents a revolution in Romanian railway transport, being the first low ground clearance and a-synchronous drive electric train produced by Romanian industry and can be built in two top speed variants, namely 160 km per hour and 200 km per hour,” Softronic President Ionel Ghita stated.
Hyperion has two engine carriages and two carrier carriages, with a capacity of 180 seats. Moreover, Hyperion is comparable to any modern train in Europe, also offering free Wi-Fi to passengers.
Apart from Hyperion, Softronic has also developed the TransMontana – a high-power electric locomotive for heavy trains. TransMontana has six axles and uses a-synchronous engines powered by alternative current, developing a maximum power of 7,000 kW. Apart from costs that are lower than those of the competition, the locomotive also has low maintenance costs.
Craiova has a long tradition in what concerns electric locomotives. The first electric locomotives, with a capacity of 5,100 kW, were built in Romania in 1968, under the license of Sweden’s ASEA company. From 1970 to 1991, 940 locomotives were built at Electroputere Craiova, most of them being delivered to CFR. Since 2004 Softronic has modernized the 5,100-kW locomotives, and in 2008 it came up with the Phoenix project – the 6,600-kW locomotive. Since 2011 the company has developed the TransMontana project. Most locomotives were delivered to private operators in Hungary. The company is currently building TransMontana locomotives for the Deutsche Bahn – the biggest railway operator in Europe. Founded in 1999, Softronic specializes in building and repairing railway vehicles, electronic equipment for measurement, registration and control, static converters for auxiliary and power services. The company’s commercial partners include companies from Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Iran, Serbia, Montenegro and Canada.

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