Located in the centre of Charleroi, between the inner ring road and the railway line, Alstom is part of the Charleroi landscape. Although the company is extremely visible, few city residents have been inside. There is often little known about the resources of this company recognised throughout the world, at the cutting edge of technology.
‘Before doing a work placement at Alstom, I hadn’t seen myself working in Charleroi although it’s my home city where most of my friends live. I really enjoyed the work placement so I applied after I’d finished my studies. I’ve now worked there for 5 years, and I really enjoy my job’, explains Benjamin Ledune, power electronics engineer.
The thirty-year-old is currently working on improving trains. Together with his team, he is looking to optimise locomotives. He is motivated not only by the technical tasks, but also the managerial tasks.
Alstom Charleroi, recognised throughout the world
The Alstom group is a leader in railway manufacturing. The Alstom site, located in Charleroi, specialises in European signalling equipment (ERTMS), such as traction systems, and after-sales service.
The expertise on the Charleroi site is recognised throughout the world. Alstom Charleroi has one hundred current projects across five continents. ‘In Norway, 500 trains are being fitted with a cutting-edge signalling system required by the European Union’s safety standards. We have also developed the new traction system for the subway trains in Riyadh and Shanghai, etc.’ says Sonia Thibaut, spokesperson for Alstom Benelux.
We are fitting 500 trains in Norway with next-generation signalling systems
This expertise is also applied to projects in Belgium. The company is carrying out maintenance on Charleroi’s tramways. It is also working on the SNCB’s new double-decker train. For this project, it has developed a new self-propelled railcar with additional seats for passengers.
A number of employees with various skill profiles
More than 1,100 people work in the Charleroi company, 500 of which are engineers. They work in the former buildings of the Ateliers de Constructions Électriques. Parts are made in the large corridors lined with various offices.
Two centres of international excellence also operate in Charleroi, one specialises in signalling, and the other in energy-efficient traction systems. One hundred engineers work there developing solutions and implementing them. ‘When trains brake, they emit a lot of energy. The idea is therefore to recoup this energy and put it back into the railway network’, explains Sonia Thibaut.
In the future, Alstom is focusing on sustainability. The company is primarily investing in research into a 100% automated train for a higher level of punctuality. This type of driving also reduces energy consumption and is therefore less polluting and increases the number of trains on the line.
Alstom Charleroi is focusing on sustainability, in particular to best optimise the energy consumption of its solutions
Reflection of a metropolitan dynamism
The Charleroi company works directly with the local network. The centres of excellence have partnerships with SMEs, local start-ups, universities, etc.’ This research and development reinforces the dynamics of innovation and economy for both the city of Charleroi and all of the local stakeholders’, says Sonia Thibaut.
Alstom is always on the lookout for new candidates. The company has put a recruitment strategy in place to address this issue. ‘The company’s sustainable approach, projects all over the world, the diversity of these sometimes very technical projects and the opportunity for training should easily attract young people’, she continues.
What’s more, the good working atmosphere could also attract new employees. Recently, Benjamin has been enjoying participating in the company’s sports competition: ‘Forming a sports team has enabled me to meet new people at Alstom. I think it’s quite nice to challenge your colleagues in sporting activities’.
In the coming years, Benjamin is looking forward to tackling new challenges at Alstom, primarily thanks to a Master’s in railway transport, paid for by the company, which he has just finished in Paris.
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©Video/Reed & Jérôme Gobin