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Digital Automatic Coupling for all European freight wagons before 2030

Digital Automatic Coupling for all European freight wagons before 2030
photo: DAC4EU/DAC4EU
01 / 03 / 2021

The introduction of Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC) is an impending revolution in increasing the competitiveness of European rail freight transport. With the joining of wagons and trains, all the manipulation and marshaling will be safer and faster. Four different DAC prototypes are already being tested in Germany.

The DAC4EU consortium is working under a contract with the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) to carry out a pilot research project "DAC Demonstrator for Rail Freight Traffic". Consortium members have committed to equipping freight wagons in Europe with DAC as standard by 2030. Approximately € 13 million is allocated to the project, which has been running since June 2020. The project is expected to produce results by December 2022.

The members of the DAC4EU consortium are the freight operators DB Cargo and its parent company Deutsche Bahn, SBB Cargo and Rail Cargo Austria, and the wagon keepers of VTG, GATX, and Ermewa.

A comprehensive DAC prototype testing program was launched in October 2020. First, freight wagons and tank wagons belonging to DB Cargo and GATX were fitted with prototypes of four coupling systems developed by various manufacturers. Prototypes must prove their safe and reliable operation in demanding conditions in intensive tests. Each DAC prototype in this phase of the project will undergo 440 different tests.

The performance and behavior of DAC systems are tested on tracks with different curve radii, at different speeds, under different load conditions of wagons. The effect of weather, temperature, and its fluctuations will be tested as well. The first part took place at the test site in Görlitz and included tests of the coupling and shunting on the track. The cars are now in a “climate chamber” near the city of Minden, where their reactions to extreme weather temperatures are being tested.

The completed test results will be crucial in the process of deciding on a uniform DAC design, which will become the standard for the whole of Europe. The decision will be the responsibility of the European DAC Delivery Program (EDDP) and will be done under the auspices of Shift2Rail.

After that, the preferred connection system selected by EDDP will be fitted to a pilot demonstration train, which will no longer be tested only in Germany. At this stage of the research project, the DAC4EU consortium will also collect operational data and practical experience in Switzerland, Austria, and other selected European countries.

The progress of the project is also documented by the consortium in the videos that you can see here and here.