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Enhancing safety and transparency in rail freight transport: Sensors on VTG wagons

Enhancing safety and transparency in rail freight transport: Sensors on VTG wagons
photo: VTG/VTG - Sensors for Predictive Maintenance
12 / 03 / 2021

Until 2023 VTG wants to equip 15.000 rail freight wagons with sensors and/or wayside monitoring on their safety-related parts, namely brake system (sensors in brake pads), the wheelset (sensors for bearing monitoring), and /or wagon overall condition (sensors for load status), representing 15% of the VTG Rail Europe’s wagon fleet, and a substantial market share of rail freight transport in Europe on all nine TEN-T Core Network corridors.

Smart rail thanks to sensors

In 2019 VTG received approval for an ambitious innovative CEF Action "VTG Rail Europe status oriented and predictive maintenance" sponsored by INEA (Innovation and Networks Executive Agency of the European Commission).

In February 2020 the IINEA from Brussels and the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) were informed in Hamburg about the status of a comprehensive innovation project of VTG. Prototypes of the sensors were presented in the port of Hamburg. They were being tested on boxXpress wagons and adapted for use in freight traffic.

In June 2020 VTG equipped the first large portion of its wagon fleet with digital sensor technology. As part of an innovation project, the company was specifically testing the type of sensors that enable predictive and status-based rail freight car maintenance, thus making rail freight transport more predictable and economical. The first sensors have been attached to the freight cars and they had undergo extensive testing. In addition, track-side monitoring systems for a number of safety-related wagon parts – including the braking system, wheelsets and general wagon status – are also being tested.

“We are proud to be making a valuable contribution to more attractive, digital rail freight transport with this innovation project. Fitting our European fleet with cutting-edge sensor technology is pivotal to our digitalization strategy”, says Sven Wellbrock, Chief Operating Officer Europe & Chief Safety Officer at VTG.

Key Benefits

  • Significantly reduced downtimes of the wagons and therefore increased availability of the fleet for sustainable rails transport
  • Simplification of rail transport management as wagons can be easier planned and forecasted for maintenance with less unplanned effects
  • Increased safety level through actively controlled repair status and monitoring of the wagons
  • Increased network capacity and decreased emissions (CO2, NOx and noise) through avoided transport to repair workshops
  • Increased competitiveness of rail as a transport mode

Funding from the European Union

The EU is promoting the use of sensors to digitalize rail freight transport – because the entire rail system will benefit from comprehensive, status-oriented and predictive wagons maintenance. The project is therefore being co-financed by the European Union’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) with funds amounting to EUR 13 million.