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LIVE COVERAGE: 'Renew – Up to Date on Digital Rail Freight' Webinar

LIVE COVERAGE: 'Renew – Up to Date on Digital Rail Freight' Webinar
photo: RAILTARGET, VPI / Public domain/Matthias Knüpling, Malte Lawrenz, Gilles Peterhans
27 / 11 / 2023

RAILTARGET is on the scene today, bringing live coverage straight from the much-anticipated webinar series “Renew - up to date on digital rail freight”, organised by the International Union of Wagon Keepers (UIP). Today's spotlight shines on the revolutionary Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC), a key catalyst for future-oriented developments in rail freight while offering insights into a spectrum of digital innovations poised to enhance the rail freight ecosystem's efficiency and performance comprehensively.

Guided by the expert input and moderation of Gilles Peterhans, UIP Secretary General, and Matthias Knüpling, UIP DAC Coordinator, this event promises to pave the path for unprecedented innovation and progress in rail freight transport.

10:00 The "Renew - up to date on digital rail freight" webinar commenced with an introduction by Malte Lawrenz, Chairman of VPI. Radke warmly welcomed the diverse international audience, highlighting the global relevance of today's topic as the reason for conducting the seminar in English. Emphasizing the importance of the discussion, he introduced the key speakers: Gilles Peterhans, UIP Secretary General, and Matthias Knüpling, UIP DAC Coordinator. Both Peterhans and Knüpling are notably instrumental in the development of the Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC), a central theme of today's webinar.

10:10 Gilles Peterhans, UIP Secretary General, took the stage to offer an illuminating preview of the strategic direction for the upcoming five years regarding the digital transformation in rail freight. In his presentation, he steered clear of the intricate technicalities, instead providing an accessible overview of the transformative TRANS4M-R project.

Europe's Rail

Highlighting the project's alignment with Europe's Rail Joint Undertaking and its integral innovation pillars, Peterhans set the stage for today's discussion, underscoring the Digital Automatic Coupler (DAC) as a cornerstone of this digital shift. His talk promised insights into how this initiative aims to elevate rail freight's role in achieving a more sustainable and efficient future, adhering to the goals of the European Green Deal.

Europe's Rail

10:20 Delving into the details of the TRANS4M-R project's implementation, Gilles Peterhans outlined a comprehensive approach with 16 technical enablers set to be developed, tested, and demonstrated. This ambitious roadmap includes the interoperable Digital Automatic Coupler (DAC), capable of supporting a range of automated train functions, vital for enhancing operational efficiency.

Europe's Rail

10:30 The seminar progressed to a pivotal segment on ensuring the maturity of the 16 technical enablers within the TRANS4M-R project, emphasizing the methodical progression through the Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs).

 UIP, Europe's Rail

10:35 Gilles Peterhans showcases the TRANS4M-R project's collaborative efforts of key industry partners in testing and developing the DAC. The visuals presented during the webinar highlight various DACs developed by leading companies like Voith, Knorr-Bremse, Dellner, and Faiveley.

Europe's Rail

10:40 When Matthias Knüpling posed the question, "What makes you positive about the project?" Gilles Peterhans pointed to the intricate communication system architecture depicted in the slide. He remarked on the well-defined structure as a source of optimism, illustrating the clear and systematic approach to data and communication within the FDFT (Full Digital Freight Train) operations.

Europe's Rail

10:45 Gilles Peterhans underscored the importance of the 'three levels of communication' in the digital rail freight system, highlighting it as the "biggest step as of now" in the pursuit of interoperability. The presented slide illustrated the essential communication layers, from the foundational supplier level to the overarching cloud operators and railcar owners.

Europe's Rail

Peterhans emphasized that establishing a standardized data interface across these levels is crucial for the seamless integration of sensor data, vehicle interfaces, user interfaces, and cloud services.

10:55 Matthias Knüpling: "We have a very transparent project although normally the curtains are open at the very end of the project, but it’s not the case and it’s very great."

Gilles Peterhans: "ERJU is innovation and the one thing clear about the innovation is that it’s always changing. What’s valid today might not be valid tomorrow. So that’s the difficult part, as it’s evolving, when do you stop and say, 'Okay, I’m implementing it now'?"

Matthias Knüpling, responding to a question from the audience, stated: "Scheduled until the beginning of 2026 and we want to keep this timeframe as good as possible."

11:15 After the intermission, Matthias Knüpling resumed the webinar by presenting an elaborate slide on the "Interconnection of all DAC-related activities," emphasizing the comprehensive DAC migration plan.

European DAC Delivery Program

"We need to think about how to implement the project without disturbing rail freight in the process," comments Matthias Knüpling.

11:15 Addressing the DAC migration plan, Matthias Knüpling broke down the data collection process into four functional groups: Installation SpaceAbsorption ForceType Identification, and Vehicle Connection.

European DAC Delivery Program

A slide was presented about the database project's organization within the EDDP program, illustrating that:

  • The database will be a central, cloud-based solution called the "DAC-cloud".
  • It will be fully funded by the EDDP, including members and funding contributions.
  • The database is to be managed by a dedicated project group and developed by a neutral IT provider.
  • Access to the database will be restricted to authorized entities, including manufacturers and EDDP project members.

11:25 A participant inquired whether it would be prudent for UIP to devise a technical guide to streamline the readiness of newly built wagons for DAC systems, aiming to expedite future mounting processes. Matthias Knüpling responded affirmatively, noting that such planning would indeed be a subsequent step within the migration phase. However, he stressed the necessity of first establishing a comprehensive understanding of the current status of wagons to determine the specific requirements for the couplers. Acknowledging the question's significance, he assured that this aspect would be addressed.

Gilles Peterhans then contributed, outlining the structured approach to the project. "Let's start with the easy part, which is collecting the data, and then the challenging part will be analyzing it and the third and most important part is coming up with solutions."

11:40 When questioned about the financial implications of implementing the DAC project, Matthias Knüpling stated, "No one knows today yet what funding will be available from the EU and from the member states. But if we want to realize this project, we need sufficient funding and we need to do it all together."

In response to an inquiry about the exact financial requirements, he added that "we will see the final price tag only after we see the final product."

Further discussing the project's viability and appeal to government entities, Gilles Peterhans asked if the justification to governments was also under consideration. He received confirmation that indeed, the current focus is on developing a solid methodology so when it comes to the government, it will be needed to report in detail about how the project is unfolding.

UIP, European DAC Delivery Program

11:50 Addressing the timeline and expectations of the DAC project, Matthias Knüpling set a realistic tone by saying, "Nothing will happen at once. It would be very nice, but it's a long procedure and probably not every technology development will be available on D-1."

Further, he invited stakeholders to engage with the project more closely, pointing them to the European DAC Delivery Program's website. "For everyone who knows me and how my heart beats for this once-in-a-lifetime project, please step in and support us," added Knüpling.

"The future is digital," stepped in Gilles Peterhans, adding, "I hope we can all agree on this and take the migration seriously as the criteria for success."

11:59 The webinar concluded with Malte Lawrenz extending heartfelt thanks to Matthias and Gilles for their informative presentations.


This concludes the 'Renew – Up to Date on Digital Rail Freight' webinar. Thank you for tuning in with RAILTARGET for the live coverage.