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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: Rail Cargo Group / Public domain/DAC
09 / 04 / 2024

Welcome to our live coverage of the highly anticipated webinar series 'Renew - up to date on digital rail freight.' Hosted by VPI in collaboration with UIP, 'Renew' will serve as a dynamic platform for exchanging insights and updates on the digitalization of rail freight transport across Europe. Stay tuned as we delve into discussions that promise to shape the future of rail freight transport.

14:00 Malte Lawrenz, the Chairperson of VPI, opens the webinar with welcoming remarks, setting the stage for today's insightful discussions. He introduces the central theme of the event, emphasizing that today's focus is not only on the Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC), a key facilitator of future advancements but also on a broader spectrum of digital innovations poised to enhance the rail freight system's overall performance. Lawrenz announces that Gilles Peterhans, the Secretary General of UIP, will co-lead the day's proceedings from Hamburg.

14:05 Gilles Peterhans takes the stage to showcase a holistic vision for the future of rail freight transport in Europe. He highlights rail as the backbone of freight transport in Europe until 2030. Peterhans points to digital platforms as the new standard for collaboration and stresses the importance of digital connectivity within trains, highlighting the Full Digital Freight Train Operations (FDFTO) as a goal to fully digitize rail freight operations, underscoring the comprehensive strategy to revitalize European rail freight by the year 2030.

Peterhans then reflects on the insights from last week's 'Connecting Europe Days' in Brussels. Key topics included the introduction of new European Transport Corridors, the resilience of the transport network against climate change and external threats, and the financing of transport infrastructure projects.

14:15 Gilles Peterhans delves into the multifaceted benefits of DAC for both the railway system and society. He outlines how DAC contributes to operations by making them faster, safer, and allowing for longer and heavier trains. For infrastructure, the shift from Automatic Train Operation (ATO) to the European Train Control System (ETCS) leads to increased capacity and reduces the need for new construction, he says.

DAC promises reliable and fast transport, real-time tracking, and an efficient cargo traffic system ready for a modal shift, fully integrating into the supply chain.

Peterhans outlines the strategic approach for deploying the Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC) across Europe. The preconditions for a European DAC deployment include a unified system, proven technology, and tested operational procedures.

Source: UIP

Peterhans encapsulates Europe’s Rail’s approach to transforming rail freight into two main clusters: Full Digital Rail Freight Operations (FDFTO) and Seamless Rail Freight. FDFTO incorporates advancements like DAC, energy and communication systems, and automated yard operations. The Seamless Rail Freight cluster focuses on interoperability across different modes and borders, and between various stakeholders, aiming for smooth planning, dispatching, and intermodal integration.

14:30 "Our goal is to achieve a single, mature European system," says Peterhans. "We don't want a system that looks good but doesn't work." He outlines the technical enablers and their development stages, from the initial concept at TRL 2 through to the fully developed and certified system at TRL 8.

Source: UIP

Peterhans explains that the FP5 TRANS4M-R Project is meticulously structured to synergize efforts across various specialized domains, from DAC core development to seamless operations and multimodal integration, all orchestrated under the strategic guidance of a steering committee and project management offices to ensure the transformation of Europe's rail freight.

14:40 DAC technical specification is meticulously crafted to align with the CEN NWIP standard, says Peterhans, covering all facets from general requirements to the specifics of mechanical and electric couplings, ensuring robustness, reliability, and interoperability for the locomotive hybrid coupler systems.

Source: Europe's Rail

14:45 Gilles mentions the TRANS4M-R project’s dedication to enhancing user experience with a suite of train control and monitoring functions, all hinged on digital connectivity for seamless operation and interoperability at the vehicle level, which will bring significant added value to the user, be it the train driver, brake test responsible, or ATO systems.

Source: Europe's Rail

14:50 The webinar proceeds to explain the methodology for integrating and delimiting various architectures within the project, highlighting the collaborative efforts led by DB Cargo AG in Work Package 2 and Task 2.3.

Source: Europe's Rail

14:55 Gilles Peterhans outlines the diverse work items under the System Pillar Task 4 for DAC/FDFTO, detailing various stages from team preparation to sector alignment, system design, and standardization efforts. These tasks are structured to ensure ongoing development and synchronization across different work packages, with a focus on creating European standards for DAC operations, designing an operations architecture, and developing a central instance for data management. Regular synchronization meetings are established to maintain project alignment and momentum.

15:00 Peterhans presents an update on Task 4 of Work Package 2, explaining how the processes are organized. The workflow is categorized into Train Preparation, Shunting Preparation, Wagon Processing, and Train Running, each with specific tasks such as the addition or removal of wagons, traction units, and changing of operators, all contributing to the movement and processing of trains within the yard.

Source: Europe's Rail

15:05 The webinar goes on to the current situation of operational rules within the EU's rail system, illustrating the interplay between EU-level Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSIs) and member state-specific regulations. Gilles Peterhans notes that while there is harmonization in functions provided by infrastructure managers, there remains significant flexibility at the national level, with non-harmonized solutions and various engineering approaches. Railway undertakings (RUs) have their rulebooks that contain specific operational rules for their network, providing detailed scenarios and operational rules tailored to the national context.

15:10 Coffee break.

15:20 After the coffee break, the webinar transitioned into its second part, focusing on the challenges of upgrading the existing fleet for the Digital Automatic Coupler Project. The session delves into garnering widespread acceptance across Europe, coordinating deployment, finalizing technical specifications, and securing funding from the EU and member states. The importance of assessing material costs, upgrade expenditures, and long-term maintenance is also emphasized to comprehensively define the financial needs for the sector's transition.

Source: EDDP

15:25 Peterhans presents the DAC General Master Plan setting a comprehensive timeline for the technological development and deployment of the Digital Automatic Coupler system, with key milestones and phases spanning from now until after 2030. It includes the development of pilot deployment trains, the establishment of deployment management entities, and the creation of a legal framework, all to ensure the smooth integration of DAC systems across the EU's rail network.

15:35 The comprehensive overview presented during webinar showcases all DAC-related activities encompassing Europe's Rail Flagship Project 5. It includes DAC/Full Digital Freight Train Operations with soundboarding and feedback on technology, operational procedures, retrofit capacity plans, financial planning, authorization provisions, operational procedure standardization, technical harmonization, and alignment of rail and DAC systems.

Source: Europe's Rail, EDDP

15:40 Peterhans mentions that the update on the fleet retrofit shows that 69 wagon types are suitable for retrofitting without any modification. However, there are 80 wagon types for which documentation is missing, requiring further research in collaboration with EDDP members.

Source: EDDP

15:45 The development of a DAC cloud, a central cloud-based database, is underway, which, according to Gilles Peterhans, will provide easy access to technical documentation necessary for the fleet retrofit. This DAC-cloud will be easily accessible through a web portal and managed by a neutral party. It aims to facilitate quick searches for vehicle types and provide a common technical assessment for DAC compatibility. The database structure will feature public areas to register all types of wagons, as well as private areas for wagon keepers to manage their specific fleet information. The data collected will be categorized into four functional groups to streamline the assessment and retrofitting process.

15:50 Peterhans presents the FIN4DAC stream and outlines a structured financial timeline from establishing the financial framework to managing risk and fundraising, essential for demonstrating viability and securing stakeholder confidence for the DAC project's deployment through to 2031.

Source: UIP

15:55 Last but not least, it's mentioned that the German Federal Ministry for Digitalization and Transport has launched a project aimed at facilitating the DAC, focusing on the stages leading up to deployment and the preparatory phase. The project is structured around three work packages: an overview of the market and technology, an analysis of European activities from a stakeholder perspective, and the evaluation of potential national support instruments for the DAC.

Source: Connected Value


This concludes the ‘'Renew - up to date on digital rail freight' webinar. Thank you for tuning in with RAILTARGET for the live coverage.