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LIVE COVERAGE: 'DAC: Digital Automatic Coupling, Preliminary Operational Procedures' Webinar

LIVE COVERAGE: 'DAC: Digital Automatic Coupling, Preliminary Operational Procedures' Webinar
photo: UIC, DAC4EU/LIVE COVERAGE: 'DAC: Digital Automatic Coupling, Preliminary Operational Procedures' Webinar
13 / 09 / 2023

RAILTARGET is on the scene today, bringing live coverage straight from the much-anticipated webinar 'DAC: Digital Automatic Coupling, Preliminary Operational Procedures' focusing on the future of rail freight in the digital era. Hosted in collaboration with the EU Rail's FP5-TRANS4M-R project and the European DAC Delivery Programme, the focus is squarely on rail freight automation and digitalisation, with the Digital Automatic Coupler (DAC) taking centre stage. This coverage will explore how these state-of-the-art technologies aim to aid the transport sector in achieving the EU's rigorous climate targets.

10:05 We've just kicked off the "FDFTO - Full Digital Freight Train Operations Enabled by the DAC" webinar, where the central theme revolves around harmonised operational procedures.

Opening remarks were gracefully delivered by Mr. Javier Ibáñez de Yrigoyen, the esteemed Senior Programme Manager of EU-Rail. Mr. Ibáñez emphasized key areas of discussion, including:

  • The dynamics of European Rail Traffic and Mobility Management
  • Spotlighting flagship projects championing the cause of digitalisation and automation in train operations
  • Comprehensive showcases on sustainable and digital assets, emphasizing large-scale demonstrations that epitomize a competitive, digital, green rail freight paradigm
  • A deep dive into exploratory and foundational R&I
  • An evaluation of regional rail services tailored for low-density regions.

10:15 The webinar spotlight turned to Mr. Jens Engelmann, EDDP Programme Co-Manager, who took the virtual stage to shed light on the broader context setting the stage for a detailed dive into the foundational reasons behind today's gathering.

Mr. Engelmann elaborated on the European DAC Delivery Programme, a monumental initiative powered by Europe's Rail, aiming to reshape the very fabric of freight rail operations across the continent. Providing insights into the key personas steering the EDDP Programme Management, he highlighted the collaboration between Mark Topal-Gökceli, ÖBB's CTO, and himself, representing railiable.

Further expanding the horizons of the discourse, Mr. Engelmann demystified the intricate web of DAC actors and their interrelations. Three pivotal entities emerged at the forefront of this ecosystem:

  • Europe's Rail, anchored in Brussels, BE
  • DG Move, also headquartered in Brussels, BE
  • The European Union Agency for Railways, operating out of Valenciennes, FR.

Europe's Rail Webinar Presentation

10:25 We are moving onto the much-anticipated 'Preliminary Operational Procedures' segment, helmed by Mr. Andreas Haller, Lead Architect Intelligent Freight Train & Digital Automated Coupling, Digital Automatic Coupling Project (L.CBX).

Walking the attendees through the manifold facets of the project, Mr. Haller elucidated the motivation, historical trajectory, background, methodological approach, and the delimitations surrounding the initiative. 

Central to his address was the pivotal objective of the document in discussion. Mr. Haller emphasized its paramount significance covered in Chapters 1, 2 and 3: to usher in the first set of operational procedures for rail freight that have garnered unanimous agreement across Europe. These procedures will pave the foundation for the development of pioneering innovations spanning WP3-WP12. The document delineates the aspirational target of complete automation in the freight sector. Moreover, it charts a subset, rooted in the technical enablers mutually agreed upon in FP5-TRANS4M-R.

While chapters 1, 2, and 4 primarily revolve around the driving force or motivation behind the entire initiative, Chapter 3 stands distinct, focusing on the rich background that underpins the procedures.

Europe's Rail Webinar Presentation

10:35 Progressing through the webinar, Mr. Haller turned our attention to Chapter 5, aptly titled "Methodology." A notable highlight was the introduction of the Core Team.

Europe's Rail Webinar Presentation

In his exploration of Chapter 5, Mr. Haller mentions the coordination processes that played a pivotal role during the document's formulation.

Europe's Rail Webinar Presentation

10: 45 Diving deeper into Chapter 7.2, "Delimitation", Mr. Haller highlighted the following key areas:

  • Disruption/error process: This document doesn't delve into disruption processes due to their inherent complexity
  • Migration: While eagerly awaited by many, the document doesn’t cover migration scenarios, though it can serve as a foundational framework for future strategies
  • Border traffic/handover: Handovers between RUs or borders aren't directly addressed, but individual steps of these processes should be incorporated with flexible sequencing
  • Existing operational processes: Processes untouched by Full Digital Freight Train operations aren't included
  • IT interfaces: Only a generic view is offered, with specific details being addressed in other ERJU work packages
  • Maintenance processes: The focus is on operative shunting processes in workshops, excluding detailed maintenance/repair processes of vehicles or components
  • Consist functions: While train functions might be paired with consist functions, these aren't described in the document.

10:50 Progressing into the heart of "Preliminary Operational Procedures", Mr. Haller shifted his lens to terminology and key players, ensuring all attendees were on the same page. Kicking things off, he elucidates pivotal terms (FDFT Function, FDFT Function Prevent Coupling, FDFT System, FDFT Wagon Base System, FDFT Link, as well as FDFT mode Train Run and FDFT mode Shunting).

Europe's Rail Webinar Presentation

Europe's Rail Webinar Presentation

Europe's Rail Webinar Presentation

These foundational terms provide a clear framework for understanding the nuanced discussions to follow.

11:00 Venturing further into the terminology, Mr. Haller presented a critical term to grasp - "Brake." Giving context, he outlined the existing definition (Service Brake) and "new" terminologies (Automated Parking Brake and Controllable Brake).

Europe's Rail Webinar Presentation

11:10 Mr. Haller has now shifted his focus towards detailing the various actors that play pivotal roles in the digital rail operational processes. Here's a succinct breakdown based on the information shared:

  • Brake Test Operator (BO): Personnel on site responsible for performing brake tests.
  • Consist (A) (B): The smallest operational unit in railway rolling stock, like a wagon or traction unit, with its unique identification number and a central control unit representing a node on the DAC network.
  • FDFT Backend (BE): A land-side hub that manages various new FDFT functions. It communicates with other systems and can initiate functions like coupling and uncoupling in its target state.
  • FDFT Yard (FY): An infrastructure-based system managing infrastructure elements in its area and potentially communicating the infrastructure's current state to the FDFT Backend.
  • Mobile HMI (HM): A device, either local or remote, enabling personnel to interact with FDFT Systems, including retrieving wagon data.
  • Operator TU (O): Personnel who remotely control Traction Units.
  • Personnel (P): Referenced only in subprocesses, this term denotes the original actor in the main process that initiated a subprocess activity.
  • Signaller (S): The individual responsible for routing trains/shunting movements and giving instructions to the Operator of the Traction Unit.
  • Stationary Device (SD): An infrastructure-side tool that supplies air for brake tests, measures data like air pressure, and provides power and data connectivity, enabling connection between wagons and other systems.

Europe's Rail Webinar Presentation

  • Wagon Inspector (WI): On-site professionals who carry out technical inspections of wagons.
  • Wagon/Wagon Set (WWS):
            • Wagon: A single freight wagon equipped with DAC couplers on both ends. If wagons are permanently coupled with just one UIC Number, they operate as one unit.
            • Wagon Set: A collection of wagons interconnected by DAC coupler heads.
  • Yard Legacy System (YL): The contemporary technical systems employed in current yard operations.
  • Yard Manager (YM): Individuals overseeing and managing the workings of shunting yards.
  • Yard Personnel (YP): On-site personnel essential for tasks like shunting operations, coupling or uncoupling of rolling stock, and other activities demanding hands-on human involvement.

11:20 Shifting focus to the "Preliminary Operational Procedures", Mr. Haller illuminates the foundational intent behind these guidelines. Mirroring current deliberations within the sector, especially under the FP5-TRANS4M-R framework, these procedures offer a blueprint for widespread European use. The approach is intentionally generic, ensuring they don't prescribe granular processes for each Rail Undertaking (RU) or Wagon Keeper. Instead, they aim to provide a flexible foundation, allowing individual companies to adapt based on local conditions and rules. Mr. Haller also clarifies what this study specifically omits, including intricate topics like disruption/error processes, migration, cross-border transitions, and several others to ensure a clear, overarching directive.

Europe's Rail Webinar Presentation

Europe's Rail Webinar Presentation

11:25 Mr. Haller introduces a critical distinction in train operations - the variance between Target and Semi-Automated processes. The Target Process embodies the vision of a fully automated operation, while the Semi-Automated Process is employed in scenarios that are only partially automated, possibly due to ongoing technical advancements or certain locales like customer sidings not being comprehensively outfitted yet. This framework offers a clear demarcation between the ideal of complete automation, termed Target State, and the transitional Semi-Automated State.

11:30 Elaborating further on automation processes, Mr. Haller introduces the distinction between the Target Process and the ER JU Process. Within the purview of ER JU FP5-TRANS4M-R, not every development reaching the desired target state is executed. Thus, the document details ERJU Process, a semi-automated version reflecting what's achievable post the completion of ER JU FP5-TRANSM-R's developments, specifically highlighting the Technical Enabler.

11:40 Moving forward in his discussion on Preliminary Operational Procedures, Mr. Haller outlines a process overview, segmenting it into four main processes: TP01 Shunting Preparation, TP02 Wagon Processing, TP03 Train Preparation, and TP04 Train Run. Notably, TP01 and TP03 are classified under Preparation Processes, TP02 is categorized as part of the Shunting Processes in the Local Yard, while TP04 emphasizes the actual movement, falling under Train Run.

Europe's Rail Webinar Presentation

More details on each of the processes can be found here.

Europe's Rail Webinar Presentation

12:00 Stepping up next is Frédéric Hénon, diving deep into the 'Next Steps and Outlook'. Key highlights include the dispatch of an online questionnaire post the Webinar aimed at gathering feedback from all participants by mid-October 2023. The System Pillar/Task 4 team will take the lead in analyzing the conclusions from the feedback, followed by an evaluation and a formal handover to FP5. 

Europe's Rail Webinar Presentation

12:15 And as we wrap up this enlightening Webinar on DAC: Digital Automatic Coupling, Mr Jens Engelmann shares his overwhelming appreciation for today's proceedings. A highlight of today's age, he marvels at the digital conveniences that brought over 300 participants together seamlessly; an endeavour that might have been challenging offline. The engaging questions and commentary from attendees have not gone unnoticed, with assurance from Engelmann that the dedicated team will address each query in the upcoming days. He and Mr Javier Ibáñez de Yrigoyen urge attendees to actively review and share feedback on the discussed document.

This concludes the Webinar on DAC: Digital Automatic Coupling, Preliminary Operational Procedures. Thank you for tuning in with RAILTARGET for the live coverage.