CZ/SK verze

LIVE COVERAGE: ‘The Future of Rail Freight – See How It Works in the 21st Century’

LIVE COVERAGE: ‘The Future of Rail Freight – See How It Works in the 21st Century’
photo: Rail Cargo Group / Public domain/Railway tracks
02 / 04 / 2024

Today, RAILTARGET brings you exclusive live coverage of the ‘The Future of Rail Freight – See How It Works in the 21st Century’ event, a discussion on revolutionizing rail freight for the 21st century. Today's spotlight is on Digital Automatic Couplers (DAC) and sustainable transport solutions.

11:00 Giorgio Travaini kicks off the event with a warm welcome, introducing the lineup of esteemed panel speakers and emphasizing the pivotal role of Digital Automatic Couplers (DAC) in contemporary rail freight. He names DAC a "unique and organized" innovation, crucial for aligning with the European Green Deal's objectives. "DAC is our enabler to sustainable transport solution," says Travaini. "Let's be the first continent to harvest the fully digital operations in freight."

11:05 Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium, Mr. Georges Gilkinet. He reflects on the historical significance of trains, advocating for their role not just in the past but as a future-forward mode of transport. Gilkinet outlines ambitious goals to promote rail freight and transition from road to rail by 2030, in line with the Belgian Presidency's targets. However, he acknowledges the challenges ahead, noting that modern shift targets seem elusive and calls for increased efforts at both national and European levels to make these goals a reality.

11:15 Ms. Magda Kopczyńska, Deputy Director for Mobility and Transport, emphasizes the critical role of digitalization within the current economic and societal framework, especially considering the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine. She acknowledges the day's focus on DAC, presenting it not just as a technological advancement but as a pivotal element in the automation and efficiency enhancement of rail freight. Kopczyńska outlines the anticipated benefits of DAC, including the facilitation of faster and heavier trains, improved rail infrastructure capacity, reduced terminal turnover times, and enhanced logistics services. Despite these recognized advantages, she points to the challenges of the DAC project, specifically its large-scale deployment and the substantial financing required, estimated at 13 billion euros. "Today's event is an important building block to make this solution a reality," says Kopczyńska.

11: 25 Giorgio Travaini then introduces Mr. Kristian Schmidt to take the stage as the moderator for the upcoming panel discussion. Schmidt presents a distinguished panel comprising Mr. Mark Topal, CTO at OBB; Dr. Sigrid Nikutta, CEO at DB Cargo; Mr. David Zindo, President at UIP; Mr. Paolo Pagliero, Vice President of Transit Engineering at Wabtec; and Dr. Peter Füglistaler, Director of the Swiss Federal Office of Transport.

11:30 Dr. Sigrid Nikutta emphasizes the pan-European scope of the initiative, stating that the ambition to deploy more trains is a common goal across the continent and underlining the need for increased capacity as critical for the future. While constructing new lines is an option, it is a long-term solution that could take years or decades to realize. Therefore, short-term solutions like the DAC, in combination with the European Train Control System (ETCS), are pivotal. These technologies could collectively enhance capacity by 15%. However, she highlights funding as the primary challenge at this juncture.

11:35 Paolo Pagliero addresses the inherent complexity of the DAC project, highlighting the challenge of integrating various sectors of the railway industry into a universal solution.

11:40 Kristian Schmidt points out that a significant part of Mark Topal's role involves convincing stakeholders of the project's feasibility. Topal stresses the multitude of initiatives at the European level, noting that the DAC's development and implementation involve collaboration with over 200 partners. He mentions that digitalization's migration issues are still being resolved, with more than 1000 individuals working across different aspects to enable DAC.

On the topic of braking systems, Topal introduces the possibility of adopting electro-pneumatic braking for increased efficiency, underscoring the need for investment in technology and innovation. He views the initiative as a collective effort by and for the industry, suggesting that businesses should see the value in it.

11:45 Schmidt raises a question about DAC's financial viability and whether wagon keepers are in a position to support this investment. In response, David Zindo frames DAC as "not just an opportunity but as a necessity." He elaborates on the growing customer demand for more rail usage, which requires enhanced flexibility, capacity, automation, and supply chain capabilities—all of which come with associated costs. Zindo asserts that while DAC is not the sole solution, it acts as "an enabler" for achieving these goals, making it a collective endeavor for the entire transportation sector.

11:50 Dr. Peter Füglistaler emphasizes the traditionally complex nature of railway operations but insists that the current moment demands action over protracted discussions. He advocates for a proactive approach, urging stakeholders to embrace the future by implementing solutions like DAC without delay, highlighting the urgency of transitioning from talk to tangible progress.

11:55 David Zindo also addresses the aging railway fleet, noting that 50% of it is over 30 years old and due for renewal. He argues that this presents an opportune moment to adopt DAC technology. By integrating DAC into the renewal process, the industry can make a rational transition towards improved efficiency and performance, aligning the fleet upgrade with broader objectives for modernization and sustainability.

12:00 Dr. Sigrid Nikutta concluded the panel discussion by presenting Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium, Mr. Georges Gilkinet, with a printed version of the DAC symbolizing the transformative potential of this technology.

12:10 German Minister for Digital and Transport, Volker Wissing, offers the closing remarks for the discussion, reflecting on the inception and evolution of the DAC project. He traces the project's roots back to its initial development phase in 2020, with its first round of testing occurring in 2022. Wissing highlights the significant benefits of the new DAC, stating it will enable the operation of longer and heavier freight trains, thereby significantly enhancing the capacity of the railway network. Looking ahead, he hopes for the DAC's first practical deployment by the year 2028. To achieve this, Wissing underscores the critical need for collaboration and commitment within the railway sector, emphasizing its crucial role in ensuring the project's success.

This concludes the ‘The Future of Rail Freight – See How It Works in the 21st Century’ event. Thank you for tuning in with RAILTARGET for the live coverage.