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Live from IRFC 2022: Day 2 of the conference begins! The theme of Session 3 is EU research and innovation in a globalised world

Live from IRFC 2022: Day 2 of the conference begins! The theme of Session 3 is EU research and innovation in a globalised world
photo: RAILTARGET/Live from IRFC 2022: Day 2 of the conference begins! The theme of Session 3 is EU research and innovation in a globalised world
06 / 10 / 2022

Welcome to our live coverage of the second day of IRFC 2022! Today we start with Session 3, focusing on EU research and innovation in a globalised world. Presentations will be made by Miroslav Haltuf, Vice-Chairman of the ER JU SRG, Petr Mervart, MIT Commissioner for Hydrogen Technologies, and Michal Pavel, Senior Researcher at AŽD.

9:15 Carlo Borghini, Executive Director of ER JU, introduces the session and welcomes Philippe Froissarda, Head of DG MOVE Future Urban and Mobility Systems Unit. Yesterday we discussed the Green Deal, which will be a big challenge for Europe. I need to start working on these programmes as soon as possible. Synergies within Horizon Europe, where we are working on the possibilities of these synergies, could help us to do this. We now have 11 partnerships for transport in Horizon Europe, and we are working closely with the ERU. There is a need for alternative propulsion for rail, and one of the partnerships is looking specifically at battery trains and hydrogen. Similarly, we could establish a partnership with ERU, with which, as I mentioned, we are working. In the future, we would like to organise a conference with the managers of all the programmes, because there is great potential in the discussion between them. We could also do a Hydrogen Joint Undertaking to make it easier to implement hydrogen propulsion for rail.

9:25 Next up is Keir Fitch, Head of the Rolling Stock Safety and Interoperability Unit at DG MOVE. The idea behind these partnership programmes is to work together on the development of new technologies and their application, together with strategies for further research and investment. It also helps us to better understand the needs of individual members to find effective solutions. For example, in the case of increasing rail capacity without having to build new lines, the ATO could help. Improving the whole traffic management system can help the railway infrastructure significantly, along with the implementation of ETCS. ATO will also help with energy savings. The development of ERTMS is also important, and we need to use satellites for that and also get them in the right positions. But mainly we should focus on ATO for the railways, we see that in the metro, for example, it has been working for 30 years. In terms of digitising the railway, we are trying to create an integrated system for the whole railway infrastructure, especially to make repairs and maintenance more efficient. At the same time, we need to do this in a standardised way across Europe and ideally for less money - that will also be crucial, to find such solutions. Related to this is the fact that during development and implementation we have to think about making the individual components easy to replace or upgrade. And we also need to work with innovative ideas and bring them to life.

9:40 Miroslav Haltuv, Vice-Chairman of the ER JU SRG, takes the floor. I will follow up on the need for synergies, which is the main goal of the SRG. Horizon Europe can be supported by Cluster 5 (Climate - Energy - Mobility) and at the same time by ER JU, where AŽD and ČD are founding members. In the Systems Pillar, members can receive funding for research and innovation and in the ER JU, we are looking for application solutions. Cybersecurity is one of the big issues today and we need to work closely with the Systems Pillar and also listen to observers such as EUSPA or EESA. From an SRG perspective, we need to be in contact with these organisations as well, because space can also be used for surface transportation. We need to cooperate at the European level to develop rail in all countries to make it fully usable and efficient. Furthermore, SMEs must be involved, because they are the driving force behind developments that are sometimes almost revolutionary. We must not be so conservative in the rail sector to survive. The SRG is also a coordinator at the state level on interoperability, working together on synergies and understanding how to help each other to be better. We need to learn from the more developed ones and take the less developed ones to the next level. Specific to ER JU, we are the voice of the member states and comment on ER JU plans when something needs to be changed. It is how we work with the Executive Director and the Board of Directors. For example, regarding the DAC, we are ready to help with its implementation.

9:55 Petr Mervart, MIT Commissioner for Hydrogen Technologies. It is my first railway conference, we usually attend more of the automotive ones. Today I would like to present how we are working with hydrogen in the Czech Republic and why hydrogen should become the main fuel for railways, i.e. emission-free operation. The Czech Republic's hydrogen strategy revolves around reducing CO2 emissions because we are a very industrial country. And hydrogen could help us to reduce them. Our strategy has four pillars - production, technology, use and transport + storage. For this, we need several new technologies, so this pillar is really important. The goal then is to reduce our dependence on Russian gas, and at Spolchemia we could produce 2,200 tonnes of low-carbon hydrogen per year because it uses nuclear energy to generate electricity. We also have an organisation called Hytep, which has more than 20 members, working on hydrogen technologies. And then we are also working on integrated projects to make the most efficient use of hydrogen. Trains are one part of this project, and we would also like to use hydrogen for road transport, especially public transport. Hydrogen produced from solar panels, waste treatment and biogas would then go to filling stations. For trains, we have found that using hydrogen is very efficient, and we don't need as many filling stations for them - building one filling station costs the same as electrifying 5 kilometres of railway. The application of hydrogen on the rail will still require debate in the sector. But we will soon get data from practice because hydrogen trains will soon be used in Germany. We need to know how much it costs to produce and distribute hydrogen, the cost of maintaining the trains or their reliability.

10:10 Michal Pavel, Senior Researcher at AŽD, will tell us more about AŽD's experience as a founding member of the ER JU. This organisation promotes strong and long-term cooperation on European railways, and in particular, has brought live technology demonstrations to the forefront. Furthermore, we can better collaborate on the development of TSI standards. The ER JU hierarchy was basically taken from Shift2Rail because it was functional. But we have changed the decision-making scheme a bit. We currently have 5 innovation programs whose objectives and solutions are built horizontally. I will now move on to specific examples of projects that AŽD is involved in, which is mainly the ATO. The technical specifications for this project are almost ready and should be published soon together with the TSI. We are also working on the use of ATO with ETCS in real conditions for freight rail transport in Switzerland. We presented an autonomous train at InnoTrans 2022, which should be the goal of this development. We will continue to test these systems to put them into practice.

10:25 And the last contribution will be made by Antonín Felber, Executive Director of the Green Railway. Most CO2 emissions come from the road, and in our country, only 22% of transport is powered by electricity. The Green Deal is then an opportunity for rail to get to the forefront of transport. The second chapter is interesting, where the target is that 75% of freight should be served by rail or shipping, and it is clear that there is no point in adjusting these targets in any way, i.e. reducing them. And what options do we have for further reducing emissions? We can use electric vehicles or dual-fuel vehicles, i.e. hybrids. Electricity is the most advantageous in terms of energy consumption, but that is only one point of view. As far as the railways are concerned, 90% of the transport is done by electric locomotives, even though, for example, we do not have a sufficiently electrified railway network in the Czech Republic. Battery power could then be interesting from the point of view that the batteries can be recharged on the move. However, the question is their lifetime, after 15 years such a train will have a range of 80-100 kilometres. For hydrogen, it is important to ensure its purity, it must be 99.97%. The best hydrogen is therefore that produced by electrolysis because its purity is 99.999% compared to the normal chemical production (98.5 - 99%). A hydrogen train can currently be used for regional transport, but not yet for rail freight.