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Live from IRFC 2022: The second section covers rail interoperability and standardization!

Live from IRFC 2022: The second section covers rail interoperability and standardization!
photo: RAILTARGET/Live from IRFC 2022: The second section covers rail interoperability and standardization!
05 / 10 / 2022

Welcome to our live coverage of the 2nd Thematic Session of IRFC 2022, where rail interoperability and standardization will be discussed. During this session, presentations will be made by Keir Fitch, Head of the Rail Safety and Interoperability Unit of DG MOVE, Tomáš Tóth, Head of ČD Cargo, and Vladimír Kampík, Director of European Affairs at AŽD. There is really something to look forward to!

14:30 We are welcomed by the moderator of this session, Josef Doppelbauer, Executive Director of ERA. He starts by telling us about the ERA campaign. He shows us how road transport is a much bigger consumer of energy and producer of emissions. It is why distances of 700 km or more should not be served by trucks, but by rail freight. There is a huge potential for rail, and it would also save 40 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. It would also increase the share of rail freight transport to 36%.

14:35 Keir Fitch, Head of Rail Safety and Interoperability at DG MOVE, takes to the microphone. He says interoperability on rail has several benefits, such as greater competitiveness, integration of rail into the transport chain and better customer service. But most importantly, an environmentally friendly and sustainable mode of transport. And if we look at the US, they have 5 types of standardised locomotives for the whole country, which makes rail transport much easier. To achieve such goals, we need to get new and, above all, young people into the rail industry. We will need to recruit staff from different fields of technical expertise. Then interoperability itself will allow for greater flexibility on the railways. Today, we can often only run on certain railways because they are simply not interoperable, and this then makes rail transport longer and, above all, more complicated. It is why the ER system pillar is crucial - because it could unify European railways, where we are limited by differences in the railway infrastructure of individual countries. We cannot then even implement new technologies effectively. And the System Pillar could solve this. In fact, harmonise all these processes at the European level and support the vision of SERA (Single European Railway Area), not least with the creation and application of TSIs. We see this in innovation for the railways. At the moment, we are simply not able to implement them effectively and Europe-wide. We need to work together on the railways because wagons have a lifetime of 35-40 years and the infrastructure itself even more. That is great from an economic point of view. But, again, we need to work together to implement new technologies and innovations, to create a kind of standard for such processes to speed them up and perhaps save money at the same time. The DAC could then be a model of how to proceed at the European level, or on European railways, in the future. Otherwise, we could also soon become a railway museum.

14:50 Followed by Kamil Pravdík from ERA. Is the registration of new vehicles really faster under the 4th railway package? Today it is within a few months, and in the last three years, we have only missed the deadline once, but that was due to an error on the NSA's part. We get applications from everyone, from manufacturers to leasing companies. Now on to the 2022 TSI review cycle, when we will see a presentation on what it all entails. This revision cycle is in line with EU policies, for example, on the Green Deal or a safe rail. In total, there are some 75 topics that the EC has given us. For example, harmonisation between standards or derailment detection equipment. The working groups themselves are already divided by topic and not by the standard. They then work together to create new standards. We are focusing on green freight transport, where we are working on composite brake pads, derailment detectors and combined transport. In these areas, we then adapt the standards to be more relevant to practice. The other two topics are DAC and traction batteries. We have also made changes in other areas, such as the definition of special vehicles or revising the use of standards. There we have updated more than 100 standards. Then, in terms of standards, we are still focusing on ATO, FRMCS and ETCS, especially versions 2.2 and 3.0, or also telematics. One of our objectives is to speed up the whole process of revision and creation of standards, and we should publish the revisions of the standards for the EC towards the end of this year.

15:10 Matthias Ruete, European ERTMS Coordinator at DG MOVE, will make a further contribution. As a coordinator, I found that I am quite alone in this and here is my report. Currently, 42% of ETCS is on European lines and 46% is already under construction. But this leaves us with islands of ETCS within Europe. However, there is a reason for optimism, we expect the vast majority of the TEN-T to be equipped with ERTMS by 2040. Nevertheless, we should accelerate the process of equipping lines with ETCS - it makes more sense to have these systems throughout the network and it is also a major industrial project for Europe. The cost will be around EUR 100 trillion. In addition to the infrastructure, we need to work on implementing ERTMS directly on trains, where it is not so positive, and by 2030 we expect that just under 10 000 vehicles and locomotives will be equipped with ERTMS. But we need 25-30 000 vehicles and locomotives with ERTMS, so there is a significant difference. As for new vehicles, less than half are equipped with ERTMS produced between 2015-2019. Some Member States do not even see the need to equip vehicles and locomotives with ERTMS. If it is only fitted on the track, we will be in a vicious circle, which is why we need to fit the train fleets as well. In fact, the whole principle of interoperability, as Keir Fitch mentioned, depends on this. It is actually all part of the process of standardisation and interoperability. ERTMS should be the only safety system on European railways. For that, we also need a unified mindset on this issue. We have seen that the new TSI standards have also affected FRMCS readiness.

15:25 Cyrille Guyon, Deputy General Manager of ERMEWA, has a contribution to the DAC. In recent years, we have gone to the fore to help the rail sector evolve and move from road to rail. Some interesting facts about European rail freight transport. The length of shipments is often around 350 kilometres, whereas rail is fully competitive over distances of 750 kilometres or more. Also, many times it is a kind of vanity rather than a primary mode of transport. We must therefore realise how far behind European rail is, especially its freight segment. We are using technology from the 19th century, whereas we are living in the 21st. We are still using manual couplers, whereas the rest of the world has long used automatic couplers. Railways also do not carry valuable commodities these days, but things like coal. That is why we need DAC, but not only that, it will also increase the safety of railway workers. We will also turn an ordinary train into an intelligent train that will work as an integrated system, it will be such an ecosystem. It will also include infrastructure. We will also get a whole range of data that we will be able to use later to make rail transport more efficient, and it will also be beneficial for customers because they will be able to monitor the transport process. The DAC is one of the most important components for the introduction of intelligent freight trains. Before that, however, I need to ensure sufficient production capacity, support the railway through EU and public investment, and ensure a workforce capable of implementing DAC and, with it, the necessary conditions in the depots. This will also contribute to the Single European Railway project, as it is safer and greener than the roads. We must, therefore, as a railway sector, move forward.

15:45 Tomáš Tóth, Chairman of the Board and CEO of ČD Cargo, continues his series of contributions. First of all, I would like to thank the Japanese ambassador, who appreciated how we are helping Ukraine. Our customers would like Europe to have a single railway, and interoperability is a tool for this or market liberalisation. For this, we also need TSI standards. Such an interconnected Europe will allow rail to be fully competitive with the road. We have expanded significantly in the last eight years, and it has not been about competing with other carriers, but about the needs of our customers. 62% of our shipments are international, which is a fairly large figure because it is 40 million tonnes a year. Let's look at the European projects for rail. The big problem with these projects is financing which ETCS, DAC and silent brake blocks need. I also want to talk about the original dimension of these projects. When we talk about ETCS, we are talking about whether there will be an increase in capacity, in the case of silent brake blocks, and whether the coupling and uncoupling time of trains will be extended. These projects should not bring obstacles, but added value. We need to increase our competitiveness compared to the road, but we must be careful because European projects have many question marks. So how will they change our business? I believe that our future will be great, but if the added value of these projects is not demonstrated, then rail freight could be crippled or disappear. When the roads talk about alternative drives, they don't have some big projects like the big bang because it's not realistic. Plus they can still use the old technology, their strategy is evolution, not revolution. Our projects should not just end with investments. The achievement of the objectives of these projects must be properly controlled, it is essential.

15:55 Vladimír Kampík, Director of European Affairs at AŽD, continues on behalf of the Czech scene. During my years in high school, the railway started to slowly decline, but now I am here, and I can talk about the modernization and digitalization of the railway. The challenge for the railway of the 21st century is to use the railway infrastructure wisely. We need to go from today to tomorrow, and one of the tickets may be ERTMS. And what are its advantages? Energy saving along with ATO further brings benefits for rail freight, and the result can be an autonomous train. The goal should be a train that arrives on time at the next station with minimal traction energy consumption. It will increase the capacity on the line by up to 20%. ATO would be good for rail freight. Moreover, it's a reality, the first tests have already taken place in 2020, we are not just at ideas. ETCS Level R with TIMS will significantly increase the capacity on the line and also reduce the number of signalling devices. Could the DAC also help? I have some doubts about it. It would not necessarily increase track capacity on its own, ERTMS could realistically achieve this. Both passenger services and freight services would benefit, as the latter do not necessarily have TIMS. Hybrid ETCS would be a real benefit. The overall aim then is to have a fully autonomous rail infrastructure, including trains. But we need to discuss this because society may not be ready for it yet. An autonomous train then needs components that will ensure the operation directly on the track and for the safety of ETCS Level R. Then, a range of detection devices, telematics devices and remote control applications. ERTMS is the way forward for the railway in the 21st century.

16:10 The last speaker will be Martin Bajer, Director of Business Development at TTC MARCONI. There are several reasons why we need to replace GSM(R) because it is obsolete - it is a second-generation mobile technology. In addition, modern railways require newer ways of communication, we need not only voice communication but also video etc. 5G will help us to do that. So FRMCS will help with the digitalization of the railway and is not just a successor to GSM(R). It has many new features and has been developed for long-term use. The main advantage is high reliability. After that, standardization on TSI standards will be important to deploy this system, and we expect it to be available for national tests in 2024. And from 2028 onwards, full implementation of the system in Europe should take place.

16:20 Followed by a panel discussion composed of Alberto Mazzola, Executive Director of CER, and Oldřich Sládek, Executive Director of ŽESNAD.CZ, Miroslav Táborský, Technical Director of DAKO-CZ, and Sandra Géhénot, Director of Freight Transport of UIC.

Alberto Mazzola starts with a summary of what we have heard today. He says we need to secure long-term and sustainable funding for rail infrastructure.

Sandra Géhénot continues. The main objective of moving from road to rail is to increase the capacity of the lines and to do it as quickly as possible. Today's conference has brought several positives for the future of European rail. We also noted the call for some caution with the implementation of new technologies for interoperability. I see a great future in the sharing and exchange of data between countries because everything is connected. However, we also need to ensure that this data is used properly and not to create some kind of non-interoperable system. In short, we need to unite on the railways.

Next up is Miroslav Taborský. I have seen two groups today - one that is in favour of innovation and the future, and one that does not want to accept innovation at all because they have been used to doing it a certain way for a long time. However, I am not sure we can implement all new technologies quickly, but we should work on it - we need some change so that we are not just dinosaurs.

And what does Oldřich Sládek have to say about this? I liked all the presentations, but I think we agree on one thing. We should stick together more and also admit that we are kind of lying to ourselves. We talk about what we want and what is nice, but then we don't talk about real results. Especially when it comes to the DAC. The implementation and funding program is absolutely unrealistic. We should develop it first, we don't have a fully functioning DAC at the moment. And then the big bang itself is also totally out of touch with reality. We want to support this pass, and we want it to succeed, but we need to bring common sense to it. We're addressing several things that roads don't need to address. We talk about interoperability, but in Europe, infrastructure managers are not interoperable. We want a single European railway area. Let us talk about evolution, not revolution. In the case of DAC, let us proceed step by step and implement DAC gradually. We need to communicate a realistic plan for this implementation because we must not jeopardise the competitiveness of rail against the road. DAC and its implementation in its current form are destructive for rail freight.

Keir Fitch joins the debate from the audience! One of the agendas in ER JU is the issue of dealing with regional and local lines and the TSI standards associated with them. There will also be a need to standardize safety features.

TSIs for hydrogen trains will also be needed, in the words of Alberto Mazzola. We will need them quickly. It is a vital topic for the future of the railway. Following on from Keir Fitch, we will need standardisation more for the sub-components of the trains and the hydrogen tanks themselves. We don't need completely new standards for hydrogen trains or battery ones.

Follow up question for Oldrich Sladek. What will ERMEWA do with cars not suitable for DAC? I think we should work on hybridization because our members cannot just scrap everything. We should think about this option.

The other question is about the strategy to transfer freight from road to rail in the current conditions. Josef Doppelbauer replies that this is related to the focus on customer needs. To make the service attractive to them. But first, we need a rail system that can meet all the customer's needs. And then we also have to take into account that it will not be either a truck or a train, but a combination of both. Oldřich Sládek adds that we have a single transport market where the customer is interested in price. If we want to invest in big projects like DAC, we cannot transfer the investment to the final price for the customer. That is how we have to work with it. Let us be green and technically progressive, and let us take all the ideas that have been put forward here to the end. But we have to go the right way. Alberto Mazzola responds that we need to finalize the technical specification of the DAC and then resolve the issue of financing. And we indeed have to reduce the cost of transport and take into account that we will not fully replace trucks. If DAC were free, no one would object. But this is an investment for the future and future profits. Miroslav Táborský joins the discussion. We also need to focus on more flexible rail - with trucks, it's that I make something, load it on a truck, and my products go to the customer. It's just not that simple with rail, it takes longer, whereas our business is too fast for rail.

17:05 The end of the 2nd section and the 2nd day! Thank you for watching today's live feeds for the IRFC 2022 conference, and we look forward to seeing you again tomorrow at 9:00 am!