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'Rail freight transport should be as easy as road one,' says Matthias Knüpling

'Rail freight transport should be as easy as road one,' says Matthias Knüpling
photo: RAILTARGET/'Rail freight transport should be as easy as road one,' says Matthias Knüpling
24 / 01 / 2023

RAILTARGET presents you with an exclusive interview with Matthias Knüpling, Head of Industry Lobbying and Associations at VTG Rail Europe GmbH. Mr Knüpling shared his stance on the importance of the DAC for the European railway future, whether there should be a transition period in the implementation of the Digital Automatic Coupling and the approach to the DAC funding.

What do you think about today's VPI symposium and the main topics?

In the morning, we heard a lot about transport policy from Germany and Europe, and we clearly worked out that it is necessary to simplify the rules and regulations to make rail freight transport easier. One of my personal wishes is always to make rail freight as easy as road freight, where it is very easy to get from Norway to Spain with a lorry, which is not very easy on rail freight transport. So we collected some good ideas on this topic and, for sure, in the afternoon, to provide the audience with the details, the current status of our historic project, the DAC.

What do you personally see as the biggest contribution of the DAC?

The biggest contribution of the DAC is that we switch from the analogue system to the digitalized one so that we can make use of easier working procedures, and make it easier for the people working on the rail tracks. There are a lot of people who are quite old and going to retire, they can't find younger staff to do the coupling. And also, to make use of the data exchange and the whole supply transport chain. It will be possible with the help of the DAC and other parts which I've described, e.g. ETCS for the locos.

Are you in favour of a transition period or a BIG bang?

I believe it is not an either-or. We have to see and listen to the requirements of our customers, the shippers, and what they are willing to accept and, depending on that, we can choose between a transition period to do it a bit more smoothly over a longer period or a situation where we are threatened, for example, if the shippers say, "either you do it during the weekend, or we switch to road." Then we have to adopt it and need a Big Bang. I believe that several solutions will be needed to exchange the whole European wagon and loco fleet.

How do you think the DAC funding should be handled?

It should be as easy as possible. It is absolutely necessary that those who have to spend the money, purchase the couplers or pay for the workshops, are directly funded, not through systems of track access, charges, limitations and so on. It needs to be direct funding to those who need to pay the bills and I am wishing we will have a European solution, and not some money from Europe and others from the member states so that it is organized as easily as possible to collect the money for those who have to spend it.