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The DAC funding remains the biggest challenge for the whole programme, says Jens Engelmann

The DAC funding remains the biggest challenge for the whole programme, says Jens Engelmann
photo: RAILTARGET/The DAC funding remains the biggest challenge for the whole programme, says Jens Engelmann
09 / 02 / 2023

For the railway sector, this year kicked off with the VPI symposium in Hamburg that took place on January 10 and was presented by panel discussions and speeches of the leading representatives of European railways. RAILTARGET was right on spot and is presenting you with an exclusive interview with Dr.-Ing. Jens Engelmann, founder and CEO of railiable GmbH and European DAC Delivery Programme (EDDP) Co-programme manager. He spoke about the future steps of the DAC deployment and implementation and shared his stance on the unresolved financing issue.

What stage is the DAC in now?

Thank you for asking. We are progressing month by month. On the European level, we move from the programme, which has, more or less, consisted of volunteers, into a programme plus a big, budgeted project. Within Europe's Rail Joint Undertaking, there is now this Flagship Project 5 called 'Trans4m-R' with a total project budget of about a hundred million euros. This is really huge and necessary to move on. This project has started to develop to the end the DAC technology and all the electronic automation and digitalization components until the end of 2025. Finally, we can come out of this prototype situation and achieve products with which wagons and locos can really be upgraded. Now we have the money for this technology development. I am very happy about this opportunity enabled by Europe’s Rail, it is an indispensable precondition. The “remaining” EDDP is focusing on the preparation of the migration. That means e. g.: what is the status of fleets (wagons and locomotives), what are the technical upgrading solutions, and what is the operational situation in the marshalling yards, customer sidings etc. to organize migration, this is one main question: where do we get the money from? These are the major stages: we now have a programme for the deployment preparation, and we have this big Flagship 5 project Trans4m-R, to make this technology ready and buyable. This is very good progress.

What should be the next steps for the future?

First of all, technology development needs to get to planned speed so that we can see early things on the rail that we can touch and test, and with which we can come to different European countries to show how this works and get feedback. And the next step in the migration is to know the locomotive situation, in which state they are, how many there are etc., and the same for the wagons because this is heavily impacting migration planning. Imagine if we had some thousand locos which we cannot upgrade. This would need completely different planning. And data crunching on this (and in the traffic analysis) is one of the next steps in 2023 in migration planning.

And do you think that the DAC is still on time? I mean, the plan for the DAC testing on the real trains?

We still keep the schedule because we have no other information that would stop us. If we get the technology ready right on time in this Flagship project, and if it's reliable and works perfectly and is well tested, then we could deploy it if we have, of course, the funding. If there are maybe deviations due to potential problems in technology development or something like that, then we will have to reconsider. For the moment, we say yes, we will start in 2026.

Could you briefly comment on the funds for the financing of the development and implementation of the DAC?

It's remaining the biggest challenge for the whole programme because, without funding, it will not work. We need something around ten to twelve billion euros. As you have heard today on this VPI symposium discussion, we are exploring together with the European partners if we can have European member state national funding blended with European one, or if we have one big European money pot, and which role private money plays etc. So we haven't found the sources yet, that's clear, but we come back every week and say “we need the money if we want to make the world better,” and one day we will have success. I cannot tell you when, but we should see progress on this in 2023. So I hope that at the end of the year, we can tell you “yes, there is a way forward.”