CZ/SK verze

DAC cannot be introduced without EU funding, agreed Central European cargo chiefs

DAC cannot be introduced without EU funding, agreed Central European cargo chiefs
photo: RAILTARGET/DAC cannot be introduced without EU funding, agreed Central European cargo chiefs
30 / 09 / 2022

The Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC) project must have clear rules for financial support from the European Union. Carriers alone will not be able to cover all the costs of DAC implementation. These are the main conclusions of a meeting held at InnoTrans 2022 in Berlin between ČD Cargo boss Tomáš Tóth and ZSSK CARGO boss Roman Gono. They voiced out loud a fundamental argument missing in the European debate on the introduction of DAC. It will be up to the responsible institutions within the EU to respond to this objection in a clear manner.

One of the most important technologies driving the rail business is Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC). This component should automatically couple and uncouple trains. It should also connect trains by data and help digitize the railway. Its introduction was logically discussed at the InnoTrans 2022 trade fair in Berlin. This topic is very important, for example, for freight rail operators, who naturally deal not only with the technological side of things, but also with the financing of such a project, which should have a clearly defined return.

"The implementation of DAC alone could cost us up to 18 billion crowns if it were to be implemented across the board by 2030. To implement DAC, we must first complete its development and also know exactly how to finance it. I am glad that the Czech Ministry of Transport has defined a rational position on DAC, pointing out the problem of financing the project and reopening the possibility of the coexistence of two coupling standards in Europe as we see it in passenger transport," said ČD Cargo boss Tomáš Tóth.

It will be important to see what official position other countries take on this. Roman Gono, the head of ZSSK CARGO, also pointed out the unsolved financing system: 'For each project, costs and returns must be defined. The EU should give a clear position on what the financial aspect of the whole project will look like."

The DAC project was also discussed at the InnoTrans 2022 event Digital Automatic Coupling - Transforming Europe's Rail Freight Transport, which was attended by Europe's Rail CEO Carlo Borghini, DG MOVE Director General Henrik Hololei, and DG MOVE's Head of Rail Safety and Interoperability Keir Fitch. These people at the level of the European institutions have a decision-making position on DAC. They all spoke very positively about the DAC as a challenge and a revolution that would help the railways to experience a renaissance. According to them, it is also supposed to increase the capacity of the railways. ČD Cargo boss Tomáš Tóth is skeptical about this view. According to him, the mere introduction of DAC will not solve the problem of railway infrastructure capacity.

The implementation of the DAC itself is also a crucial issue. At the conference, opinions were expressed that a big bang form should be chosen (a leapfrog implementation of DAC within two weeks). There is considerable skepticism amongst the expert community about this implementation method because the debate is conducted in too general terms, and specific implementation is not addressed. Unfortunately, it is typical of the European debate that the proponents of the DAC do not make sufficient efforts to respond to legitimate concerns, e.g., from the Czech and Slovak sides. Even though a representative of ČD Cargo spoke at the conference and named this aspect, he did not receive a satisfactory answer.