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PKP Cargo and DB present a test train equipped with a DAC prototype. How will it revolutionize Europe's railroads?

PKP Cargo and DB present a test train equipped with a DAC prototype. How will it revolutionize Europe's railroads?
photo: Archive/PKP Cargo and DB present a test train equipped with a DAC prototype. How will it revolutionize Europe's railroads?
15 / 07 / 2022

On July 12, PKP CARGO, in agreement with Deutsche Bahn, presented a test train equipped with a DAC prototype in Poznań. The implementation of the following installation will increase the order to the carrier. This train presentation in Poland also includes a trip to the Kujawa Cement Plant, research in the cement plant learning about the experience of CEMET, joining the JSW Przyjaźń Coking Plant in Dąbrowa Górnicza, and then a trip to the shunting hill in Zabrzeg.

Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC) allows locomotives to be connected to wagons and wagons to each other without human intervention, along with electrical, pneumatic, and data bus systems. Nowadays, it is standard to use screw coupling on railroads in Europe - workers connect wagons manually, and various types of wagon installations must also be connected this way. Not only is the work of setters physically exhausting, but also the process of coupling wagons itself is rather long. DAC allows to significantly shorten the time of forming trainsets. Moreover, without this solution, it is also impossible to implement the next level of railroad traffic control - ETCS 3.

At the Poznań Franowo station, the meeting participants were able to observe in practice what the process of automatic coupling of wagons looks like and the passage of such a formation. Experts also presented the technical solutions used in DAC and the principles of operation and advantages of the new system.

"Such a solution will, first of all, speed up the process of forming trains so that the trainsets can be sent on the road faster. In addition, it will allow an increase in the speed of depots. It will increase the efficiency of carriers and will also improve the capacity of the rail network. The aforementioned benefits will translate into lower costs for rail transportation and thus make it more competitive with road transportation. Automatic couplings should help us increase the share of railroads in freight transportation," says Marek Olkiewicz, board member for operations in PKP CARGO S.A.

Among other benefits of the DAC system, Marek Olkiewicz mentions the possibility of monitoring the technical condition of railcars in real-time, which will contribute, for example, to reducing damage to wheels and other vehicle components and incidents of train bursts. Now such incidents are one of the primary causes of breakdowns and accidents on the railroad. In addition, thanks to the digital module, automatic couplers make it possible to provide customers with a range of information about their cargo in real time.

According to the European Commission's plans, in 2025, the DAC system will be included in the EU TSI WAG and TSI LOC&PAS standards. From then on, screw couplings will not be allowed on new locomotives and freight cars. By 2030, on the other hand, the EU carriers are to complete the process of replacing screw couplings with digital couplings in the rolling stock in use. "Technically, this is possible, as more than 90 percent of our railcars are adapted for the installation of the self-contained coupling. However, this is a costly task, and carriers will not manage it without the public funds' support from the EU budget," stresses CEO Marek Olkiewicz.

Experts estimate that the cost of refitting one railcar is about EUR 15,000, and installing an automatic coupler in a locomotive is up to EUR 25,000. Assuming that the EU subsidy will cover more than 80% of these expenses, Polish carriers will still have to put up PLN 800 million to replace couplings in 2025-2030. If the subsidy fell to 50%, the cost on the carriers' side would rise to more than PLN 2 billion.
Marek Olkiewicz points out that, by allocating a higher subsidy for coupling replacement, the EU will achieve not only economic goals by strengthening the rail sector but environmental benefits. After all, if railroads carry more goods, fewer of them will end up on the roads, thus reducing CO2 emissions in transportation. Ultimately, railroads emit about six times less carbon dioxide than trucks per ton of freight carried.

It is worth mentioning that Europe lags behind the US, Canada, and some countries pursuing automatic connection checks. In these countries, standing on the wheels of the mechanical clutch, they are doing very well, which has led to a technical footprint.

 

Source: PKP Cargo Press Releases

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