Digital coupling reduces human exposure to risks

Hand coupling in Switzerland, source: SBB Cargo

The Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking has approved the European DAC (Digital Automatic Coupling) Delivery Programme proposed by its Executive Director on request of the railway undertakings. It will encompass all actors of the European rail sector. Meanwhile, the rail freight operators and wagon keepers have started to examine the digital coupling in real-life conditions.

The European DAC Delivery Programme will be a unique opportunity for the sector to collectively drive the deployment of technological and operational solutions related to the DAC, by means of a focused and inclusive system approach under the umbrella of Shift2Rail. Its goals will cover technological assessments of the available solutions, testing and demos, definition of migration plans, assessing the interfaces with other programmes, business cases, and communication and dissemination, aiming to facilitate the deployment of the DAC in Europe. To be more precise, the programme’s three main objectives are:

  • to select an open, functional, operationally tested, safe and sustainable European DAC model ready for industrialisation and deployment;
  • to deliver a final open design of the selected model, based on use-case considerations by the end of 2021, and to develop safety requirements which could be incorporated into the TSI, Green Deal & Digitalisation Package in 2022;
  • to identify migration and business plans compatible across Europe as well as the necessary resources to match them depending on the results of the ongoing business case analysis.

DAC benefits

According to Shift2Rail, the digital automatic coupling will open the door to automation and digitalisation of European railways, especially its freight segment. The technology has other benefits such as time and cost reduction. In addition, it will contribute to mitigating the impact of the human factor on the railways. “DAC is a clear move towards a much better Health and Safety environment for freight handling reducing the human exposure to risks in the coupling operation. It enables Digitalisation, Intelligent maintenance of wagons based on data on which to apply IA strategies and Big Data analysis and eases the deployment of ERTMS and ATO functions addressing the train integrity,” the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking stated.

Ongoing experiment

In the meantime, the European rail freight companies are working on examining the DAC technology in real-life conditions. On Thursday, 23 July, a consortium led by DB Cargo announced the start of the relevant trials. The pilot project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI). Six undertakings participate in the experiment: DB Cargo, SBB Cargo, Rail Cargo Austria, Ermewa, GATX Rail Europe, VTG. They will test the DAC from July 2020 to December 2022.

Initially, the partners will analyse the different types of coupler and will choose which is better. The latter will be tested on a demonstrator train consisting of 24 freight wagons during the trial operations in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and other European countries. The results will be applied to the implementation of technology throughout Europe.

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Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines and

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