‘DAC is a real game changer for the European Green Deal’

“DAC will boost rail freight transport in Europe by increasing capacity, efficiency and quality of the system”, said Mark Topal, Programme Manager of the European DAC Delivery Programme. He talked to Shift2Rail about the ambitions for the programme, and how to ensure the involvement of the whole rail sector to make the roll-out of DAC a success. Mark Topal will also speak about Digital Automatic Coupling at the event RailTech Europe 2021.

Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC) is an innovative component to automatically couple and decouple the rolling
stock in a freight train both physically as well as digitally. It has many possibilities: increasing network capacity, less shunting in train formation, reducing manual processes and enabling predictive maintenance.

Shift2Rail, the European rail initiative which aims to accelerate the adaption of new and advanced technologies in railways, has endorsed the European DAC Delivery Programme to provide a commonly agreed single standard DAC technology. The programme builds upon Research & Innovation results and pilots to ensure needed actions are taken for a fast, technically and economically feasible European‐wide roll‐out.

Mark Topal, Chief Technical Officer of ÖBB and one of the newly appointed DAC Delivery Program Managers: “Being a key technology for a significant modal shift to rail, DAC is a real game changer for the European Green Deal.”

Involving the sector

The DAC Programme Directors say that it is important that users, such as railway undertakings, wagon keepers and infrastructure managers, mainly drive the DAC programme. “We need to find ways so that all will be in the position to join. If we fail to do so, we will have a problem”, said Mark Topal. He added that practical Use Cases will be the starting point for the development of DAC. They will define the functional specifications and financial limitations for the technology being developed, tested, standardised and finally deployed and operated.

Other Program Manager and Founder of Railiable Jens Engelman said: “The work will need resources and budget, and stakeholders will only invest them if they see it’s worth the effort.” He acknowledges that there are stakeholders in Europe who have not yet heard about DAC. “Yet, we expect them to become relevant implementers. Here our hope is that Shift2Rail, as the enabler for the whole programme, will be able to make it easier to involve all EU stakeholders from politics to business in one unique platform.”

Programme target

The target of the DAC Delivery Program is that by 2030, all freight wagons (600.000+) in Europe couple automatically. For this, it aims to select an open, operationally tested, safe and sustainable European DAC open model ready for industrialisation and deployment. By the end of 2021, the final open design of the selected model should be delivered, of which the interoperability and safety requirements are to be incorporated into the Technical Specification for Interoperability (TSI), the Green Deal, and the Digitalisation Package 2022.

Mark Topal underlined that besides driving the work behind technics, economics, migration plans, it will only work if people are convinced by the idea. “Ultimately, when it comes to the European deployment of DAC, either we will be successful together, or we will fail together. I prefer, as I believe we all do, to be successful.”

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Mark Topal will also speak about Digital Automatic Coupling at the event RailTech Europe 2021. Visit the website for the programme and other speakers.

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Author: Esther Geerts

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