A DB regio train Stadler 429.1 series, image: Stadler Rail AG

Deutsche Bahn and Stadler to develop train digital twin

Deutsche Bahn and Stadler are developing a digital twin of a complete train, a first in rail according to the companies. Real-time data should help to maintain the air conditioning, doors and wheel sets in time to prevent malfunction. The first train to get a digital twin is a Stadler’s 429.1 series multiple unit. It should be fully functional by the end of 2021.

Representatives of Deutsche Bahn and vehicle manufacturer Stadler signed a cooperation agreement and plan to make a digital of DB’s entire vehicle fleet. Both companies see the cooperation as a model for other rail companies and manufacturers in railway digitalisation.

DB operates 28 of the Stadler’s 429.1 series trains in regional transport in Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse, parts of Baden-Württemberg and Saarland. A prototype is currently being equipped with the technology for recording and transmitting data. The other trains in the series will follow. The virtual image will initially focus on the train’s air conditioning, doors and wheel sets. The data sent by these components is processed with the help of artificial intelligence to create an increasingly realistic simulation of the actual train.

Repairs when necessary

In railways, technologies such as digital twins are not much adopted yet, compared to other industries. Some infrastructure managers have a digital twin of the rail network, for example HS1 in the UK is implementing digital twins for monitoring railway infrastructure. However, for rolling stock it is even less used, and a virtual model of an entire train is a first, say Stadler and DB.

For Deutsche Bahn, the virtual image of the train is the key to more reliable vehicles and more capacity on the rails. With the help of digital twins, it will be possible to send trains for repair when it becomes necessary. This should reduce the number of disruptions because they can be prevented beforehand. Consequently, rail transport will then become more punctual and more attractive.

Exchanging data

The train’s physical behaviour will be taken into account in addition to the vehicle’s mechanics, electrics and software. Sabina Jeschke, Member of the Management Board for Digitalisation and Technology at DB: “The cooperation with Stadler is a big step for the digitalisation of rail operations. We are showing that exchanging data with train manufacturers benefits both sides.”

“By creating a digital twin of an entire vehicle fleet, both Deutsche Bahn and we as the vehicle manufacturer obtain relevant data material”, says Jure Mikolčić, CEO of Stadler Germany. “This way, we can ensure proactive maintenance and the constant optimisation of obsolescence management. This helps both sides to sustainably improve vehicle availability and to reduce breakdowns caused by faults to a minimum.”

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Author: Esther Geerts

Editor RailTech.com

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