DIGITAL AUTOMATIC COUPLING IN RAIL FREIGHT TRAFFIC
PILOT PROJECT FOR THE DEMONSTRATION, TESTING AND APPROVAL OF DIGITAL AUTOMATIC COUPLING (DAC) FOR RAIL FREIGHT TRAFFIC
The European consortium DAC4EU (= Digital Automatic Coupling for Europe) is putting the use of digital automatic coupling (DAC) in rail freight traffic to the test. Six companies from Germany, Austria and Switzerland have been awarded a contract by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV) to conduct a research project entitled ‘DAC Demonstrator for Rail Freight Traffic’ in June 2020. The members of the DAC4EU consortium are Deutsche Bahn and its subsidiary DB Cargo, the Swiss and Austrian freight operators SBB Cargo and Rail Cargo Austria, and the wagon keepers Ermewa, GATX Rail Europe and VTG. The research project was initially funded by the BMDVI with around EUR 13 million and was scheduled to run from June 2020 to December 2022. The operational tests during this period have shown, however, that the prototypes still require optimization. Further tests will be necessary for this purpose, so that the BMDV has commissioned an extension of the project until June 2024 and is financing this with further EUR 7 million. The goal is to support the development of the couplings towards production-ready technical and operational performance of the prototype coupling systems and their functional capability in the various operating sites and different countries of Europe.
The majority of freight wagons in rail traffic in Europe are currently coupled manually by means of screw couplings. With DAC, however, freight wagons can be coupled automatically together with their air brake pipes as well as power and data lines for the freight wagons. DAC is a key component of digitalising and automating rail freight traffic as it allows for universal power and data lines across all freight wagons. In addition, the use of DAC significantly increases infrastructure capacities, and as such DAC has an important part to play in European climate targets being achieved.
In Phase I of this project (June 2020 to July 2021), a total of 12 freight wagons were equipped with four different designs of DAK Type 4 prototypes from the manufacturers CAF, Dellner, Faiveley Wabtec and Voith. Each coupling was subjected to a detailed test program, so that a total of over 2,000 individual tests and 200 tests in the climatic chamber were performed. Part of the investigation included comparative tests from coupling attempts at varying speeds to investigations in a climatic chamber. The results of these tests were then handed over to the European DAC Delivery Programme (EDDP) and were used in the EDDP’s selection decision for a coupling design.
The EDDP made a selection for the Scharfenberg / Latch-Type DAK design in September 2021 after intensive testing and evaluation of all test results.
In Phase II of this project (August 2021 to December 2022), the DAK demonstrator was expanded to 20 freight wagons and the coupler design selected by EDDP was installed. This was followed by extensive operational testing in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The prototypes were integrated into real operating processes to test their functionality and performance. At the same time, it was also investigated whether and how far existing processes in the operational workflow could be optimized to enable the introduction of the DAK.
As the introduction of the DAK can only take place on a European level, additional operating sites in Europe were approached during Phase II. Thus, driving and coupling tests were also performed in Poland, the Czech Republic, France and Luxembourg in order to subject the DAK to the national procedural specifics and topologies.
In December 2022, Phase II was completed and the results were publicly presented and published in an interim report.
The extension of the project will aim to address the challenges identified in Phase II together with the manufacturers and the European players involved, thus demonstrating the full potential of DAK in rail freight transport. DAC will pave the way for the comprehensive automation and digitalisation of rail freight traffic in Europe.
The menu items on this homepage will provide you with further details on the project phases as well as on the results gained so far.