Germany’s Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV) wishes to boost climate-friendly rail transport and promote innovation and research in the rail sector. Digital automatic coupling (DAC) is a key innovation contributing to the digitalisation and automation of rail freight transport (RFT). It can increase the efficiency, reliability and competitiveness of RFT in Europe. The BMDV is therefore promoting the Europe-wide introduction of DAC.
To this end, the BMDV commissioned a research project in 2016 entitled ‘Construction and Testing of Innovative Freight Wagons’. The year-long in-service testing also involved automatic coupling systems being tested, resulting in important findings regarding the use of automatic coupling in rail freight transport. Link: Innovative freight wagons.
In 2019, the BMDV commissioned a study on the ‘Development of a concept for the EU-wide migration to a digital automatic coupling system (DAC) for rail freight transportation’ for the purposes of identifying principles.
The migration study showed that many European railway undertakings and wagon keepers supported the introduction of DAC Type 4. With the establishment of a pan-European migration program for DAK, the European DAC Delivery Programme (EDDP), a basis has been created for making decisions at the European level and jointly driving forward the introduction of DAK.
A BMDV pilot project to accelerate the DAC migration process for the demonstration, testing and approval of DAC was awarded to the DAC4EU consortium (= Digital Automatic Coupling for Europe) on 22 June 2020.
This project involves various manufacturers’ coupling prototypes being tested in order to determine the basic principles for the selection of a standard DAC for the Europe. After completion of the test series in Phase I, a demonstrator train with the DAK type selected by the EDDP was constructed and then tested under real operational conditions in Phase II. The project is being conducted on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV) from June 2020 to December 2022 and is funded with approximately 13 million euros. In October 2022, the contract was awarded for an extension of the project until June 30, 2024, with additional financing of around 7 million euros. This is to ensure that the necessary further developments of the coupling systems are accompanied.
The EU transport ministers have likewise made a commitment to this technology and established DAC as a key European project in the area of rail freight transport in the Berlin Declaration.