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Make Rail The Hope for protecting Nature

Final Report Summary - MARATHON (Make Rail The Hope for protecting Nature)

Executive Summary:
Railfreight transport has gone through difficult times for many years.Only now with the European Commission favouring environmentally friendly modes, rail freight transport is starting its slow recovery.The major gaps to be covered are the reliability, the competitiveness and the Network capacity. Rail freight transport is permanently facing fierce road competition. However, road congestion, noise, accidents, pollution, drivers’ shortage and, above all, the difficulty for financing new infrastructures with people’s opposition are problems not to be undervalued. This situation is further affected by the import flows originating from the Far East by sea via giant container vessels of capacity reaching up to 18000 TEUs. It becomes increasingly difficult to marshal all these containers from the sea ports to the inlandterminals. TIGER and TIGER DEMO projects demonstrated that rail transportation in industrial scale from the seaports to the inland terminals, represents the right solution. Such innovative logistic model implies the existence of a powerful rail link between the seaports and dry ports. In the present financial situation it is impossible to imagine the construction of new rail lines. For this reason making the best use of the existing infrastructure is anecessity. The MARATHON Project is contributing to resolve the paradigm of generating additional capacity on the rail tracks with reduced operating costs and by so doing making the best use of the existing infrastructure. The key MARATHON Project driver is represented by the motto “It is necessary to transport more using the same resources”. The MARATHON Project achieved a cost saving of about 30% and a capacity generation improvement of over 40%.
The MARATHON Project looked at the way the traffic is managed on the network and consideredthe couplingof two classical trains of 750mt. as the most efficient way to fulfil the objective of transporting more with the existing resources, maintaining the same safety and security standards. In order to make this a realistic operating solution, the MARATHON Project had to overcome several technological challenges, such as: the train stability secured by the second locomotive in the middle of the convoy radio commanded by the front one, the braking system capable of minimizing the derailment risk and the management of the messages from the front locomotive to the slave one. The MARATHON Project was able to overcome all these technological challenges by finding an adequate radio communication remote control solution, a computerized interface between the front and the slave locomotive and a braking technology box to be installed in the second locomotive providing a direct injection into the brake pipe ensuring the train safe movement in all operatingconditions. All these technological progresses were achieved during the threeand a half years of the projectlifetime by creating the MARATHON kit, composed of the radio remote control system, the two antennas to be mounted on the two locomotives capable of capturing the radio signals, the intelligent computerized interface, called DPCU, the slave brake unit connecting to the vehicle control Unit. During the project lifetime, a high number of simulations and laboratory tests were performed by Tor Vergata and KTH University while the physical tests of the braking system was performed on the 1500mt. brake pipe in the “Balein” of Faively in the Piossasco Turin factory. At the end of these simulations efforts were dedicated for obtaining the safety certificate from the French Safety Authority for performing the pilot tests of the MARATHON 1500mt. train on the rail network planned between Sibelin and Nîmes. With the authorization, the two pilot tests could take place. The effective dates were January 18th for the electric traction performed with Alstom Akiem locomotives, and April 12th for thediesel traction performed with Vossloh locomotives. These two tests were carried out by coupling each timetwocommercial trains from Germany destined to Spain reaching a total length of 1524mt. and 4030 Tons, covering the distance of about240km between Sibellin and Nîmesat a speed of up 100km/h, fulfilling the tests in operating conditions both in nominal and degraded mode. The second locomotive in the middle of the train is unmanned being radio commanded by the front one. The coupling and decoupling operation of the two trains can be completed in 10 minutes by the two drivers. The insertion of such trains in the ordinary rail traffic, needs some rail sidings in order to enable faster passengers trains to overtake them. These investments in rail terms are considered minor when compared to the capacity improvement of 40% and the operating cost reduction reaching up to 30%. All these savings are additional to environmental benefits, reduced congestion and the effective implementation of the shift to rail policy. These benefits at European level are considered as being massive. The MARATHON Project team described all the operational and safety procedures in a Handbook for future reference and for training purposes. Additionally, a Tec Rec recommendation document was issued for submission to the competent European authorities. A final MARATHON Project Book, called “The MARATHON 1500m train opening up new horizons in rail freight transport in Europe” was printed in 350 originals for dissemination purposes.

Project Context and Objectives:
The maritime traffic growth from the Far East, transported by container carriers of size of up to 18000TEU had to be dealt with in an innovative way. The huge number of container movements would not allow any longer the sorting of containers on the sea port terminals imposing their immediate transfer to hinterland dry ports by powerful transport connections. Rail with inland waterways is the only viable solution. In fact Road distribution appeared to be inadequate for moving such massive traffic flows transporting only one unit at a time. Transport industrialization by regular shuttle intermodal trains appeared to be the only realistic way to create on land the economies of scale compatible to those generated at sea. For major Ports the existing rail lines are already carrying a certain amount of traffic however not in the scale required by the massive import export volumes handled by these giant container vessels. A new business model had to be introduced based for the maritime traffic in order to avoid the Ports’ congestion. Such innovative business model was based on the traffic distribution to/from the sea ports via the hinterland Dry Ports as demonstrated by the TIGER and TIGER DEMO projects. Considering that the existing rail lines to/from the Sea Ports are already congested due to existing intermodal and passengers’ traffic the challenge was how to generate extra capacity on these lines.
The development of ERTMS favoured by European authorities as an interoperable control command system is a long and slow process needing strong harmonization. In any case the ERTMS level 2 is not producing large capacity increase and ERTMS Level 3 is not expected to produce tangible results before very long time. Looking across the Atlantic to the USA longer, heavier trains have been in operation for many years pulled by several locomotives. Unfortunately, the capability of using double stack trains due to gauges constraints is prevented in Europe. The MARATHON project key objective was to generate additional capacity on these rail lines by transporting double volumes using the same train path. The MARATHON train of 1500 m long is the result of the combination of two classical trains of 750m. It is immediately apparent that the MARATHON train, in addition to generating 40% extra capacity on the rail tracks since it carries double quantity by engaging the train path only 20% more than an ordinary train, reduces the operating costs of up to 30%.
The first analysis made in France had shown that trains with Locomotives in front, hauling wagons equipped with standard UIC couplings having 85T resistance to traction, could not be longer than 1000m. This was not satisfactory for a major step change in capacity and competitiveness while at the same time road giga-liners were tested in certain Western European countries and already in use in the Nordic countries. The question of allowing extra weight and expanding further the road gauge dimension was also being dealt with by various European Governments. The only options remaining open were to try again the concept of distributed traction which a previous European project called EDIP failed to demonstrate. The technology progress occurred in the meantime in radio transmission for the locomotives remote control provided the necessary tool for implementing such remote control. The rapid braking analysis concluded that an active locomotive in the middle of the train could alleviate the longitudinal compression forces when braking simultaneously with the Lead locomotive. This was the context in which the idea of the project was born.
The technological challenges to be overcome for putting the MARATHON 1500 m long train were numerous:
• To establish a reliable radio link at 750m to be able to couple two longest standard trains, transferring all the necessary signals for piloting the Slave locomotive unmanned by the driver of the master locomotive.
• To research and specify the system architecture for the technological solution
• To apply the researched technology for guiding these trains
• To ensure the safety of the MARATHON 1500 m long train in any operational condition with and without the radio link.
• To be able to secure the safe braking of such long train in all operating conditions considering the increased longitudinal forces exercised by the tail end wagons.
• To be able to establish a reliable management of the messaging from the front to the slave locomotive through a computerized interface capable of dealing with normal and degraded mode situations.
• To be able to cross borders entering countries where different radio frequencies are available.
• To be able to couple two electric or two diesel pulled trains leaving for further developments the coupling of two different types of traction.
• To be able two couple similar trains to start leaving mixed couplings for future developments.
• To be able to couple and decouple rapidly two trains and have the radio remote control in full operation or completely switched off.
• To have safety control done for departure in a few minutes achieving an important capacity saving per carried ton or in other words an important generation of available capacity on the network with minor infrastructure investments.
• To be able to produce a series of equipment perfectly aligned between themselves constituting the MARATHON Kit to be available in the market place for commercial use.
• To simulate the business case on sound realistic economic parameters.
• To prove all the above technological developments in a true commercial operating environment by testing the MARATHON train on a stretch of European Rail network both with electric and diesel traction demonstrating the implementation of all planned tools.
All these challenges to be overcome became MARATHON project objectives together with the original MARATHON Project drivers of:
• Generating extra capacity on the rail tracks
• Reducing substantially the operating costs
• Fostering the cooperation between operators for promoting effectively the shift to rail EU Commission policies.
• Introducing the market analysis, the transport industrialisation, the business model,
• Evaluating the cost benefit and the impacts assessment for introducing such trains on the European network for commercial use.
• Planning the writing of the methodological handbook and Tec-Rec preparation for a future UIC leaflet on Long coupled trains both for training and dissemination purposes.
• Disseminating in Europe and beyond the achieved results.

To reach these objectives MARATHON partners have progress step by step.

The major constraint of coupling two similar trains driven by electric or by diesel locomotives to be taken into account was the standard UIC wagon couplings limiting the traction efforts at the level of 85T and generating intense longitudinal compression forces during braking creating the derailments risks. This unavoidable constraint would imply numerous simulations before real tests on line of such trains. The next step was to define a reliable radio connection at a distance, in a real train environment capable to conveying sufficient numbers of signals with a high level of safety (SIL3) to pilot the vital function of the remote controlled locomotive and to receive information status in return including major alarms. Schweizer Electronic and Cerontech analysed the various possible radio frequency and selected two types of frequency bands to be tested, since existing equipment were available in the short term. SNCF provided the possibility to fit the equipment to be tested on trains running on the North South corridor on tracks were future test should take place. The tests were performed on trains running from Bettembourg to LeBoulou representing also the most frequent line characteristics with open environment, narrow valleys, tunnels, village crossings, forests. At the end of the test period the results were categorized for detecting the precise interruption zones and selecting the adequate frequencies. Two types of frequencies in the 470Mhz band and 2.4Ghz were selected. The SIL3 level could only be ensured for a limited number of signals in the 470Mhz band while the 2.4Ghz could convey non critical information signals.

The successful achievement of that step opened the field of two simultaneous actions of research:
• Analysis of all operational situations in which actions by the driver were to be decided and executed by the Master and Slave locomotives and define reaction scenarios by SNCF driver specialists, RFF and Newoperain the nominal and degraded mode.
• Analysis of the necessary processes to be mastered to safely pilot the slave locomotive by using a complex methodology resulting from ModTrain project by Faiveley, Alstom and Vossloh specialists.
This phase was extremely intense and delicate as various categories of staff were involved such as drivers, infrastructure signalling specialists, traffic control, electrical providers, locomotive software and tractionspecialists, brake specialists.
Interaction between these two actions were very numerous as operational processes could be adapted to fit the possible reactions of the existing locomotive’ equipment taking into account certain specific points of the infrastructure and the processes of train management. The potential test route was closely scrutinized to detect possible exceptional critical points. During this phase it appeared that such trains would need a specific study of the routes on which they would be introduced.
This step resulted in a list of operational scenarios and for each of them alist of signals to be transferred to the Slave locomotive for execution and report. A preliminary hazard analysis ensuring that all risks have been detected and mastered in a safe way was made.

The system architecture of the two locomotives, and their new equipment was the next task for guaranteeing the safe movement of the whole train. The major challenge was the integration of the new active braking in the slave locomotive which replicate the interlocking between braking and traction. The constraint here was to avoid any significant VCU (vehicle Control Unit) software modification which would have implied a new assessment by the Safety Authorities. The idea was to create a MARATHON kit to be installed in all locomotives pulling a MARATHON train. During the elaboration of the system architecture it became apparent that the number of messages from the Master locomotive necessary to pilot safely the Slave one exceeded the transmission volume at SIL3 level. In order to overcome this obstacle an intelligent interface was necessary in the system architecture (DPCU) to categorize the messages according the various operational situations: initialization- traction-braking-end of coupling etc. In this way the vital information could be conveyed to the slave Locomotive with the adequate safety level. Due to the very high safety level required in the rail modality a back-up transmission system independent from the radio link was to be made available in case of need for the emerging actions in the degraded mode. This back-up link relied on the use of the first depressurization wave running at 300m/s in the brake pipe when the driver touches brake valve. This first pressure lowering of the brake pipe is detected by the Slave locomotive inducing a pre-organized scenario preserving the train safety and integrity in all circumstances until the radio link is set up again automatically. This solution provides assurance of the MARATHON train safe movement on tracks.
During this preparation phase, the type of train choice and the type of wagons to constitute the train was carried out jointly by SNCF and Kombiverkehr. The trains consists were assigned to the TOR VERGATA and KTH universities for simulating the various operational scenarios of the normal train travelling profile including all emergency situations. Thousands of simulations were performed to analyse the longitudinal forces in the train when braking at various power levels such as when accelerating in gradients, in slopes and on horizontal tracks. This work’s objective was to detect the most critical cases and the critical points of the train during such operating conditions. The emerging results were essential for fixing the exact parameters when the pilot tests on the rail tracks were to be performed and to validate the preparation methodology of such trains. This evaluation led to the decision of selecting high quality Kombiverkehr wagons equipped with standard UIC 85T couplings. It also determined the most critical situations to be tested during the pilot. All these activities were executed under the control of RFF, CIM (Centre d’ingenierie du materiel SNCF) AEF (Agence d’Essais Ferroviaires) which were to overlook the test and provide the NSA with the necessary documentation (DTAE) authorizing the running of the MARATHON trains. The test program could then be elaborated by SNCF and AEF with the actions of all other partners coordinated by Newopera.

RFF and Trafikverket started to study the management of such long trains on the Network to define the infrastructure modifications or investments which could be necessary. RFF performed with SNCF Infrastructure a specific survey of the envisaged test zone between Bettembourg and LeBoulou. No significant modifications would be needed to let such a train run for the tests in a low traffic period.During the same period the business model was elaborated by Newopera, SNCF and AKIEM which had joined the consortium providing the Electric Locomotives for the test. The business model demonstrated the MARATHON trains viability on the basis of estimated value of the equipment at industrial level and on the Tolls levied by the Infrastructure manager for the extra capacity effectively utilized by this MARATHON train compared to a standard train. The investments on lengthening the sidings had not been taken into the calculations. Such investments were extremely variable according to the existing traffic flow on the various routes where such train should run. The investments moreover should be compensated by the new extra capacity available created by the MARATHON trains for the Infrastructure manager. This extra capacity can be sold by the Infrastructure Managers to run either additional freight or passenger trains.

The research studies related to the progressive integration of the hardware components with the software constituting the MARATHON kit. The DPCU was tested with the radio link for assessing the correct transfer of the signals.The DPCU was tested with the Brake slave unit on the laboratory bench of Faiveley and with the radio of Schweizer on the same bench in Piossasco. The DPCU was tested with a Simulator of MPU (representing the behaviour of BB437000 VCU) in Villeurbanne in Alstom premises while all the equipment installation, including the antennas and new pipes, was studied on 3 dimension computerized models ensuring a very short locomotives stopping time in Alstom workshop. Any movement of existing Locomotive equipment, like the horns, were also studied on the 3 dimension computerized model. This was compulsory because a non-regression test is necessary for allowing the operational certificate if any equipment had been moved. Later on Vossloh performed the same studies for preparing the installation of the MARATHON kit. In case of Vossloh diesel locomotive it was very important as there are constraints on the roof of the locomotives due to the heat around the exhausts. Finally after the equipment integration were installed on Alstom locomotives the static tests were performed in Vaires where space and distance between locomotives were available. For that operation SNCF had gathered sufficient number of wagons to represent the whole train in order to assess the correct wave propagation when testing the total equipment integration and reactions on site. The test revealed certain amendments necessary for ensuring a perfect functioning of the remote control of the slave locomotive. The static test were even extended moving the MARATHON train few hundred meters for verifying the dynamics at slow speeds. This phase was concluded with the last results produced by KTH. They studied the MARATHON train reaction in 3 dimensions with Gensys program which confirmed the operational rules ensuring safety in any situation.

The green light for the first tests was given by EPSF the day before the test when everything was ready in SIBELIN. The test train composition was only known late during the night when all the information on the loading of the train arrived in Sibelin while the trains were crossing the German border. All the composition movements were programmed in Sibelin for constituting the MARATHON train, such as inserting the empty wagons for achieving the 1500 m length prepared in advance, installing the safety device required for the test. Simultaneously TORVERGATA university made sure that the MARATHON train consist was in the composition range simulated during the studies. The train was set up on time and the pilot trial was successfully performed between Lyon-Sibelin to Nîmes with all the operational tests performed during the journey. The results were later on gathered by AEF and compared to the simulations. The comparison was satisfactory since the simulations were slightly less favourable than the tests on the rail tracks. For the diesel locomotives Vossloh prepared the Locomotives in its Valencia factory, performed there the integration tests but was obliged to transfer by road the locomotives to Barcelona were a railway line with UIC Gauge was enabling them to run on the rail tracks the two diesel locomotive as passive wagons since they were not yet commissioned in France. This commissioning operation was completed at their arrival in France. The same scenario of the previous trial was repeated in Sibelin with the two Vossloh diesel locomotives and the tests successfully performed along the same line.

After these tested trials the deployment and migration plans were studied by Trafikverket on a Northern route from Sweden to Denmark and to Germany for analysing a possible introduction of the MARATHON trains in the medium term. The French government announced its intention to introduce the MARATHON trains within two years on the RFF Network. To conclude the project a Methodological Technical Recommendation has been elaborated and given to UIC for a future leaflet preparation. The MARATHON trains will require a further study on the planned routes for checking the radio communication frequencies, for analysing the critical infrastructure points if any regarding the train length taking the adequate measures for the necessary modifications. All along the project lifetime the dissemination progresses have been updated through interventions, congresses participation, seminars, presentations, workshops and fairs in front of large audiences in numerous European countries. This dissemination raised large interest in the MARATHON type of trains.

Project Results:
The first finding resulting from the market research showed that the evolution of maritime imports in Europe were to be concentrated in fewer ports able to accommodate giant container vessels of 18000TEUs transhipping part of their containers bound to other ports on smaller feeder vessels. From the major ports the capacity of the rail link towards the hinterland justified the MARATHON trains. Other ports could participate to the MARATHON trains by providing an ordinary train for coupling. So the capacity of coupling and setting up the radio remote control in 10 minutes enabled these ports to join together standard trains creating competitive MARATHON trains for the trunk travel on long distances before decoupling them in 10 minutes for the final delivery.

The scientific and technological results of the MARATHON project are to be found in the following fields:
• Radio remote control of a locomotive at 750m distance separated in a railway environment by more than 30 wagons without disturbing the neighbouring trains and under catenaries in various geographic environments (valley, Tunnels, plains, on straight or curved lines, on ascending or descending slopes);
• Simulations on the train longitudinal forces and validation of the results ensuring the train safety also verifying that empty wagons will not cause derailment;
• Driving rules definition for such a long train where the Slave locomotive is unmanned;
• Methodology definition of refilling a long brake pipe with two compressors one of the Master and one of the Slave locomotive;
• Definition of the network capacity gain generated by such a train

The Slave locomotive remote control managed by the master locomotive driver implied progress on many technologies:
• In the field of radio communication where specific developments of antennas adapted to the rail environment have been deployed;
• In the field of radio frequencies where the research of the highest reliability led to reduce the volumes of SIL3 signals that could be transmitted adding another frequency capable to transmit many more signals with a lower SIL level for non-critical information messages but with a higher availability in tunnels;
• In the field of research of the minimum number of signals necessary for piloting the vital functions of the remote control locomotive and the return of the vital alarms from the slave locomotive;
• In the field of interfacing the radio link SIL3 messages to the control units of the locomotives with the creation of a safe computerized interface categorizing the signals in a safe way.

Regarding the simulations of longitudinal forces in a train when braking or accelerating, the computer programs currently in use do not encompass the specific case of a double train with an active locomotive in the middle with its specific braking capacity. TrainDy program was extensively utilized and adapted to take this specific case into the calculations. The real progress was achieved when comparing the measurements during the tests with the adapted calculation methods revealing a good coherence with the reality, validating the safety calculations. Piloting a locomotive with a remote control command needed an extensive multi-disciplinary process review. The perfect knowledge of the internal processes and controls managed by the software of the Vehicle Control Unit was fundamental as well as the knowledge of the processes managed by the software of the Drivers Brake Valve, of the Brake Control Unit and of the wagons Braking system. The perfect knowledge of all the possible operational situations was also necessary to define the specific structure and processes of a totally new equipment such as the “Brake Slave Unit” (see Figure 1 in the Attachment).

In order to avoid forgetting any element interfering in the global management of the Locomotives the Modtrain analysis valid all across Europe was used and adapted to the specific MARATHON concept.

In the field of radio transmission this comprehensive analysis dependent on the internal system of each locomotive type led to the definition of the vital command signals, of the information signals and on the Man Machine Interface (MMI). This analysis revealed an important number of signals to be transferred beyond the capacity of the radio for SIL3 level. For this reason following the operational analysis of the various driving situations including the set-up of the connection between the two trains and their separation at the end of the mission, a certain categorization of the signals was to be done by a new computerized gateway named DPCU. The software of that interface programmed in accordance with the safety standards has to open the right message directory when receiving the first signal, using this directory for translating the signal in an adequate message to the locomotive software and vice versa towards the radio transmitter for broadcasting the signal.

The architecture of the whole system is presented in Figure 2 and Figure 3 in the attachment for the two types of locomotives.

Following this research a very detailed work was undertaken to place the equipment in the locomotives with the support of computerized 3-D assistance for visualizing the results, adjusting the positioning and organizing the real work to be carried out in the workshop as quickly as possible. Figure 4 and Figure 5 (in the attachment) show the results of the study where the equipment is placed with blue coloured images can be seen.

The final important technological results were given by the real test on the rail tracks.

On the driving side it appeared that such a train is as easy to drive as a train driven by multiple unit traction while being smoother in reactions but as efficient in terms of stopping distances for equivalent wagons braking coefficient. A training is needed to start such a train for using the electric braking of the Master locomotive during an extremely short time while the Slave locomotive was starting to push forward. Such operational behaviours are quite easy to acquire by the drivers showing for the drivers no specific difficulties.

On the capacity per Ton issue the increase of the network capacity was calculated. This calculation was done on the basis of a track operated with automatic block signalling system of 1500m long and of 750m long which would be theoretically occupied only by 1500m MARATHON trains or by 750m standard trains all of them being fully loaded, running at the same speed and applying the rule that a train can enter a block if this block and the one further ahead are empty. The results are between 50% and 66% as shown in Figure 6 in attachment.

The overall achievement of the MARATHON project is shown in Figure 7 in the attachment showing the crossing of an electrically driven Marathon train with a standard one during the test run. The other picture is a diesel MARATHON train in its full length.
The two MARATHON trains tested on the RFF rail network both with Electric and Diesel traction have proven the project implementation on commercial basis on the existing European rail network fulfilling all project objectives with its economic advantages.

Potential Impact:
The MARATHON Project market relevance elements indispensable for the Market Uptake are represented by:
• The basic paradigm addressed by MARATHON project is represented by the economies of scale generated at Sea by the giant CT vessels did not find the same compatibility when the containers are discharged on the Ports quay Terminals. Therefore the immediate challenge to be overcome is the generation on land, be the modality Road, Rail or Inland Waterways, of the economies of scale compatible with those generated at Sea. Hence the transport industrialization, to/from Sea Ports to hinterland destinations via Dry Ports by rail. MARATHON Project has proven the validity of the Sea Ports, Dry Ports, Mega Hubs and Freight Villages as freight bundling centers for economies of scale generation. In particular these infrastructures located on major European freight corridors (TEN-T Network or European rail Network for Competitive Freight) constitute the vital nodes where freight multiplication, freight optimization and transport industrialization can become effective. It is obvious that these infrastructures must have capacity characteristics compatible with economies of scale and transport industrialization requirements in order to secure a continuous operation during the 24 hours production cycle.
• Transport industrialization is forcing transport operators to join forces for the economy of scale generation and by so doing create the basis for a cooperative approach between them. The MARATHON project business model has been thought from the very beginning as a result of a combination of different types of trains going along the same corridor from terminal to terminal. This provide an immediate solution for the conventional traffic since groups of wagons can be attached to an intermodal or an industrial train resolving both a problem of costs and service.
• the effective costs reduction when operating the MARATHON trains. The costs reduction is calculated up to 30% compared to a traditional train.
• the capacity generation on the rail tracks by assembling conventional trains into longer trains which means the liberation of trains paths on the existing rail infrastructure which in several places in Europe is congested. The capacity generation is very substantial since the saving on capacity on the rail tracks is exceeding 50%. It is possible to run 5 MARATHON trains in the slot allocated to 6 conventional short trains, equating to carry more than double capacity of freight with an inferior number of trains paths.
• the capacity generation on the existing rail infrastructures is avoiding expensive new investments in new infrastructures which are not possible in foreseeable future due to Government constraints. At best the MARATHON trains implementation postpones for some decades the need of any new rail infrastructure. The MARATHON trains allow the continuous efficient and effective use of the existing infrastructure for the foreseeable future. This is a very relevant feature resolving a Budget problem at European level valued in Billions of Euro.
• the timing for the commercial exploitation of the MARATHON trains has been indicated by SNCF as early as 2016 making the MARATHON longer commercially faster and heavier trains the biggest step change in rail freight development in modern time. This development is as big as the step change in air transportation when the small class jets have been replaced by the “wide bodied or jumbo jets” or in sea transportation when the 3/4000TEU vessels have been replaced on the longest sea lanes by the 14/18000 TEU vessels. It is a completely different ball game bringing about structural changes in rail freight competitiveness. Some adjustments to the rail infrastructures are however necessary although in rail terms of relatively modest nature such as lengthening the overtaking rail sidings on the corridors, modification of rail tracks length at the departing and arrival terminals and for assembly and disassembly maneuvers. The short time to market indicated by SNCF is a material proof that the used technologies are adequate for starting operations and that any further improvements on technology development from the pilot tested trials will constitute a marked improvement both in terms of service performances and safety/security.
• the MARATHON tested pilot trains have moreover evidenced a further benefit not planned or considered at the project conception. A saving of 10% of energy consumption has been monitored during the test. This has to be further investigated in order to scientifically understand the motivation. It is possible that the distributed power with the second locomotive in the middle of the convoy allowed a more uniform and stable energy absorption. The train driver reported that the impression was for the MARATHON train to proceed effortlessly. The front locomotive rather than pulling the train appeared to be pushed by it with the second locomotive undoubtedly improving the trains stability in transit.
• the MARATHON Project provided a direct solution for the European Commission “Shift to Rail” policies. “Shift to Rail” is not to take place automatically but has to be induced by more competitive services at reduced costs. The MARATHON Project proved by the combination of different types of traffic along the corridors the possibility of increasing the service frequencies at much reduced operating costs (30%).
• the environmental benefits are encompassing all dimensions. By transporting more with the same resources promoting the Shift to Rail policies less energy in being consumed, less fossil fuels, less accidents, less pollution, less noise, less CO2, less congestions, all elements these towards a more sustainable mobility.
The main KPI that Marathon project achieves is:
• Per ton (or meter) of cargo carried a reduction of capacity used on the Network of 50%.

List of Websites:
The MARATHON project public website is:

Contact details:

Andrea Demadonna
Technical Affairs Managers
UNIFE - the European Rail Industry
221, Avenue Louise
B-1050 Brussels(Belgium)
Tel +32(0) 2 626 12 60
Fax+32(0) 2 626 12 61