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Smart Supply Chain Oriented Rail Freight Services – Smart-Rail

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Smart-Rail (Smart Supply Chain Oriented Rail Freight Services – Smart-Rail)

Reporting period: 2016-11-01 to 2018-04-30

The rail freight sector faces the challenge of providing the capacity for affordable and attractive services. The complexity of the European rail sector hampers the development of such services. Smart-Rail intends to define, implement and monitor new shipper-oriented rail freight concepts improving the competitive position of the rail sector through a Living Lab approach.

The establishment of “SHIFT2RAIL”, the European rail joint technology initiative, seeks focused research and innovation (R&I) and market-driven solutions. The Smart-Rail project is aligned with the objectives of SHIFT2RAIL and will ensure that the results can be used in further research and implementation in this programme.

The current European rail freight market is a complex system involving a great number of different public and private stakeholders who jointly manage the operation of running trains from A to B. The relations and requirements of customers/shippers and the rail sector are depicted in the following figure.

First and foremost, shippers require reliable service. A late or unexpected arrival of freight can cause damage (additional costs) within the logistical process. Other vital factors are lead time, flexibility, visibility and predictability. Lead time is especially important when transporting perishables or high value goods. A long lead time for such goods means a higher depreciation or higher working capital costs. Flexible rail services are responsive to changes in the operations of shippers or in other parts of the supply chain, such as a late arrival of a container because of a delayed ship. Shippers are in need of flexible services, both in terms of departure time and required capacity. In order to be more responsive to changes, shippers and LSPs require control of their assets. Therefore, better visibility and predictability of the supply chain are strongly needed. Shippers demand real-time information on the status of their shipment and immediate information in case of delays so that the rest of the supply chain can be reorganised (re-plan actions) accordingly.

Finally, in order to achieve more competitive total logistics/transport costs, shippers require an efficient and effective rail product, taking into account the requirements mentioned here. A good alignment with other modes of transport used in the supply chain is required and in some cases cooperation with other modes might be needed to optimise the reliability and flexibility of the overall railways product.

The objectives of Smart-Rail, all derived from the overarching goal of creating smart supply chain oriented rail freight services, are:
- to contribute to a mental shift of the rail sector toward a client oriented and supply chain focus;
- to develop working business models for cooperation of different stake-holders;
- to develop a methodology and architecture for exchange of data/information required for the optimisation process, between stake-holders, making use of existing initiatives where available;
- to establish three Continuous Improvement Tracks (CIT, a.k.a. “Living Labs”) that each focus on different aspects and markets and implement the developed tools, methodologies and concepts. The purpose of the CITs is to test and improve the innovative measures in a real life situation. Specific and more dedicated business models, information systems and new rail services are developed, tested and implemented.
Results regarding the cooperation within the rail sectorand in the supply chain include
- Review of the state of the art and current bottlenecks;
- Business models for improved cooperation.

Results with respect to data sharing include
- An inventory of existing technologies for data exchange, standards for supply and logistics and railway specific standards;
- A specification of the data model of a logical database for the purpose of Smart-Rail.

The results of Continuous Improvement Track Wagonload Services (SWL), based on the core service existing at the start of the project, include
- Early stage expansions of the core service within France;
- Expansion routes, including international ones, were defined based on the demonstrated potential, provided suitable clients, suitable commodities, and suitable cooperation partners can be found.

The results of Continuous Improvement Track “Control tower” (CT), that starts from the existing logistic Control Tower IT-tool, which at present does not cover rail transport, include
- Approach how a CT can be extended with a rail freight service add-on: Control Tower Rail (CT-Rail);
- The CT-Rail conceptual IT-architecture was defined.

The results of Continuous Improvement Track “Reliability in case of (un) expected disruptions”, include
- A selection of relevant measures to improve reliability and flexibility based on the input of a lot of stakeholders of the rail freight chain:
o Data exchange, data analytics and data use for smart applications in the logistic chain,
o More flexible and efficient planning of international train paths,
o Development, preparation and use of pre-defined alternatives in case of disruptions;
- Experience with data sharing between partners in the rail sector.

The results of the work on community building, dissemination and exploitation include
- Project website;
- Leaflet, project posters, newsletters;
- Presentation of Smart-Rail project and results at more than 30 external events;
The state of the art in railway projects has been focused primarily on the development by innovative solutions for operations problems, interoperability of trains on the European rail network and new rail services. The European intermodal transport agenda has been advanced by strengthening rail as a transport mode, but the integration of rail with the other modes of transport into one single, seamless, transport solution requires more attention. Further one of the White paper targets is to shift a significant share of long distance road transport to rail in the coming decades. To achieve this rail should provide more than low costs alone and should become able to deliver the service requirements demanded of the cargo currently transported on the road. Smart-Rail will take this ambition a step further by:
- developing methods to increase flexibility and cooperation both within the rail sector itself and in relation to other stakeholders in the supply chain,
- empowering the rail sector in terms of connectivity, organisation, flexibility and new service design, in order to be ready for current and future challenges, and
- test these methods in day-to-day operations in the Living Labs and aims to extend them to the rail sector as a whole.

In this way, this project delivers both the required solutions to integrate rail transport better into unified transport solutions, as well as the testing ground to develop these solutions into practical applications that will be adopted by a broad community within Europe.

It should be highlighted that the ambition of Smart-Rail goes much further than the practical results of the Living Labs and their continuation after the end of the project. We will establish a broad set of tools that can support the relevant stakeholders in their cooperation to improve the rail product in order to meet most optimally the user needs.