Skip to main content

Automated Rail Cargo Consortium: Rail freight automation research activities to boost levels of quality, efficiency and cost effectiveness in all areas of rail freight operations

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - ARCC (Automated Rail Cargo Consortium: Rail freight automation research activities to boost levels of quality, efficiency and cost effectiveness in all areas of rail freight operations)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2019-12-31

A key moment for ‘shift to rail’ in terms of EU policy has been the publication of the EU’s White Paper on Transport in 2011. One of its goals for a competitive and resource-efficient transport system was:

• 30% of road freight over 300 km should shift to other modes such as rail or waterborne transport by 2030, and more than 50% by 2050, facilitated by efficient and green freight corridors.

Shift2Rail IP5 and the ARCC project address the challenge of a significantly higher modal share of rail freight by increasing the quality and resource efficiency of the rail system and by improving the overall cost structure at the same time. At the same time, the research and innovation actions within ARCC should address the falling profit margins in the railway sector throughout Europe.
Automation and digitalisation are areas that have huge potential and where the rail freight sector has fallen behind other modes of transport such as road. Automation and digitalisation have opened up new opportunities for rail freight both in terms of rolling stock fleet and business (support) processes. They therefore require immediate action and this is be done by focusing on both rail freight assets and operational processes within ARCC.

The activities of the ARCC project will, in their final implementation stage, create the following benefits for freight transportation:

• Increased efficiency on the main railway lines and nodes, reducing lead time and costs.
- 20% energy saving thanks to automatically optimised acceleration and braking patterns for rail freight profiles;
- 50% increase in production capacity, doubling the throughput through infrastructure by reducing required headway (the distance between trains on the network);
- 50% reduction in costs for operating systems.

• Improved services and customer quality so that the operational timetable is reliably met.
- 10% increase in efficiency through greater availability and easier disposition of assets;
- 10% improvement in the punctuality of outgoing trains in local hubs;
- More accurate forecasting of departure and arrival times for customers;
• Optimised business processes and management of complex situations.
- Significantly improved punctuality through optimised on-time departure and delivery;
- Significantly improved reliability through reduced dependency on and risk related to the human factor;
- A 15% reduction in time when rail assets sit idle within nodes.

• Enhanced interoperability between national railways and single wagonload transport.
- A harmonised European interoperable and backwards compatible Automated Train Operation (ATO) module for use in passenger and rail freight transportation;
- Smooth and seamless automated freight operations across borders between different national railway systems.
Work package 1 Automated Train Operation (ATO) aims for a functional demonstrator of Automated Train Operation in a relevant rail cargo environment (TRL 5) in order to gather first practical experience with automated driving of freight trains. The demonstrator will have be equipped with a Grade of Automation (GoA) 2 system. TD5.1 “Fleet Digitization and Automation” and more precisely TD5.1.3 “Freight ATO / DAS” has the goal to test and validate ATO technology as an important and freight-specific input to jointly shaping a standardization roadmap up to autonomous operation (GoA4) in Shift2Rail. The work carried out in ARCC WP1 lays the functional foundation for successful and evaluable demonstration runs with GoA2 equipment by various suppliers in a fully operational environment. Following the analytical work in 2017, most of the focus in 2018 has been to assemble the building blocks of a more ambitious project than originally planned, in collaboration with X2Rail-3, and the infrastructure manager.

During the reporting period the activities in WP2 focused on the (single) wagon load, intermodal rail freight segments and on nodes, i.e. marshalling yards and terminals, which are essential but cost-intensive subsystems for the rail freight business.

WP3 focused on improved simulations and optimisation methods for timetable planning in long term planning, tactical planning and operational traffic. Optimal timetable planning is one of the key elements for successful and efficient railway operations. It is connected to operations planning in yards and terminals, which adds further levels of complexity to the planning activities. It is also related to traffic management, to the availability of rolling stock and to other typical factors related to the rail sector but also to the accessory services which are typical of the freight sector, such as goods loading and unloading, set up times at marshalling yards, shunting, etc.
ARCC brings together advanced automation and digitalisation processes to the market in a shorter time period. Ambitions for progress beyond the current state of the art technology:
- will be a completely new application in the field of rail freight and will be advanced to an experimental proof of concept to see how a pneumatic brake system works on a large number of coupled freight cars with heavy loads.
- Sensor units will be designed to detect objects on and near the track, which may potentially interfere with the clearance and ground profile. They will safely identify patterns knowing how to distinguish, for example, between the position of trackside poles and humans.
- ‘Real-time yard management’ will increase the cost-efficiency and punctuality of rail freight services at the nodes of the rail network. It will automate decision support for dispatchers, provide operational real-time information for shunters and enable dynamic resource planning.
- Dynamic train paths in the timetable will chang the work for traffic planners and dispatchers, connecting timetable planning closely to operation thereby relying on system intelligence.

All technology developments envisioned and planned within this proposal will lead to the radical innovation of the rail freight sector and therefore require the involvement of key players and decision makers, also at the political level. As its bottom line, ARCC aims at achieving a huge boost in the competitiveness of the rail freight transportation sector due to a sharp increase in resource efficiencies, capacity utilisation, system reliability and flexibility, achieving immediate and sustainable growth on the TEN-T core network freight corridors.
Vision picture of ARCC focus within IP5