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Paradigm shifts for railway – Technology uptake strategies for a lean, integrated and flexible railway system

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FLEX-RAIL (Paradigm shifts for railway – Technology uptake strategies for a lean, integrated and flexible railway system)

Reporting period: 2018-12-01 to 2020-05-31

The Flex-Rail vision is formulated as follows:
‘In order for rail to keep their central role in the EU transport system, paradigm shifts on fundamental rail sector characteristics are required; both rail industry and organisation have to target a lean, integrated and flexible railway system, which will stimulate further innovation within the rail sector and will ensure that rail services can address the future user needs. Development of the required technologies must be aligned with the pace of innovation of other relevant sectors (in particular the competing transport modes) and must be accompanied with suitable governance structures and business models to ensure that the targeted impacts can be achieved.’

To address the vision and challenge, Flex-Rail has established a set of 9 clear and measurable objectives to assess to what extent they are achieved during the course of the project.
1. Development of an in-depth overview of relevant state-of-the-art innovation and technology trends, transport sector innovations and blue-sky projects
2.Determination of gaps between future user needs, competitiveness requirements and technology potential with the status quo in the rail sector, including required paradigm shifts.
3.Definition of rail system scenario addressing all future user needs, competitiveness requirements and technology potential
4.Validation refining and improving the defined rail system scenario by specification of:
• transition pathways toward the rail system scenario end-point considering the competitiveness and other requirements given the foreseen transitions of the transport sector and in specific of the road sector.
• governance of the required transition and the different pathways, considering interests and potential resistance of society and the market.
• business models required for achieving the targeted impacts
5.Definition and development of a dedicated Impact Assessment framework and models and apply it to determine the impact of the rail system scenarios developed. The following impacts should be covered:
6.Creating involvement of the relevant rail and non-rail stakeholders in the process, to:
7.Definition of required adjustments and refinements to the Shift2Rail objectives and workplans, based on the concluded rails system scenario.
"Following the proposal of the project, FLEX-Rail performed:
An in-depth overview of the state of the art of ideas and technological trends related to innovations of the transport industry and non-transport sector technologies. As such, it constitutes a knowledge basis for subsequent Flex-Rail Work Packages (WP). In particular, for (i) the definition of KPIs, which are key assessment components in WP3, (ii) the identification of gaps and development of future (rail system) transition pathways and scenario in WP4 and (iii) the impact assessment of these transition pathways and scenarios in WP5.
The research work considered 40 innovation themes and trends (clustered under 9 innovation topics), such as automation and digitalisation, emerging transport technologies and mobility concepts. The research also took into account organisational aspects and business models to incorporate societal trends and users’ preferences. For each innovation theme, a factsheet has been compiled, including: a general description, an analysis of its relationship with relevant S2R dimensions and its potential implications for the future of rail transport.

WP 3 defined and prepared a dedicated framework to be used in WP 5 to assess the impact of the defined rail technology scenarios and transition pathways as defined in WP 4. The impact assessment framework address’ the needs of Shift2Rail evolving from their formally agreed objectives. As such the impact assessment framework was designed to determine the direct impacts on the different performance components of the rail system as well as the performance of rail within the context of the broader transport system and contribution to solutions for societal and economic challenges.

Within working package 4 (reported in the end report but mainly elaborated in period 1 and with a stro linkage to WP3) a gaps between future user needs, competitiveness requirements and technology potential with the status quo in the rail sector, including required paradigm shifts and the development of a future rail system scenario based on an open innovation participatory process involving general public and stakeholders was developed, to first decide which paradigms are holding back the rail sector and in a second stage FLEX-RAIL generated new paradigm solutions for a future rail system. These paradigm solutions are defining draft scenario packages that have been evaluated within different perspectives leading to final scenario packages as basis for the final scenario of ""rail in a sustainable and user-oriented (multi-modal) system"" decribing the key functionalities, potentials and possibilities and alignments within the paradigm solutions."
While the current work programme will follow a timely innovation pathway, project FLEX-RAIL will go beyond the state of the art, considering disruptive innovations not only in technology but also regarding the boundary conditions.

A faster and less costly transition of the rail system will be targeted by the rail technology scenarios to be developed. By also using or adjusting technologies already (being) developed in other sectors much R&I costs and time can be saved. Further when technologies are used by a larger than only the rail market the price will be lower as well, which will increase the potential for market uptake.
Given the long lifetime of the rail assets a faster transition could in some cases be achieved by adjust existing assets rather than the creation of sunk costs by replacing them. Specific attention will be given to these possible adjustment options.
In line with the S2R vision as taken up in the adjusted MAAP 2017, the user needs will be the leading requirements for the technology scenarios to be developed.
Sustainability is another key requirement for the identification and selection of technologies. Full electrification is to be achieved as well as optimal use of natural resources by targeting circular economy concepts not only focussing on waste handling but also on production methods with improved anticipation on reuse of materials.
Efficiency and competitiveness of the European industry will be achieved by focusing on realistic requirements and corresponding solutions for rail innovation; we will contribute to the creation of a more open-minded approach of the rail sector towards upcoming possibilities and threats. This requires that where relevant also potentially painful topics for some stakeholders should be discussed in order to achieve the relevant paradigm shifts.

Active interaction with the relevant S2R and other projects will be established in order to create synergy where possible.
Rail and non-rail stakeholders will be involved in the project events and dissemination activities.
SMEs will be involved in the process wherever possible. Further the technology scenarios should contribute to facilitation of the access to the rail system for SMEs which will further stimulate creativity and innovation of the services provided.