Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


FUTURA Report Summary

Project ID: 700985

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FUTURA (FUTUre RAil freight transport: cost-effective, safe, quiet and green!)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2017-02-28

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Majority of accidents in rail freight transport (collision of vehicles and people with trains) happen at level rail crossing because the braking distance of heavy freight trains is too long. Furthermore existing braking systems of freight trains (cast-iron brake blocks) cause noise, which has negative impact on environment and human health. These brake blocks roughen the wheel surface, causing the wheel to vibrate and thus emit noise. The problem is much more important because freight trains in particular are mostly operated at night. Noise, caused by freight trains, is the main reason for health problems of millions of people who live or work near train tracks. The social cost of rail traffic noise in the EU is estimated to be at least 2.4 billion € per year and this takes into account only effects, related to noise levels above 55 dB. This budget is used for healing different diseases, caused by high noise levels (annoyance, sleep disturbance, cardiovascular diseases, etc.).

The core intention of the FUTURA project is to develop Divided, axle mounted Rail Freight Brake disc (DRFB disc) for freight wagons with the main objective to improve the quality and safety of life of over 55 million EU citizens who live or work near train tracks. This is the first disc of its kind for rail freight wagons in divided form.

The overall objectives of the project follow 3 key elements:
o decreasing the number of accidents through reducing the braking distance of freight trains,
o improving the reliability of braking systems through better heat dissipation, caused at braking.
o improving human health through decreasing noise levels of rail freight transport,
o reducing the volume of freight transported by road and air transport through the increased use of rail transport, which is cleaner and more environmentally friendly.
o enabling longer life-cycle of wheels through divided disc form (when replacing the brake discs there is no need to dismantle the axle, wheels and other mechanical parts),
o lowering maintenance costs through decreasing of assembly/dismantling costs,
o lowering life-cycle costs (LCC),
o decreasing the mass of train composition through optimization of the mass of DRFB discs.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

DRFB discs are made from two parts: disc crown and disc hub. In the first period of the project, boundary conditions of technical solutions for both parts were defined. The calculations and documentation for 5 prototypes were prepared. Three of them reached certain level of compliance to the requirements, while other two didn`t (Futura 1.1 and Futura 2.1). The prototypes Futura 1 and Futura 2 were manufactured. The Futura 1 prototype finished the laboratory testing and is right now being tested in real environment.

The Futura 2 prototype finished the laboratory testing. With this prototype the mass was reduced by 13,7 % and ventilation losses by 25 % in comparison with initial prototype. The purpose of real environment test is to assess life cycle and performance of the disc. As both produced prototypes (Futura 1 and 2) are made from same material and they showed similar properties during the laboratory tests, there was no need for second prototype to be mounted on the wagon for real environment test. Consequently, there would be no difference in assessment of wear and life cycle of the disc.

The Futura 3 prototype was at the end of reporting period in manufacturing stage. With it, the mass of the disc will reduce. After completion of production, it will be mounted on the train and testing in real environment will start.

For dissemination of project's results the website (, Facebook profile and logotype were created and the promotion material was prepared. The prototypes were presented on 2 fairs: InnoTrans in Berlin and ExpoRail in Mexico. 32 face-to-face dialogues were made. In different weekly/monthly newspapers 4 articles and 2 press releases were published. For professional and wider public the Kick-off conference and 2 activities in schools were organized. For validation of business model in-depth analysis of several potential markets was made (Australia, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Poland, Canada…).

So far, in comparison with initial prototype the vibration level has lowered by 10 %, the mass by 18,6 % and noise level by 8 dB. Overall efficiency has increased by 10 %.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The current state-of-the-art braking system for freight trains are disc brakes, where the brake crown is made of one piece. The main problem of the current state-of-the-art solution is: when replacing the non-divided brake discs, one must remove the complete axle and other mechanical parts on it, such as bearings, wheels and hubs, which causes high maintenance costs of disc brakes. Additionally, while dismantling the discs, mechanical parts can be damaged, because they are connected by press fit, which is usually dismantled by using force.

The developed DRFB brake discs are divided. The crown of the disc is made of two parts, bolted together with self-developed bolts. There is no need to dismantle the axle and other mechanical parts (bearings, wheels, hubs); one only needs to replace the brake crown, which enables a considerably easier and cheaper assembly/dismantling and influences the decrease of LCC.

In the second year of the project, production of two prototypes is planned. Futura 4 was at the end of the first reporting period in designing stage and will be produced at the beginning of the second reporting period. With it, the mass of the disc will be reduced by 21 % in comparison with the initial prototype.

With Futura 5 prototype, it is planned that the width of the disc will be reduced from 170 mm to 110 mm. Namely, through face-to-face dialogues and market research during the project implementation high demand for narrower discs was found. Most probably, at the end of the project, two versions of DRFB disks will be developed (170 mm and 110 mm).

At the end of the first reporting period all values of specific objectives were approaching the final planned values. It is planned that at the end of the project, all planned specific objectives will be achieved.

Results of the FUTURA project have so far influenced academic, science and research institutions, suppliers, competitors and customers. The most important channel used for communication with relevant stakeholders were face-to-face dialogues and fairs.

Some impacts of the FUTURA project:
1. Economic impact is achieved through safer, more secure, cheaper and faster rail fraight transport.
2. Social impact is achieved through improved safety (due to reduction of braking distance) which will result in fewer accidents. Due to lower noise and vibrations level, the human health and quality of life will improve.
3. Environmental impact is achieved through lower noise and vibration level and shorter braking distance, which has positive influence also on transport of dangerous goods.
4. R&D results can be transferred to the automotive, chemical, electro, metal processing and similar industries.

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