One of the priorities of the Rail Freight Forward (RFF) coalition is to proactively drive modal shift and propose quick wins to implement a ”drive-through” philosophy. This is achieved through UIC projects such as X Border, executed in collaboration with key partners such as RNE with the support of individual freight operators and infrastructure managers and thanks to programmes such as Shift2Rail (S2R). The S2R-funded Translate4Rail (T4R) project has achieved a breakthrough in using digitalisation to help address driver language issues.
A language tool, which began as an idea as part of the X Border project and sector language programme, is now being developed within the scope of the T4R (UIC/RNE) project, financed through S2R, and is now ready to be tested in the T4R pilot.
At the T4R advisory board meeting in Paris in February 2020, the idea was raised of beginning development of the language tool for a tablet version. The idea was to develop the tool on the basis of a prepared set of pre-defined messages, originally developed as part of the UIC X Border project and later harmonised with IMs in the RNE LP. This approach is entirely in line with the sector language programme and covers the first phase of tool development. Starting in December 2019, the functional requirements were prepared and published in order to engage an IT company to develop the tool. Following a successful tender, work on the tool started in May 2020, and delivered results quickly in August 2020 in the form of the first language tool prototype. Initial tests were then conducted and the tool was improved accordingly so as to be ready for pilot testing from September 2020. These preliminary results were achieved through close cooperation between UIC and RNE and its members.
The T4R language tool prototype is now ready to be tested in pilot tests to prove the concept of pre-defined messages, as well as speech-to-speech translation of communication between traffic controllers and train drivers. The language tool will undergo testing on the Villach – Tarvisio (Pontebba) border section, and infrastructure managers ÖBB Infra and RFI, together with railway undertakings Mercitalia, DB Cargo and RCG, are due to begin the laboratory phase of tool testing. Based on the laboratory test results, the tool will progress to a field testing phase to evaluate the tool’s functionalities in daily operation in a second step. With this approach, RUs and IMs are making solid progress towards overcoming the language barrier.