The Rhine-Alpine Rail Freight Corridor’s Railway Undertaking Advisory Group (RAG) met on 21 October. This platform offers a regular opportunity for railway undertakings to present their interests and provide recommendations on improvements to infrastructure, logistics and procedures from a customer point of view. Members of the RFC’s Executive Board and Management Board, as well as additional representatives of infrastructure managers and the Rhine-Alpine RFC team, participate in the platform to understand and discuss customers’ inputs.
Since the introduction of RFCs under Regulation (EU) 913/2010, the group has played a key role in the Rhine-Alpine RFC’s work. Current active members include SBB Cargo International (RAG speaker), DB Cargo, Lineas, BLS Cargo, Mercitalia, Captrain Italy, TX Logistik and Hupac.
Sandra Géhénot, UIC Freight Director, gave a presentation on the Rail Freight Forward (RFF) initiative. She explained that the railways are facing a critical challenge at global scale. The aim of the EU Green Deal is to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050 in order to combat climate change. “We need more rail freight! UIC is working in various directions on encouraging a modal shift and ensuring that rail becomes the backbone of future mobility”, said Ms Géhénot.
One of these workstreams is the X Border project, which aims to increase rail freight competitiveness in cross-border operations and improve interoperability by means of a European drive-through philosophy.
Andrea M. Penso, Senior Advisor at DB Cargo, presented the X Border Sections work package. His presentation included, amongst other things, an overview of the concept for smooth operation on border sections from the railway undertaking’s perspective, and a proposed methodology to analyse legal, technical and procedural aspects of border sections in order to identify possible improvement measures to be assessed on a sector-wide scale together with infrastructure managers and, where necessary, with national safety authorities and regulatory bodies for potential implementation.
Constanze Bannholzer, UIC Senior Freight Advisor, presented the initial findings from the X Border Language work package in relation to gap analysis and conclusions on the use of predefined messages (PDM) on a full-penetration basis. Tests have shown that over 90% of communications between IMs and RUs can be covered with the existing PDM. This proves that PDMs are a promising solution for breaking the language barrier, demonstrating that it is possible for two people (train driver and signaller) who do not speak the same language to understand each other by means of the PDM tool in order to ensure safe operations.
It was highlighted that the X Border project needs be seen in the context of the bigger picture and other UIC activities. A drive-through philosophy is achieved through 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). X Border has contributed to the S2R-funded Translate4Rail (T4R) project, which has achieved a breakthrough in using digitalisation to help address driver language issues.
The RAG work plan for 2020 was updated during the meeting, and information was provided on a feasibility study being initiated by the Rhine-Alpine RFC on railway collaborative decision-making. Stakeholders in the train run are asked to participate actively. The aim is to improve processes and reduce costs for all stakeholders involved in the train run by sharing relevant information. As further topics, the participating railway undertakings emphasised the need to improve capacity in service facilities, and infrastructure works planned for 2023-2025 between Mannheim and Basel were also discussed.
The presentations on the RFF, the UIC X Border project and the T4R project were well-received, given that language is one of several priorities, others being train performance management and 740 m implementation monitoring. Experts attending the RAG will examine future opportunities for collaboration regarding the T4R project and the Rhine-Alpine RFC.