Tuesday 17 October 2017

Automatic coupling for freight traffic: next steps

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On 11 October, 35 representatives from railway companies, infrastructure managers and industry suppliers met in Zurich to discuss options for automatic coupling in rail freight operations.

The seminar was organised at the kind invitation of SBB and as a follow-up action from the High Level Freight Meeting during which CEOs discussed issues impacting rail freight productivity.

Ms Anja Maria Sontag, SBB project manager, opened the seminar and explained the state of play in Switzerland. The business approach presented to the audience identified a positive business scenario especially for the first and last mile operation in Switzerland which constitutes almost 60% of the production costs incurred by the domestic traffic. She closed her presentation confirming SBB’s goal to launch pilots with the combined transport domestic wagon load market segment.

Mr Minary, SNCF, then took the floor and particularly underlined the need to include such initiatives in an overall approach towards automation of processes. He clearly stressed SNCF’s approach towards providing added value and concluded that automatic coupling will be part of the system only if there is a sustainable business model, if it is considered a key lever of a new system and not a standalone technology and if there is a standard. In his view a sector’s approach to the issue is needed.

The third initiative was presented by Mr Meuser from DB Cargo who started his analysis based on changes in industry operating models which need to be mirrored in rail logistics. He too stressed the need for a European approach aimed at efficiency increases, at implementing enablers for automated processes whilst progressing on societal factors such as noise, safety improvements etc. He shared a vision for implementation on rail freight corridors by 2030 whilst underlying the need for a coordinated migration plan.

Finally, Mr Mathias Nell from Rail Cargo Group provided an insight into RCG’s approach. The need for an international perspective was once again underlined and he too endorsed the view according to which the sector needs to move from intelligent trains to intelligent production and to automated production. He concluded by saying that the rail freight sector needs to get the best out of today and still be among the best tomorrow!

In her conclusion, Ms Leonie Lendenmann, SBB “Sherpa” for the CEO TF, mentioned that “if this exchange of best practices had to be summarised with a few words, these would be:
-  The need for a positive business case
-  The need for a European approach
-  The need to ensure interoperability and have a standard for the sector
-  The need to ensure a coordinated migration plan.”

The UIC Freight Forum, as the technical arm of the CEO Task Force, will continue to address this issue and place it within the bigger picture of the digital work on hand.

For further information please contact Sandra Géhénot, UIC Freight Director:


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