Tuesday 10 March 2020

UIC and infrastructure manager organisation RailNetEurope work together to remove language barriers in Europe

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During their first advisory board on 25 February, UIC and RNE reported on their Shift2Rail funded project Translate4Rail. Translate4Rail aims at developing a language tool that removes the cumbersome language barriers in international train operations. Despite many attempts to overcome interoperability issues, the need of a level B1 language certificate for train drivers is still one of the many examples of a lack of a level playing field between different modes. It hinders rail freight reliability and reduces competitiveness.

Translate4Rail (T4R) is a good example of how future innovation initiatives could be managed through close collaboration between all stakeholders involved: Rail innovation agency Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking, the infrastructure managers here represented by RNE and the rail freight sector united in Rail Freight Forward represented by UIC.

By capitalising on earlier work, the sector will be able to develop a viable, cost effective and quickly implementable solution. The solution will be a tool or device where train drivers and signallers can use their own native language and still communicate in an effective and safe manner. The project spans over 24 months and started on 2 December last year.

Already the project delivered a benchmarking analysis on the state-of-the-art of speech to speech technology. It showed that a lot of attempts have been made but none of them comply with the qualitative and safety standards applicable within the sector.

To follow are the actual development and testing of a language tool. One of the many research questions to answer will be where the tool or device should be located. A number of options are open and will be further developed during the course of this project leading to pilot testing.

Pilot testing will take place first in a secure environment (laboratory tests) before being undertaken in real operational conditions (field tests).

Advisory Group attendees were the European Union Agency for Railways, DG Move, CIT, New Opera, Railway Undertakings and Infrastructure Managers.


This project has received funding from the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking (JU) under grant agreement No 881779. The JU receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the Shift2Rail JU members other than the Union.

For further information please contact Paolo Freitas, Senior Freight Advisor:


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