Topic of the week
Predictive maintenance – a growing market
Predictive maintenance is a concept that is used in many industries and aims to monitor the condition of plant and machinery in order to predict and prevent potential failures. Predictive maintenance is becoming increasingly important in the rail market in particular, as the availability of rail vehicles is crucial for the mobility of millions of people around the world.
The global market for predictive maintenance in the rail market has grown strongly in recent years and is expected to reach US$4.4 billion by 2024, up from US$2.3 billion in 2019, representing annual growth of approximately 14%.
The growth of the market is driven by the increasing adoption of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), which enable rail operators to monitor the condition of rolling stock in real time and perform preventive maintenance.
The demand for predictive maintenance in the rail market is also driven by the need for increased uptime and reliability of rail vehicles, particularly high-speed trains travelling at speeds of up to 400km/h. Failure of these trains can have serious consequences and cause significant disruption to rail traffic.
Asia Pacific dominates the predictive maintenance market in the rail market and is expected to hold the largest market share by 2024. This is due to the growing investment in rail infrastructure and increasing demand for rail transport in countries such as China, India, and Japan.
Europe is expected to be the second largest market for predictive maintenance in the rail market, followed by North America. In Europe, government initiatives to modernise rail infrastructure and rising demand for eco-friendly mobility are driving the predictive maintenance market.
Overall, the market for predictive maintenance in the rail market is expected to grow further in the coming years as rail operators increasingly invest in technologies to improve the availability and reliability of rail vehicles.
AI in the rail market – what about the implementation of artificial intelligence in the sector?
Work on the development of artificial intelligence (AI) has been ongoing since the 1950s. Tremendous progress has been made in recent years and AI is now being used in many industries to increase efficiency and productivity.
Even in the rail sector, the use of AI is no longer a distant vision of the future. It is primarily applied in the areas of maintenance, safety and operations management.
While individual companies have already implemented AI or offer solutions for implementation, there is still no European guideline for this.
As part of Shift2Rail, researchers from the Italian research consortium CINI, the University of Leeds, the Dutch Delft University of Technology and Sweden’s Linné University have been working over the past three years to change this. The goal of the project was to create a roadmap for the implementation of AI in the rail sector and to develop concepts, recommendations and guidelines for the integration of AI in rail transport. The research project, which started at the end of 2019, was funded with around 300,000 euros from the European Union.
The final research results will be presented this year – but the researchers have already announced that the results will be used to detect anomalies on the tracks, enable intelligent fault detection at level crossings, and improve line capacity and incident response.
AI in rail transport – how Deutsche Bahn is researching and working on the AI of tomorrow
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been occupying the rail sector for several years and is already in use today in various forms, for example in maintenance, operational optimization or in the area of safety.
Much is promised through the use of AI: optimized maintenance intervals and predictive maintenance, more safety in operations and optimized operational processes. The potential that AI holds for the rail sector is huge, but at this point it is far from exhausted.
Deutsche Bahn has been working to change this for several years. As early as 2019, the company created a “House of AI” under the leadership of Dr. Thomas Thiele, who is now Chief AI Officer at DB and responsible for the development and implementation of AI-related topics throughout the Group.
In several projects, Deutsche Bahn is researching new uses for AI or ways in which systems already in use can be expanded and matured.
This is also the case in the research project “Automatic damage detection on freight cars” launched in 2021, the aim of which is to develop, test and evaluate AI models for the automated detection of damage to freight cars. The project, which is being carried out with the participation of DB Cargo AG, Deutsche Bahn AG, DB Netz AG, Fresenius University of Applied Sciences and the University of Wuppertal, will run until the end of 2024.
In other projects, research is being conducted on vegetation control, optimization of schedules and distribution, passenger guidance systems, capacity utilization models or delay forecasts using AI.
All aim to minimize delays, increase passenger comfort, and make ongoing operations and maintenance as efficient as possible.
In order to be able to coordinate research in the best possible way, Deutsche Bahn launched the Group-wide think tank “AI Factory” in January 2023.
AI opens up countless possibilities for using data more efficiently, optimizing processes and new business models – Deutsche Bahn is determined to exploit this potential.
Where are we on the European Union’s AI Act? – Political Regulation of Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) has gained enormous importance in recent years and is considered a key technology for the future. More and more industries are relying on AI to automate processes and increase efficiency. AI is also increasingly used in the railway market, for example to optimise maintenance processes or to plan train connections. AI is popular, but not without risks.
Due to the impact AI systems can have on our society and our economy, the regulation of artificial intelligence as a topic has become increasingly important.
The European Union responded to the developments around AI with the AI Act.
What is the AI Act?
The AI Act is a European Union (EU) regulation that was proposed in April 2021. This regulation aims to regulate the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI) in Europe and ensure that it is done in accordance with European values and fundamental rights.
The regulation covers a wide range of AI applications – from automated decision-making processes to autonomous systems. It also contains provisions on the classification of AI systems according to their risk, on prohibitions and restrictions on certain AI applications, and on obligations for developers and users of AI systems.
One of the most important provisions of the AI Act is the risk-based classification of AI systems. The classification is based on criteria such as the type of AI system, the application and the potential impact on the rights and freedoms of individuals. AI systems are classified into four categories, from “insignificant” risk to “unacceptable” risk.
Based on the risk assessment, applications that are classified as particularly dangerous or ethically questionable are banned. Systems that are classified as high-risk are subject to special requirements and testing procedures before they are allowed to be used.
Developers and users of AI systems must also fulfil a number of obligations to ensure that their applications are developed and used ethically and responsibly. These include, for example, requirements for the transparency and explainability of AI systems, the obligation to conduct risk analyses and the provision of information on the functions and capabilities of AI systems.
Why regulations of AI are important
AI systems may be able to collect and process large amounts of data to make predictions about people’s behaviour or to make decisions that can have far-reaching effects on people’s lives. If these systems are not developed and used in an ethically responsible way, they can lead to fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals being violated.
In addition, regulation creates a level playing field and the opportunity for innovation. By introducing uniform rules and standards for the development and use of AI systems in Europe, companies and developers can ensure that they adhere to the same rules and compete on a fair basis.
Regulations can further help to increase public confidence in AI technologies and promote the development of AI.
Policy regulations beyond the AI Act
In addition to the AI Act, the EU also published the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI in 2019, which set out principles for responsible AI development and deployment. However, it is not only the EU that has been looking at possible restrictions or regulations to strengthen AI.
In 2019, under the Trump administration in the US, the “Executive Order on Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence” was issued, aiming to promote AI research and development in the US.
Also in 2019, Canada and Australia issued executive orders: The “Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy” promotes research and development of ethical and responsible AI systems. The Australian government’s “AI Ethics Principles” serve as a framework for ethical conduct in the development and application of AI.
Two years earlier, China put forward an AI development strategy that aims to become the world leader in AI technology by 2030.
To answer the leading question of the article: Not bad, but not good either. To become law, the proposal for EU AI legislation must be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament. For this to happen, the two bodies must agree on a common version of the law. This is a lengthy process in which individual passages are discussed in detail before agreement is reached. It is not yet clear when the draft will be adopted and become law.
(Some) Opportunities of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in the Railway Market
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are revolutionising the rail market and changing the way railways operate, maintain and manage their networks. Railway companies are increasingly using AI and ML technologies to improve operational efficiency, enhance safety and provide better services to their customers.
Enormous amounts of data are generated in daily operations, which could no longer be analysed without Big Data Analytics. AI and ML help to identify patterns and important information here. This makes it possible to make informed decisions based on real-time data instead of relying on historical or static information.
Real-time data is also the basis for predictive maintenance – arguably one of the biggest trends in AI in the rail sector today. By analysing data from sensors and other sources, algorithms can predict when maintenance needs to be carried out on trains or infrastructure before a breakdown or accident occurs. This technology can also help reduce maintenance costs and extend the life of equipment and infrastructure.
Automation of operational processes is another important trend in the railway industry. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are being used to automate and optimise the operation of trains, signals and switches. This can help to improve the punctuality of trains, avoid accidents and reduce energy consumption.
In addition to predictive maintenance and automation of operational processes, AI is primarily used in the identification and minimisation of safety-critical risks in the railway market. Through sensors, cameras or even the evaluation of operational data, algorithms can detect when infrastructure components do not meet safety standards, for example, and help to take appropriate measures. In addition, by analysing data on train speeds, weather conditions and other factors, AI and ML algorithms can identify potential safety risks and warn operators in real time. This can help prevent accidents and reduce the risk of injuries or fatalities.
In addition, AI and ML are also used to optimise train schedules and improve the efficiency of rail operations. By analysing data on passenger demand, train capacity and other factors, AI and ML algorithms can create optimised timetables that minimise delays and maximise capacity utilisation.
Overall, the opportunities for AI and ML in the rail market are enormous. These technologies are transforming the way railways operate, helping to improve efficiency, safety and customer satisfaction. The more rail companies adopt AI and ML, the more innovative solutions we can expect to see that will further transform the rail industry.
The future of the rail industry: How AI and machine learning are revolutionising rail transport
In our everyday lives, we increasingly encounter applications that are automated by artificial intelligence (AI) methods or new fields of application that are opened up by AI.
AI and machine learning (ML) have undergone rapid development in recent years and now influence almost all industries. The railway market is no exception, and AI-based components are increasingly being used. This is about much more than the automation of processes.
AI makes it possible to recognise and analyse complex relationships in order to make precise predictions and decisions. This can lead to (even) more reliable control and safety technology, reduce operating costs, increase efficiency and improve the effectiveness and flexibility of railway operations.
The tools for this are manifold. AI algorithms and corresponding hardware can perform predictive maintenance or condition-based monitoring. Monitoring functions can be applied to vehicles, stations, tracks and points or to the visual inspection of track systems, overhead lines or tunnel structures. The use in safety-relevant systems is also quite conceivable. From assistance systems such as driving and brake control to safety systems such as collision protection and autonomous or semi-autonomous driving, AI applications can make railway operations safer. A particular challenge here is proving functional safety for systems that use Deep Learning.
Market Volume and Growth
In 2020, the global AI market was estimated to be worth around US$58.3 billion and will grow to a volume of US$309.6 billion by 2026. This corresponds to an average annual growth of 33.2%. The market for AI in the rail market was estimated at around US$1.3 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to US$3.6 billion by 2026 – an average annual growth of 19.7%.
Overall, the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in the railway market is a trend that will continue to grow in importance in the future. This is also shown by data from GlobalData: The number of companies filling positions in the field of artificial intelligence increased in January compared to the same period last year.
Rail freight transport – the course is set for the coming years
There were some developments in rail freight transport last month that will shape the market in the years to come.
We summarise the events:
Current figures from the German Federal Environment Agency show that goods trains emit 7.4 times less CO2 than trucks. A lead that has widened in recent years: Ten years ago, rail freight transport was 5 times more climate-friendly than road freight transport. German associations such as the Allianz pro Schiene e.V. and Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) are calling for this potential to be exploited and for the German federal government to stick to its goal of increasing the market share of freight railways to 25 percent by 2030.
If these figures finally lead to a rethink in the German Ministry of Transport, rail freight transport will face massive investments in the coming years.
While the investments in the German rail network year after year do not meet the need to repair and modernise the infrastructure, a complete new rail network has been built in the UAE in recent years. The Etihad Rail network is part of an offensive to modernise the country’s infrastructure and economy and make it less dependent on oil.
The line between the two cities of Ruwais and Ghuweifat on the border with Saudi Arabia, which was inaugurated in February, is also intended to make transport more climate-friendly and to make the transport of goods between the emirates and their neighbouring countries more efficient and cost-effective.
At the same time, The Eurasian Economic Union’s (EAEU) Member States and China signed a roadmap to speed up the digitalisation of rail freight between them. Russia in particular will benefit from this. Due to the sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries following the invasion of Ukraine, the European market is no longer an option for Russia. The country is currently trying to dominate the Central Asian market and solidify trade relations with China, for example. Digitisation of the Central Asian railway space will facilitate transnational rail freight transport.
While work is being done in Central Asia to develop rail transport between the individual countries, rail operations in Europe are facing a challenge: until now, Swiss companies have been authorised to operate trains in all EU member states. However, this expires at the end of 2023. Switzerland is trying to find a new permanent solution, but the EU is refusing.
If no new agreement is reached, Switzerland will have to conduct an authorisation procedure with each EU country, which would complicate the process.
Political efforts to strengthen rail freight transport in Europe
Rail freight transport has become increasingly important in Europe in recent years. In order to promote the use of rail and to shift freight transport from road to rail, various European countries have taken political measures in recent years. We outline the efforts of selected EU member states in today’s article:
In 2017, the “Rail Freight Master Plan” was published – a plan of measures to strengthen rail freight transport in Germany. In 2020, the plan was reconfirmed as part of the “Rail Master Plan”. Within this framework, the federal programme “Future Rail Freight Transport” was established. With this programme, the federal government promotes the testing and market introduction of innovations in rail freight transport and provides 30 million euros annually until 2024. The goal prescribed by the Climate Protection Act of helping rail freight transport in Germany to achieve a market share of 25 percent by 2030 is also supported by Deutsche Bahn’s “Strong Rail” programme.
France also has similar goals and plans to double the share of rail freight transport by 2030. To this end, the French state is investing a total of around 300 million euros annually in rail infrastructure, track price subsidies and the expansion of combined transport.
In 2020, Austria adopted a package of measures to promote rail freight transport. Investments of 3.4 billion euros are to be made in the infrastructure and the digitalisation of the rail network.
The EU is also trying to strengthen Europe-wide rail freight transport with a variety of measures. One instrument for this is the “Connecting Europe Facility” financing programme. The fund, established in 2014, promotes infrastructure investments in transport, energy, digital and telecommunication projects aimed at greater connectivity between the EU member states.
In recent years, Poland, among others, has benefited from this fund. In 2020, the country received €3.6 billion to support 24 railway projects. By 2027, Poland is expected to receive up to €10 billion in EU funds for investments in the rail network through various programmes.
As recently as 2021, the Spanish government made 1.5 billion euros available for the shift of freight transport to rail. The money was primarily to be used to expand node points and promote intermodality. Earlier this year, Renfe Mercancías announced that it would allocate 122 million euros for decarbonisation, digitalisation and general improvement of the rail freight system in Spain.
The selected countries and the EU agree on the need to develop and strengthen rail freight transport in the coming years. The countries have responded to this challenge with different investment programmes and packages of measures. Nevertheless, the Europe-wide share of rail freight transport has continued to decline in recent years. The investments made therefore only seem to be sufficient to maintain a status quo which, however, disintegrates as soon as the volume of goods to be transported increases. Consequently, the investments made must be increased and national rail networks and TEN corridors expanded.
Without strong railways, the Paris climate agreement is doomed to failure.
Rail 4.0: Intelligent freight wagons revolutionise rail freight transport
The digitalisation of the rail market is not stopping at rail freight: for several years now, manufacturers, operators and industry have been working on Rail 4.0.
Rail freight is an important part of the global transport system, but traditional methods of monitoring and controlling freight traffic have reached their limits. To increase efficiency and capacity, railway companies are now increasingly relying on intelligent freight wagons.
Smart freight wagons have GPS monitoring systems that make it possible to track the location and movements of wagons in real time. This makes it easier for railway companies to monitor and manage traffic, avoiding bottlenecks and increasing efficiency.
Another important feature of intelligent freight wagons is Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC). This technology enables wagons to be coupled and uncoupled automatically without human interaction. This not only reduces the time needed to transfer goods, but also reduces the error rate and increases employee safety. By 2030, around half a million freight wagons across Europe are to be equipped with digital coupling. In order to achieve this, Deutsche Bahn is relying not only on retrofitting in its own workshops but also on installing the DAC in pop-up workshops. With the help of these mobile workshop tents, freight wagons can be equipped with the new technology near their places of use within a short time. In this way, temporary and additional conversion capacities can be created and the time freight wagons are absent from customers’ premises can be shortened. DB Cargo successfully completed a practical test in Bremen, Germany in 2022.
With the introduction of intelligent freight wagons, rail-bound freight transport is moving further towards Rail Freight 4.0. This means a complete digitalisation of freight transport, from monitoring to control. With increasing digitalisation, railway companies can collect and analyse operational data to manage traffic more efficiently and safely.
By monitoring and optimising loading, railway companies can increase the capacity of their rail networks by transporting more goods on the rails.
In summary, intelligent freight wagons are an important step towards more efficient and safer rail freight transport. With the introduction of GPS monitoring, digital automatic coupling and rail freight 4.0, the capacity and efficiency of rail freight transport can be significantly increased.
Rail freight – the backbone of the German transport revolution
Germany has set itself the goal of being climate-neutral by 2045. To achieve this, the share of rail in freight transport must increase, among other things – 25 percent of freight transport is therefore to be carried by rail by 2030.
Rail freight transport is an important pillar for achieving the transport turnaround, and shifting freight transport to rail has great potential to save CO2 emissions. One freight train replaces up to 52 trucks. Per ton kilometer, freight trains also cause 80 percent less CO2 than trucks.
Despite the great potential of rail freight transport, its share in freight traffic is increasing only slowly and stood at 18.7 percent in 2021. Compared to the year 2000, this is just an increase of 2.5 percent.
What is lacking, above all, are private sidings for industrial companies. These fell by a whopping 80 percent on the Deutsche Bahn AG network between 1994 and 2021.
A lack of connections and a (so far) unprofitable single-wagon transport system make the modal shift enormously difficult.
With a transport minister who favors road over rail, it is currently up to the rail industry itself to drive the transport turnaround.
The two German startups Rail-Flow and Modility want to facilitate access to freight transport with their platform solutions around it and thus contribute to the transport turnaround. Freight forwarders can book transport services, operators can sell them. The entire transport process is available digitally, making it much easier to use rail as a means of transport.
More on the growth of rail freight operators can be read in LP Information’s new study, “Global Freight Rail Operator Market Growth (Status And Outlook) 2023-2029.” The study outlines the global market, but focuses on the North American region in the company presentation.
How far has the digitisation of railways come in January?
In 2020, McKinsey & Company published the article “Digitizing Europe’s railways: A call to action”, in which the authors address the need for a digitised railway and the challenges to achieve this. The key message: the future of rail transport is digital.
McKinsey is one voice among many.
Both before and after this article, a variety of experts commented on the digitisation of the railways.
Just last week, UNIFE commented in its annual report on the importance of digitalisation for the rail market. With the newly established Digitisation Committee in 2022, this statement is additionally underlined and it is taken into account that digitisation is one of the megatrends of the railway market. With the committee, an instrument was created to participate in the digitalisation debate in a targeted manner and to bring the needs of the European railway industry to the attention of politicians.
With the European Commission’s 2023 work programme, one of the tasks is to present new legislation, including an impact assessment, to increase the share of rail transport in international freight and passenger transport. This project favours the creation of a common European railway area. This process is fuelled by the digitalisation of rail.
But what is the state of digitalisation in the rail market and how much closer are we to the goal of a digital rail in January?
The honest answer is: not much closer. The mills of digitalisation grind slowly. Nevertheless, a digital system has been launched in recent weeks that at least increases passenger comfort enormously: Deutsche Bahn has introduced a real-time occupancy display on the first regional routes that shows passengers the occupancy situation of individual carriages digitally on the platform, via app and on the vehicle. The rollout for the entire route network will take place by the end of 2024.
Of course, digitisation as a whole has progressed further than “just” to digital passenger systems.
It is a continuous progress that cannot be limited to January. But it must also be clearly mentioned that to achieve actual digitisation of the railways as the basis of the transport turnaround, progress would have to be made in a tighter cycle. Politicians, transport operators and industry alike are called upon to create the appropriate framework conditions for the rapid digitisation of the railway system and to enable progress to be made more quickly than is currently the case without compromising safety and security.
Europe Policy and Digital Rail
Digitization has played a central role in the modernization of rail transport in Europe for several years. The increased use of new information technology and automated operations management systems can increase the capacity of the rail network and improve reliability. This will make rail transport more attractive and lead to a modal shift to environmentally friendly rail. An important step in this process is the introduction of digital train control systems such as European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), which enable safe and efficient control of rail traffic.
But the EU member states are once again putting on the brakes. On December 5, 2022, the EU Council of Transport Ministers agreed that ETCS Level 2 or 3 would not have to be installed in new and expansion projects until 2030, whereas the EU Commission had set a target of 2026. The national safety systems may continue to be operated until 2050, which means that continuous Europe-wide rail traffic is once again a long way off.
And last but not least, Sweden – shortly before taking over the EU Council Presidency – is saying goodbye to the further expansion of its high-speed rail network. It is true that Sweden is among the “best in class” in Europe when it comes to rail transport policy. But this is exactly what leads to the risk that other EU countries will also follow the Swedish example and reduce their investments in rail.
European rail transport policy is visibly rolling into the siding. How can this be avoided?
The technology of the digital twin
A digital twin is, in simplified terms, a virtual model of a process, product or service. This linking of the virtual and physical worlds allows data to be analyzed and systems to be monitored to prevent problems before they even occur, prevent downtime, develop new capabilities, and even plan for the future through simulation.
The concept of the digital twin has been around since 2002, but it wasn’t until the Internet of Things (IoT) that it became cost-effective to implement. It has become so important to today’s business world that it was named one of Gartner’s top 10 strategic technology trends for 2017. “Digital twins are becoming a business imperative, covering the entire lifecycle of a plant or process and forming the foundation for connected products and services. Companies that don’t respond to this will be left behind.” (Thomas Kaiser, SAP Senior Vice President of IoT)
One important application area today is predictive maintenance. This involves scheduling repairs based on data analysis of an asset that indicates a failure is imminent. An asset in this context is, for example, a traction unit or a track system. Predictive maintenance can be performed using data-driven or model-driven approaches. In the data-driven approach, large amounts of data about the condition of an asset are collected and then further analyzed to identify trends in the asset’s behavior. For the model-driven approach, a model must be developed that mathematically characterizes the plant. Thus, in addition to analyzing historical and operational data to predict potential failures of a plant, a plan or strategy for taking action is also created. A digital twin therefore provides a great opportunity to incorporate predictive models to assess the current state of a plant, analyze historical and operational data obtained from the plant’s sensors, and finally predict the degradation of a particular component.
To learn more about the Digital Twin topic, our Insight has more interesting things to say about training, trains and ATO.
Digitization in the rail market – global driver of market growth
Digitization is one of the megatrends of the global rail market and has been driving innovation and technological advancements for years. Whether ETCS, ATO, predictive maintenance or Digital Twin – none of this would have been possible without the progressive digitization of recent years. Growing passenger numbers and an increasing transport performance in rail-bound freight traffic will continue to drive the market for digital solutions in the rail market.
The global market for digital solutions around the rail market is expected to grow from US$57.62 billion in 2021 to reach US$103.7 billion in 2028. This represents a market growth of 9.2% CAGR during the forecast period.
This positive outlook is partly due to the resilience of the sector in general, but specifically in digital solutions. While COVID-19 has severely curtailed some passenger services and slightly impacted some supply chains, the Digital Railway Market has not been affected negatively. Acceptance towards digital solutions has increased in recent years – especially when they lead to less direct contact being required, e.g. digital tickets. Companies used the pandemic to make their processes more customer-friendly, which led to further market growth.
Pioneering research for the rail market from Europe – thanks to EU funding
Europe is home to some of the most renowned research institutes in the field of railways – the TU Dresden or the University of Innsbruck are known beyond Europe’s borders for their expertise and the quality of their training. This is also due in part to financial support from the European Union. No matter how renowned the scientists, research must be financed.
UNIFE also sees this and has therefore been campaigning for decades for an increase in European funding for railway research. The efforts culminated in the founding of the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking, which started in 2014 with a budget of 920 million euros. Both the foundation and the budget are largely due to UNIFE’s lobbying and have enabled a diverse range of research within the European Union until 2020. Since Shift2Rail and Horizon 2020, under whose umbrella the funding initiative was located, were so successful, a follow-up funding programme was created with Horizon Europe.
The programme provides 95.5 billion euros for research projects until 2027. However, the biggest gain for the European railway community, and especially for the research sector, is Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking (EU-Rail), established in 2021 by EU Regulation 2021/2085. EU-Rail is the new pan-European partnership enterprise for rail research and innovation.
The aim of this partnership is to accelerate research and development in innovative technologies and operational solutions.
European Rail Policy – Activities of the European Commission
It was an eventful year for the European Commission. Between infringement proceedings, Connecting Europe Days, InnoTrans and the ongoing rollout of ETCS, the European Commission was mainly concerned with the creation of a Single European Railway Area and ticketing system in 2022.
We summarise the activities for you:
Response to the Covid-19 outbreak in the rail sector
The rail market has been significantly affected by the COVID 19 pandemic. In order to mitigate the negative economic impact on railway operators, the European Union decided back in 2020, based on a proposal from the Commission, to authorise Member States to allow infrastructure managers to waive, reduce and defer track access charges. In 2022, the validity of the regulation was extended twice; currently it runs until 31 December 2022.
Rail markets monitoring
The Commission publishes a Rail Market Monitoring Report every two years, which is presented to the European Parliament and the Council. In 2022, the available data was collected and analysed. The report will be available in January 2023.
Boosting long-distance and cross-border passenger rail services
Following its action plan to promote long-distance and cross-border passenger rail services, the European Commission invited infrastructure managers, competent authorities and railway undertakings to submit proposals to remove the obstacles to cross-border traffic identified in the action plan. The proposals could be submitted until the end of October and are to be presented in January 2023.
In its effort to shift more traffic to rail, the Commission already considered three options earlier this year to strengthen cross-border traffic in both freight and passenger transport: Revise the current legal framework, modernise and harmonise rules, procedures and instruments for freight and passenger transport, or push for more centralisation of decision-making powers and operational functions at European level. These options were open for comments until 22 June 2022.
In addition, the Commission announced in July that all TEN-T railways should be built according to the European standard gauge. This currently concerns Ireland, Finland, Spain, Portugal and the Baltic States. The member states have until 2026 at the most to submit plans on how the standard gauge can be integrated into their rail network.
Rail safety and interoperability – infringement Case against Sweden
The Fourth Railway Package also introduced accelerated procedures, lower costs and a streamlined certification and authorisation system. Sweden has so far failed to transpose the rules on rail interoperability and safety as required by Directives (EU) 2016/797 and (EU) 2016/798. As a result, the Commission launched infringement proceedings against Sweden in May.
Ticketing and digital mobility services
The European Commission launched two initiatives in 2022 for 2023 to promote multimodal travel information and digital mobility services. European rail operators also have until the end of the year to present a transnational ticketing system. Otherwise, it will be mandated by the EU.
In 2021, the European Commission set up a working group on railway security. The working group, which meets four times a year, focused on cybersecurity in 2022. The Working Party is also expected to endorse an additional set of guidelines dealing with security culture among rail passengers and staff by the end of 2022.
Cybersecurity as a megatrend of the European railroad market?
Markets are subject to trends that drive and fuel their development. The railroad market is no exception. Whether political, technological, economic or social, trends have the power to influence markets in the short, medium or long term. As such, they also have a direct impact on our society.
In today’s Topic of the Week, we explain what megatrends are, what impact they have on markets and societies, and the importance of cybersecurity within the European rail market.
What are megatrends?
The Zukunftsinstitut describes megatrends as “avalanches in slow motion” – megatrends develop slowly, but have an enormous impact. Since they affect all levels of society, they influence companies, institutions and individuals alike.
Megatrends name and describe highly complex change dynamics and at the same time help to make these dynamics tangible and understandable.
According to the Zukunftsinstitut, there are clear criteria by which megatrends can be identified:
Duration – Megatrends have a duration of at least several decades.
Ubiquity – Megatrends permeate all areas of society.
Globality – Megatrends are global phenomena which, although they may vary from region to region, can be observed globally sooner or later.
Complexity – Megatrends are multi-layered and multi-dimensional.
How megatrends affect markets and societies
Due to their great impact, megatrends generate epochal changes that shape the economy and society in the medium and long term. Even if the effects sometimes unfold over decades, they can be the basis for rapid breakthroughs in markets. They reshape societies in the long term and in some cases force industries to realign structures and business models.
Megatrends in the rail market
Urbanization, digitalization, increased mobility, the introduction of new technologies such as ERTMS, increased environmental awareness, an improvement in the political framework, the creation of a uniform European rail market, and the liberalization and deregulation of rail transport are current drivers of the European rail market.
Cybersecurity is shaping the European rail market
With increasing digitalization and connectivity of on-board, passenger systems and signaling, the risk of cyber attacks on rail systems is also rising. In 2020, a Swiss railroad manufacturer and the Spanish railroad infrastructure operator Adif were victims of cyberattacks – successful cyberattacks on railroad infrastructure can not only cause traffic chaos, but also have life-threatening consequences. Financial and regulatory implications should also not be ignored.
Cybersecurity has always been an issue in recent years thanks to increasing technology and digitalization – with an increasingly high priority.
If you look at the professional publications, especially of the last year, it is striking that topics around cybersecurity dominate.
The dominance of topics is already no longer limited to the world of trade media. Companies like Cervello are currently touring all the major trade shows and events in the rail industry. The founders and investors of the Israeli company recognized one thing early on: Without effective solutions in the field of cybersecurity, the digitization and networking of rail systems cannot progress any further. And: This is where a great deal of market potential lies hidden.
European rail market on the rise
The global rail market will grow by almost 20 per cent in the next five years – along with the Asia-Pacific region, Europe is one of the biggest drivers of this development.
Investments in the European rail network have increased in recent years, especially in Western Europe: on average, 4.1 percent more was invested in infrastructure and rail control in 2021 and 2022 than in previous years. This is a trend that must continue in the coming years: The national rail networks have partly reached their load limit. Especially in Europe’s largest railway country, Germany, there has been an investment backlog for years.
In the fight against climate change, Europe is focusing above all on rail transport and wants to get more goods and passengers on the rails. In addition to modernising and expanding the existing networks, the EU is also focusing on the nationwide introduction of the “European Rail Traffic Management System” (ERTMS). By equipping a national network with ERTMS , it becomes accessible to every train equipped with this system. Transnational rail traffic will thus become more low-threshold and a uniform European railway area will be made possible.
The decision to introduce ERTMS as a standard has been fuelling the market for rolling stock and signalling technology in Europe for several years. The infrastructure and engineering market is also growing much faster as a result.
While the European market has held some opportunities in recent years and will continue to do so in the future, the globally accessible market dropped from 63 to 61 per cent from 2018 to 2022.
As a countermove to this development, the European Commission is pushing for a liberalisation of Europe’s national rail networks, which will also open up new markets for European companies. Rail customers will also benefit from this, as competition between the individual transport operators will intensify in the long term and costs for end customers will fall.
European rail policy on the side-track?
On October 18, the European Commission presented its 2023 work program to the Parliament. The terms climate change and climate crisis can be read there several times, but the relevance of rail-bound transport for saving the climate did not receive any attention. Nor was any reference made to the “Action plan to boost long distance and cross-border passenger rail” of 14.12.2021. EU states and national rail operators are struggling to implement the Single European Railway Area and the associated cross-border rail transport. There could be a suspicion that a certain intention is preventing progress here.
Almost all areas of rail traffic are affected by this only hesitant implementation of continuous international traffic. Equipment with ETCS is progressing only slowly. A one-ticket offer for travel across Europe is not in sight – there is no trace of data exchange between the railway companies. SBB cannot fully exploit the potential of the Gotthard Base Tunnel. The core element of the most important north-south rail corridor between Rotterdam and Genoa lacks the high-performance inflows from Germany. Dr. Peter Füglistaler, Director of the Swiss Federal Office of Transport (BAV), almost begged in EI-Der Eisenbahningenieur to convince the responsible railway actors in Germany of the necessity to implement the railway policy with momentum after all. “Germany, we need you,” is his cry.
Allianz pro Schiene, Dirk Flege, currently states that climate protection in transport is once again being postponed by the German government.
But it seems obvious that Germany, as a hub for European continuous rail transport, must take on the role of promoter, and in doing so should tackle the development of a robust infrastructure for transit transport as a priority. Our neighbors and Europe depend on Germany to implement environmentally and climate friendly policies.
In the December newsletter, we take a closer look at European rail policy – register now for the newsletter.
Hydrogen technology on the rise
Recently, the European Commission approved a €5.4 billion hydrogen project jointly funded by 15 EU countries and 35 companies, including Alstom and Daimler Truck, to get a head start in an innovative sector. The group will participate in 41 projects under the hydrogen programme, focusing on hydrogen production, fuel cells, storage, transport and distribution of hydrogen, and end-user applications, especially in the mobility sector and since in rail-based transport.
If one has followed the news about hydrogen technology in the rail sector closely in recent months, a clear picture emerges: the technology is clearly on the advance, and already today all major European suppliers of trains are involved in the field of hydrogen drives.
In Germany, for example, ALSTOM is currently handing over the first 14 Coradia iLint to the Elbe-Weser railways and transport company (evb) and is developing a hydrogen solution for rail transport in Saudi Arabia together with the Saudi Railway Company. In the coming years, ALSTOM intends to replace around 3,000 more diesel trains in regional transport with hydrogen trains. Siemens and Deutsche Bahn are developing a new hydrogen system for rail as part of H2goesRail. The Swiss company Stadler has successfully delivered the first HMUs to the USA, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the California State Transportation agency and the California Department of Transportation during InnoTrans 2022 for the delivery of at least four hydrogen FLIRT trains and is developing a Hydrail for the Austrian narrow-gauge railway Zillertalbahn. CAF is currently commissioning a first test train and has been contracted by Renfe to supply 28 battery-equipped trains.
Current forecasts suggest that by 2035 about 20 per cent of European regional trains will be powered by hydrogen. Currently, about 60 per cent of Europe’s rail network is electrified, and about 80 per cent of traffic runs on these lines. However, electrifying sections of track is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking. Running trains on these sections with hydrogen technology is therefore a worthwhile and more sustainable alternative compared to diesel trains. This has an impact on the attractiveness and growth of the market: A preliminary study for the North American market estimates that the market for hydrogen in freight and passenger transport will grow up to $24 billion annually.
Our partner Mobility Foresights has ventured a look into the future and produced an update of its study on the “Global Hydrogen Rail Vehicle Market” with an outlook up to the year 2026.
The Digital Twin has arrived on the railways
Unplanned downtimes of production plants, interrupted supply chains, but also errors in large-scale construction projects that lead to significant time delays and financial damage have forced industrial manufacturers and service providers to think about a solution that can determine possible system behaviour, defects and failures in advance.
The idea of the digital twin (TD) was born. The digital dynamic model reproduces the real object, for example machines, plants, processes and entire production contexts, with all its specific properties and is virtually connected to it. Changes and findings on the digital twin lead to changes on the real object. This means that system states can also be analysed that are not economically feasible on the real existing system or could lead to dangerous states.
The peak of the exaggerated expectations within the Gartner Hype Cycle was 2018. In the meantime, the aviation and automotive industries in particular have been able to take a leading role in the application of the technology.
In Germany, Bitkom, VDMA and ZVEI have founded the Industrial Digital Twin Association (IDTA) 2020, an association of now around 80 companies with the goal of a common standard for the digital twin; Microsoft is also a member of this association.
There are very different estimates of the global market development across all segments. Current studies assume a global market volume of around USD 7 billion in 2022, with an estimated growth to up to USD 70 billion in 2027.
European railway manufacturers and operators see digital twins as an important enabler of technological progress in rail transport, related to both Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI). One of the real advantages of digital twin technology is its ability to model important developments in railway systems and subsystems, to gain insights into the future performance of physical assets and finally to test solutions before the actual applications are put into operation.
ÖBB launched the TARO (Towards Automated Railway Operation) project in 2020: The main objective of the TARO project is to realise R&D projects in various areas of the railway system that make a significant contribution to the automation & digitalisation of the railway system. The topics of Digital Twin, Processes and Automated Train Operation play the central role here. In the Digital Twin project, the foundations for the future digital mapping of the entire rail vehicle are to be created in the Digital Twin Vehicle project, and the foundations for future (partially) automated rail operations are to be created in the Digital Twin Infrastructure project.
For Deutsche Bahn, the Digital Twin is an important basis of the digitisation strategy with the aim of obtaining a digital image of the entire DB. Considering the many incompatible DB data silos, this is certainly a task of the century. But the joint project with Stadler, started in 2021, to develop a digital twin for the 429.1 Flirt 3 train series seems more promising.
ALSTOM, Siemens, Hitachi and Bentley have also launched Digital Twin projects. Our partners at Mobility Foresights have taken a closer look at what developments can be expected for the rail market and who is taking a leading role.
“Tag der Schiene” in Germany
In 2020, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) published the “Rail Transport Master Plan”. For two years, the federal government, associations and representatives of the rail sector worked on a progressive plan for the modernisation and digitalisation of the German rail network. However, the measures adopted and later also their speed of implementation fell far short of expectations and what was actually necessary. If one looks at Federal Minister Wissing’s half-baked climate protection programme, nothing will change in this regard.
One of the measures adopted was the “Tag der Eisenbahn”, which was to be celebrated annually from 2021 onwards in order to highlight, among other things, diverse and modern career opportunities within the industry. The BMVI was in charge of the planning. The Year of Rail 2021 came and went without the “Tag der Eisenbahn” being celebrated.
Now, during the European Mobility Week 2022, the “Tag der Eisenbahn” is to take place for the first time under a new name. On 16 and 17 September, events will take place throughout Germany that will provide insights into the most diverse aspects of rail as a means of transport.
Neither Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing nor his predecessor Andreas Scheuer have given priority to the railway in their ministry. So it is not surprising that the “Tag der Schiene” was realised just when the Allianz pro Schiene Association took over the patronage.
The two festive days are one thing above all: a huge advertising drum for the transport sector as an employer. Companies open their workshops, transport companies offer guided tours of depots and station facilities, there are lectures and discussions and companies present themselves and their work to interested visitors. The “Tag der Schiene” is intended to turn the general public into fans of the railways.
Will it succeed?
After four years of abstinence, the expectations ahead of InnoTrans are high
It is less than three weeks until the players of the international railway landscape meet in Berlin at InnoTrans 2022. The expectations after a four-year break are just as great as the anticipation of meeting old acquaintances and new partners. InnoTrans is expected to generate new leads, open up new markets and sales contacts and present the latest innovations on the market.
The course for this has (hopefully) been set in advance through pre-show marketing – strong communication and presentation of one’s own brand is decisive for later trade fair success and ensures a lively flow of visitors to the trade fair in advance.
Our Insight on pre-show marketing can be read below.
But conscientious preparation alone is not enough for trade fair success.
If you really want the preparatory work and investments in the run-up to the fair to pay off, the work continues directly after the fair. The contacts made must be deepened and expanded, leads must be followed up and communication with customers and the market must be maintained.
But the conditions for a positive ROI could not be better for InnoTrans. Record sums are being released globally for investment in the rail market, the market itself is full of innovations and you can literally hear it rumbling – rail as a sustainable and resource-saving means of transport has never been higher on the agenda than it is now, associations and players alike have successfully increased the visibility of the industry in recent years and made its relevance clear.
Expectations may be high, but they are rightly so. The age of the rail industry has long since dawned.
RailCOMPLETE® – A BIM Success Story
The planning process for electrotechnical systems in railway engineering is characterized by many system discontinuities, different planning procedures in control and safety technology and in overhead line construction. The planning process is not yet based on a standardized data model and consistent data management. In addition, each national railway organisation in Europe has its own planning process.
“This was for me and my team, the starting point for the development of a generic planning tool,” says Claus Feyling, founder and CEO of Railcomplete AS, based in Norway.
RailCOMPLETE is an AutoCAD® plug-in for planning railway systems with a high level of detail. High-quality models can be developed in 2D and 3D with little effort. RailCOMPLETE supports standardized data models and ensures consistent data. The tool simplifies and optimizes the planning process and thus ensures economic efficiency.
Since 2015, the RailCOMPLETE team has been working tirelessly to make the vision for planning tools in the rail market come true, namely to holistically bring together all relevant planning subprojects related to railway lines in one tool. With the current version update 2022.2, the tool has moved a big step closer to this goal.
Already with the first release, the engineering service provider Norconsult AS in Norway could be won as a customer, which is still today’s largest customer of Railcomplete AS. Since then, the companies Sweco AS and Multiconsult AS have joined. These companies are leaders in overhead line planning in Norway, and Norconsult is also a planning office in the field of control and safety systems for mainline traffic. RailCOMPLETE was thus able to demonstrate that a holistic approach provides beneficial support for the planning and engineering offices and significantly shortens the planning process.
In cooperation with SNCF Réseau, a comprehensive embedded scripting system was developed. Thus, object data can be imported as Excel files from the national “Gaïa” asset database to be converted by RailCOMPLETE into track, control and safety objects in 2D and 3D to an editable BIM model.
Since 2018, a close cooperation has been established with the High-Speed Rail Division of the Japanese company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. At the end of 2021, both parties signed a contract for a pilot project with a tool evaluation phase. The focus of the cooperation is on control and safety technology and overhead line construction. The pilot project will run until the end of 2022. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., as part of the Shinkansen consortium, plans to use RailCOMPLETE for a future high-speed railway line, the US/Texas High Speed Rail project (TxHSR). This 390 km long double-track project will be designed and built by the consortium as a variant of the well-proven Japanese Shinkansen system.
In 2021, Railcomplete AS was commissioned by the European project EULYNX to develop a first demonstrator showing that RailCOMPLETE is a project planning tool for the implementation of the upcoming data exchange format “EULYNX” for control and safety technology and that EULYNX DP is suitable to become a European standard in the planning process. This could replace the national exchange formats like PlanPro, IMSpoor, Gaïa etc. and create interoperability in planning for cross-border projects. RailCOMPLETE is now also present on the German market and can help to comprehensively automate the planning process, especially against the background of the planned rollout of ETCS and digital interlockings (DSTW).
Since fall 2020, Claus Feyling has been a member of the standardization committee for IFC Rail Alignment With Cant of Building Smart International, where nearly all basic concepts and real requirements of railway positioning concepts are addressed in the upcoming IFC Rail 4×3. RailCOMPLETE will include its own IFC export and import from 2023. A property set editor is expected to be available from the end of 2022.
At InnoTrans in September 2022, visitors to the exhibition stand in Hall 6.1, booth 100, will be able to take a closer look at the many functional enhancements with the new 2022.2 release and gather new insights for an optimized planning process.
Redesign as the starting signal for the traffic turnaround?
Last year, the French state railway SNCF unveiled its new TGV M high-speed train – the commissioning of the 100 new trains is scheduled for 2024. Deutsche Bahn followed suit a few months ago and presented the new interior design for ICE and S-Bahn trains, which can be experienced in practice from the end of 2023.
The new designs and numerous orders in the global freight and passenger rolling stock market herald a certain sense of optimism – are we experiencing a kind of starting signal for the transport turnaround, triggered by the railway operators?
Probably not yet, but it is an important signal to passengers: investments are being made in comfort and modernity, capacities are being expanded. Especially the latter is urgently needed, even if the peak times in commuter traffic with remote working and without nationwide core working hours of 9-5 will probably be less acute in the future.
For a successful transport turnaround, the capacity of rail-based transport must be expanded globally. This applies not only to the infrastructure and a tighter frequency of train services, but above all to the trains themselves. In recent decades, this was also precisely the focus of interior design: to be able to hold as many passengers as possible in as small a space as possible.
Newer designs are turning away from this – Deutsche Bahn, for example, advertises that you can feel as comfortable in the ICE as in your own living room. The British transport operator Go-Ahead has gone one step further and created a design concept that accommodates the needs of commuters, weekend travellers and families alike. The interior impresses with variable elements that can be adapted to different requirements. This allows the greatest possible flexibility for train operators and travellers.
A great asset, because flexibility and adaptability are more in demand than ever.
Threats from ransomware attacks increase dramatically
ENISA, the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity, published a report at the end of July on new findings about the devastating attacks by ransomeware.
The core business of critical sectors such as transport, energy and health are increasingly driven by digital technologies. While digitalisation brings enormous opportunities and offers solutions to many of the existing and upcoming challenges, it also exposes the economy and society to enormous cyber threats.
The number and complexity of cyberattacks and cybercrime is increasing worldwide. According to a study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIC), the amount of damage caused by cybercrime worldwide is around 330 billion euros. ENISA has recently published a study on the evolution of the ransomeware threat landscape from May 2021 to June 2022, noting that ransomware has adapted and evolved, becoming more efficient and causing more devastating attacks.
For several years, railway systems have also been attacked by hackers in cyber campaigns. While the origins of these attacks remain unknown, it is clear that railway systems are increasingly digital and precautions must be taken to protect this critical infrastructure.
As cyber threats grow, so do the markets for cybersecurity products. The global market for cybersecurity products and services was around US$217 billion in 2021. The rail market’s share of this was approximately US$6.6 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.6% to US$13.9 billion globally by 2030.
Hyperloop at InnoTrans 2022
The hype surrounding the Hyperloop has died down. But that doesn’t mean work isn’t continuing on it, as the Technical University of Munich shows, because Germany is getting its first test tube in Bavaria. This first Hyperloop is to be built near Munich. The researchers want to use it to test hyperloop technology in practice. The tube is to be 24 meters long. A vacuum is to be created inside it so that a vehicle can move through the tube largely without air resistance. Magnetic levitation technology will be used to reduce friction even further.
For the first time, the Hyperloop Conference Hall 15.2 will be held at InnoTrans on September 23, 2022 in Berlin. The Hyperloop Conference is hereby the first international conference on the topic of high-speed transport worldwide.
The Hyperloop Conference offers researchers, start-ups, transport companies, representatives from politics and investors from all over the world a platform for exchange and discussion within the framework of the “Conference Corner”. The focus is on questions such as: What are the latest technological developments? What does it take to implement an Hyperloop infrastructure? How can Hyperloop technology be integrated into existing transportation systems? How can acceptance in society be increased?
The agenda of the Hyperloop Conference includes a variety of formats with exciting topics around ultra-high-speed transport. There will be keynotes, panel discussions, master classes and an HYPERLOOP SAFARI. There will be two discussion forums on the challenges of the Hyperloop ecosystem for passenger transport and on the challenges of freight transport.
To learn more about the current status of the Hyperloop’s development, check out the latest information in our new Insight:
European Commission funds hydrogen market ramp-up with 5.4 billion euros
In July 2022, the European Commission approved a €5.4 billion hydrogen project jointly funded by 15 EU countries and 35 companies, including Alstom and Daimler Truck, to secure a lead in an innovative sector.
Other participating companies include Ansaldo, Bosch, Enel, Fincantieri, Orsted and Plastic Omnium. The Group will participate in 41 projects under the Hydrogen Program, focusing on hydrogen production, fuel cells, storage, transport and distribution of hydrogen, and end-user applications, particularly in the mobility sector and there in rail-based transport.
The funded projects belong to the European funding title IPCEI Hydrogen (IPECI stands for “Important Projects of Common European Interest), which support the market ramp-up for hydrogen technologies and systems. As a joint investment effort by cooperating European companies, IPCEI, flanked by government funding, provide an important impetus in the European single market and thus strengthen growth, employment, innovative capability and global competitiveness throughout Europe.
All major European suppliers of trains are now involved in hydrogen propulsion. ALSTOM is currently handing over the first 14 Coradia iLint trains to the Elbe-Weser Railways and Transport Company (evb) in Germany. Siemens and Deutsche Bahn are developing a new overall hydrogen system for rail as part of H2goesRail. The Swiss company Stadler has successfully delivered the first HMUs to the U.S. and developed a Hydrail for the Austrian narrow-gauge railway Zillertalbahn. The CAF, company from Spain, is currently putting a first test train into operation.
Hydrogen technology in rail-based transport has partially reached market maturity or will certainly reach it in the coming years with the help of European funding projects. This will provide a competitive alternative to diesel trains.
The “Connecting Europe Days” – relevant for the rail sector?
In late June 2022 the “Connecting Europe Days” took place in Lyon, France.
The “Connecting Europe Days” are the successor of the “TEN-T Days” and organised by the European Commission together with the member state that holds the EU Council presidency.
They are meant to be the meeting point for policy makers, industry actors and alike, who work on the European level. The original name TEN-T Days describe their content best: The meetings are all about transport networks and of course networking.
Transport sectors are competing for attention at this event and both the Council presidency and the Commissioner and her cabinet have a strong influence on setting the priorities.
France held the EU presidency until the end of June 2022. Its incumbent rail actors, specifically SNCF, in combination with Commissioner Vălean and her Director-General Hololei – who are said to share a like for aviation – created an “interesting” background setting for this conference, which was consequently kicked-off with the panel “ConnectingEurope by Air – The Green Transformation”.
Another tendency in regard to her political priorities can be read from the Commissioners response to activist Jon Worth’s effort to bring attention to missing links in the European Rail network. Although he has managed to raise broad media attention, even during question time with Commissioner Vălean, her response remained vague, if not even discouraging.
During an earlier meeting between the activist behind #crossborderrail and officials from the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) a common understanding for the issue of missing cross-border rail links was evident.
Yet, the necessary decisions obviously have to be taken on the political level.
As announced in the Rail Action Plan, an invitation to submit proposals for cross-border pilot rail services was presented by the Commissioner during the Connecting Europe Days. While this might sound good at first sight, it is effectively not building on the issues raised by the missing links.
Though, it will be interesting to see which projects will have been brought forward, once the Commissions presents its evaluation in early 2023.
Several initiatives have been announced by the Commission during the CEDs. Yet, policy is of course not being made during such a conference, but in the responsible institutions.
The programme of the days reflects the wide array of transport topics that are covered by the EU.
As does the 5,4 billion € budget that will be spent in EU-grants (mostly through the Connecting Europe Facility) in transport infrastructure projects, that was also presented at the Connecting Europe Days.
A special focus was obviously given to Ukraine and the need to keep it connected within the EU transport network. Commissioner Vălean signed several agreements with Ukraine’s neighbouring countries, highlighting the need for a resilient European transport network. Yet again, unfortunately with a focus on road and air transport.
One might conclude from the reports from the Connecting Europe Days that the outlook for rail is not very promising on the European level. But the Connecting Europe Days and similar conferences sometimes create a crooked image. There is a understanding for the needs of the rail sector among policy makers in the EU institutions, since organisations such as CER, UNIFE or ALLRAIL are prominent actors on the EU level. Though, the problem to be solved remains how to overcome the dominating presence and lobbying of the automotive and the aviation industries.
So there is hope that the Connecting Europe Days 2023, that will take place in Sweden, will have a stronger rail focus.
Freelance Consultant on Transport Policy
Half-time for the 9-Euro-Ticket – A success story under discussion
The 9-Euro-Ticket has been on the market for six weeks and has catapulted local public transport in Germany into a new dimension. 23 million German citizens are proud owners of a 9-Euro ticket, and the demand for public transportation services has thus been proven. The tariff jungle has been dissolved, whether in Hamburg or Munich, a uniform tariff system applies. Access to public transportation has been made easier and, overall, significantly more people are taking buses and trains. Various cities in Germany report a decrease in traffic jams. What’s special: The public transport world has learned, the switch works, but we need an expanded offer with more attractive vehicles, expanded infrastructure and improved rural connections.
A success story that shows that the political goal of 1 billion to attract more users to public transport by 2030 can succeed – a real contribution to the transport turnaround. Every entrepreneur would like to see such prospects of success for their investments. It is therefore obvious to continue the 9-Euro-Ticket model and to convert it into a 365-Euro-Ticket.
Now the public transport authorities are speaking out, fearing that the federal funds needed for a 365-euro ticket will no longer be available for expanding their public transport services. This naturally raises the question of who benefits from an expanded service if no one uses it because the barriers to entry are too high.
The 9-euro ticket costs the taxpayer 2.5 billion, and a 365-euro ticket would cost about 3 billion per year, which is actually insignificant if we compare the climate benefits. This does not take into account the savings on investments in the existing complex distribution systems at the transport companies and associations.
The German government would be well advised to take the reins of commerce and introduce the 365-euro ticket from September 2022.
Wabtec Corporation – Systematically on the way to becoming a global player
Founded by George Westinghouse as Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corporation, the beginnings of Wabtec Corporation date back to 1869. In its current form, Wabtec Corporation has existed since 1999. Although Wabtec is rather unknown in the European rail market apart from Faiveley Transport, the corporation has recently become one of the top ten rail systems companies and achieved a turnover of around 7.8 billion dollars in the financial year 2021.
The company has significantly expanded and, above all, solidified its market position in recent years through systematic acquisitions. The group’s business activities have long since ceased to be limited to North America; 55 % of sales are generated outside the US. The success story continues in the 2022 financial year: the group’s turnover has already risen decisively compared to the same period of the previous year, and the order books are well filled. But the company is certainly not resting on its laurels. Three weeks ago, Wabtec announced the acquisition of the ARINC Rail Solutions business unit from Collins Aerospace. Nalin Jain, president of Wabtec’s Digital Electronics division, sees the combination of the two companies’ know-how as a coming acceleration in the optimisation of rail transport.
We have summarised how the group went from hidden champion to global player in our latest Insight. If you would like more in-depth information on the company’s current key figures, take a look at our Company Report on Wabtec Corporation.
Mobility Passports in Europe – Opportunities and Challenges
The Russian invasion of Ukraine led to the still ongoing oil and gas crisis and a rise in fuel prices. Governments across the EU are trying to mitigate the impact on consumers with various measures.
Limiting taxes on diesel and petrol is the most common approach.
Another approach is to persuade citizens to use less energy-consuming modes of transport.
Germany has introduced a special offer for public transport: The so-called 9-Euro-Ticket.
While the German offer is mainly aimed at commuters, other countries are trying to get holidaymakers back on the rails.
The mobility offers vary in price, with some countries or individual cities even offering their transport services completely free of charge for citizens.
Josef Doppelbauer, Executive Secretary of the European Railway Agency (ERA), recently described the current system of cross-border ticket sales as shared irresponsibility between member states. His agency would like to expand its remit to include the coordination of a European ticketing system. This is also called for by the European Commission’s Rail Action Plan.
Read in our new Insight how mobility passes have been designed in other countries and what challenges transport operators but also passengers are facing.
Freelance Consultant on Transport Policy
Predicitve Maintenance as an Illusion?
Predicting when machines or individual components will give up the ghost by means of collected data and predictively initiating maintenance procedures to prevent unplanned downtimes or failures due to defects – this and more is what predictive maintenance promises.
The basis for this is the evaluation of process and machine data in real time, which is collected by means of a multitude of sensors. This wealth of information (big data) is selected by AI and algorithms (smart data) and thus ultimately used. Predictive maintenance not only enables infrastructure and rolling stock to be used more effectively, but also maintenance and service personnel, and processes to be optimised.
But in the end, all of this is only an illusion so far. Where Predicitve Maintenance is on the label, Condition Monitoring is on the inside. On the one hand, the current sensor technology is often not sufficient to achieve the quality of data that would be needed to create forecasts. On the other hand, there is a lack of algorithms to use the data for predictive maintenance. Furthermore, it needs standardisation of the processes.
But even with condition monitoring and the use of current sensor technology, maintenance and servicing can be planned and carried out more effectively, downtimes reduced and costs saved. This is an important step towards being able to act predictively one day.
The ERTMS Conference 2022 as an example for disinterested politicians? – A review
With ever increasing energy prices and a looming climate crisis, boosting of sustainable rail transport has become a political priority – or you could have thought so.
The European Union for Railways (ERA) is a major player, when it comes to bringing politics, the industry and other stakeholders together.
Functioning cross-border rail infrastructure is key for the industry to be able to provide proper services on the continent.
In that context ERA had organized the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) conference 2022 from the 26th to the 28th of April. A Single European Railway Area needs standards for management and interoperation to create equal access for all interested operators. While passenger transport is more often limited to national-borders, rail cargo is especially dependent on a functioning interoperable system.
That the roll-out of ERTMS across Europe is complex on the technical level needs no further mention. But despite the political support from the European Parliament, the roll-out is still a complex matter at the legislator’s level. Among others, members of parliament receive strong lobby pressure to follow their national railway companies’ interests, mainly leading to on exemptions and temporary postponements of EU legislation.
The presence of the responsible Commissioner Adina Vălean at a conference of such importance for the rail sector should therefore be self-evident. Yet politicians were underrepresented in Valenciennes. There is a thin line for conference organisers when it comes to deciding whether to focus on mainly technical matters or to enter into a political dialogue between the industry and the legislators. The need for political involvement becomes especially obvious when the call from the industry for a better EU coordination of national programmes becomes louder.
Outputs from the conference, such as update on the deployment by Matthias Ruete (European Coordinator for ERTMS), or the concerns that were raised regarding costs and complexity of retrofitting of rolling stock will hopefully reach the political decision makers and not remain in the “rail bubble”.
While the European Year of Rail created (media) attention for some issues related to rail transport in Europe, this seems to be a one-off effect. With not even the rapporteur for the European Year of Rail being included in such an important conference, a problematic conference setting has to be acknowledged: Experts meet experts without an immediate connection to the legislators.
It remains to be seen whether this will change at future industry events.
Freelance Consultant on Transport Policy
German politics as an inhibiting factor for rail network expansion
Exciting news recently hit the media landscape: Deutsche Bahn inaugurated the completely renewed control and safety technology on the Ruhr-Sieg line between Letmathe and Kreuztal – the first commissioning under the 500-million-euro Fast-track programme of the German government.
Implementation time: 18 months. The joint press release from Siemens Mobility and Deutsche Bahn AG praises this as a record time.
On 45 kilometres of track, 385km of cables, 235 signals and 73 points were renewed. Within 18 months, this hardly qualifies for “record time”. This is neither due to the developer LEONHARD WEISS GmbH & Co. KG or Siemens Mobility. Rather, it highlights the weaknesses of German bureaucracy.
Launched in 2020, the German government’s Fast-track programme was intended to act as a stimulus within the Corona crisis and collect important data for the nationwide rollout of digital interlocking technology in Germany planned by 2035. Already for the year 2020, 100 million euros were made available, but construction of the individual projects started without exception in spring 2021; commissioning for two of the seven projects is even planned for the year 2023, respectively 2024.
One reason for the delay: the promised funds were not always made available in time. A recurring problem in the German rail network expansion: budgets are regularly not called up by the federal government or projects experience such a backlog due to slow bureaucracy that the urgently needed modernisation of the German rail network is slowed down even further. The rail industry can and would like to be faster – the bureaucracy just has to finally follow suit.
iaf 2022 presents world innovations
Under the heading “Track to the Future”, the 28th International Exhibition of Track Technology (iaf) opened its doors last Tuesday in Münster. More than 140 international exhibitors present new and innovative products and services to thousands of visitors from over 60 countries. The organizers gave a particularly warm welcome to Poland as the guest country.
The public presentation of DRS Aliance received special attention. DRS stands for Digital Railway Solutions and is an newly formed Alliance of 15 European railway track technology companies under the umbrella of Plasser & Theurer. DRS sees itself as an open innovation ecosystem to increase the safety, efficiency and capacity of the world’s railway networks.
Five domains to advance end-to-end digital railway infrastructure solutions
The founding DRS Alliance members are initially focused on five priority domains to leverage the full value of digitalisation and new technologies for railway infrastructure management:
- Integrated Sensor Technology Solutions – A holistic portfolio of superior, seamlessly connected, state-of-the-art sensor technology solutions for all railway domains
- 3D+ Infrastructure Data Solutions – An interactive 3D+ interface to monitor, access and maintain track assets by means of a digital twin, based on the combined expertise and sensor solutions of DRS Alliance Partners
- End-2-End Asset Data Management – Effective integration and utilisation of newly generated, digital asset data with historical data from paper and other archives
- AI-Based Predictive Infrastructure Management – Modular solutions to optimise track and turnout management from assessment to execution
- Automated Services for Trackside Safety – Automated track maintenance services communicating with the network’s train control system to schedule maintenance slots efficiently while keeping track workers safe.
The Founding members of the DRS Alliance
- 3B Infra
- ASC – German Sensor Engineering
- DGNSS Sensors
- DRUM – Dynamic Rail Utilities Monitoring
- Dual Inventive
- Ground Control Geophysics Consulting GmbH
- IVE GmbH
- LocLab Consulting
- Obermeyer Infrastruktur GmbH & Co. KG
- Plasser & Theurer
- ProVI GmbH
- tmc – Track Machines Connected
- Vogel & Plötscher.
An interesting initiative whose further development we will follow with great interest.
Advance sales of the 9-Euro-Ticket start in Germany – rush overloads transport companies
The 9-Euro-Ticket is a one-off special offer decided by the German government as part of the relief package to mitigate the sharp rise in fuel and energy prices and financed by the federal government.
The 9-Euro-Ticket is a monthly travel pass that is valid on local public transport throughout Germany. It is available to everyone and is valid for one calendar month at a time, i.e. from the first of the month to the last of the month in June, July or August 2022. The ticket costs 9.00 euros per calendar month. If you want to use the entire promotional period, you will need a 9-euro-ticket for each month.
A very active interest in this super favorable bus and railway ticket could note the traffic enterprises, partly the web pages did not hold out the rush.
Spontaneous surveys show that almost everyone already has a 9-euro-ticket or intends to buy one. One or the other commuter who travels by car may get a taste for it and discover his enthusiasm for public transport. Politicians’ hopes could therefore be fulfilled that, with an attractive offer, Germans will switch from cars to public transport in the long term and thus help to reduce the emission of green house gases.
But for the time being, the 9-euro-ticket is a very nice experiment that will bring new and groundbreaking insights for travelers, transport companies and politicians.
Is Vossloh’s Russian business damaging the Group?
Vossloh AG recently presented impressive figures from the last financial year and this week presented them to its shareholders and investors at this year’s annual general meeting. Despite ongoing restrictions, the company was able to turn over €924.8 million in 2021 – an increase of 8.4 percent on the previous year’s figure. The successful course continues in the current financial year. At first glance, however, the group’s Russian operations represent a risk. In 2017, the group commissioned a new plant in Russia at a cost of several million euros. While many Western companies are withdrawing from Russia and closing some of their sites, Vossloh continues to operate Vossloh Fastening Systems RUS with a fifty-percent stake held by the Russian company Beteltrans.
While a few years ago Russia was still seen as a growth and focus market for the Werdohl-based company, a strategy corresponding to this was dropped years ago, even before Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
With the tightening sanctions, the Russian market is closing further. But according to company figures, the group’s Russian business accounts for less than one per cent of its total turnover. So the deals are not hurting the group from a financial point of view.
And if you’re as caught up in Vossloh fever as we are, be sure to check out our latest study!
Pre-Show-Marketing as a must-have
More and more countries are easing or lifting their corona measures. This means that for the first time in about two years, trade fairs can be held in presence again. Many players in the industry are looking especially to this year’s InnoTrans, which is taking place again for the first time since 2018 after many corona-related postponements. Now it is time for the exhibiting companies to make the right preparations.
The costs of participating in a trade fair quickly skyrocket and are usually several thousand euros. This makes it all the more important to protect one’s investment and generate the most sustainable leads possible during the fair. The simplest, but also most effective method to achieve this is pre-show marketing.
Pre-show marketing helps to sharpen the corporate identity, clearly formulate the trade fair message and generate attention for the trade fair participation. It also provides a framework for the communication strategy during the fair and helps with lead follow-up.
In our new Insight, we show how you can safeguard your investments by means of pre- and post-show marketing and why it is better to get support from experts for this.
How NFTs could influence the rail market
NFTs are changing the art market at a breathtaking pace. At the same time, they are dominating the scene. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are unique components of a blockchain with which ownership can be represented beyond doubt. Moreover, they cannot be multiplied as often as desired and are therefore particularly suitable for representing possessions in a limited and unique way in the digital space. Last year, blockchain technology experienced a real hype. By the end of 2021, the market was said to be worth around 41 billion dollars. After further soaring in early 2022, it plummeted by 55 per cent. And although this has put a damper on the hype, blockchain technology is far from being written off. This is partly because the NFT blockchain is not limited to its use as a cryptocurrency platform. What does digital art and a digitisation of ownership have to do with the rail market? You can read about it in our new Insight.
The World at a Crossroads – Railway Players must Deliver
Under the motto “Our climate is our future, our future is in our hands,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented its latest report last Monday. Global CO₂ emissions are at the highest level in human history. If humanity does not continue to take countermeasures, the current course threatens global warming of more than 3 degrees. This would intensify the consequences of the climate crisis – for example, in terms of droughts, floods and heat waves. All areas of life are called upon to do their part in saving CO₂, especially the transportation segment, according to the latest report. The IPCC report calls for changes in housing, mobility and energy consumption, saying the world needs to be more energy efficient.
European freight railroads are delivering and could deliver more, says the chairman of the board of Netzwerk Europäischer Eisenbahnen e.V. (NEE), Ludolf Kerkeling, if it weren’t for national infrastructure companies slowing down rail freight. Especially in cross-border traffic, there are profound impediments. With the only hesitant introduction of the European train control system ERTMS, the national players are missing the opportunity to significantly improve European rail transport and to effectively support the achievement of climate targets.
Philipp Cerny has highlighted further weaknesses in the implementation of European rail policy in his latest Insight.
Women in the rail sector as a solution to the shortage of skilled workers
The rail sector, like the rest of the German economy, suffers from a shortage of skilled workers – Deutsche Bahn alone needs around 20,000 new employees every year. If the transport turnaround is to be further advanced, the state-owned company will have to grow even more. Although Deutsche Bahn is the largest employer in the sector, it is not the only one. The annual staffing needs of the entire rail sector are therefore many times higher.
This is further exacerbated by the envisaged transport turnaround. Digitisation and the expansion of the German rail network cannot be realised without a doubling of CCS planners, a huge increase in engineers and IT specialists.
When courting the next generation, women should not be ignored. While the gender distribution among students is almost balanced across subjects, the share of women among students in STEM subjects is just under one third – so there is still a lot of room for improvement here. To get more women interested in the industry, female role models, more transparency and good marketing are needed.
Deutsche Bahn shows how this can be done. Just in time for International Women’s Day, the company received the European Women in Rail Award as “Best Employer”. The company has set itself the goal of increasing the proportion of women in management positions to 30 per cent by the end of 2024.
In addition to Deutsche Bahn, Allianz pro Schiene is also committed to a higher proportion of women within the industry. Every year, the Clara Jaschke Innovation Award recognises outstanding women in the rail industry and puts role models in the spotlight.
Although the mobility industry is still mainly in male hands, it is becoming increasingly diverse and colourful. In Germany, Dr. Sigrid Evelyn Nikutta plays a major role in this. The board member of DB Cargo AG is one of the most visible and biggest advocates for more women in the rail industry.
Siemens Mobility achieves best quarterly result in the history of Siemens
Siemens is one of the most traditional companies in Germany. Like hardly any other company, the group shows that tradition and innovation are not mutually exclusive, but can inspire. This is very clearly shown by the key figures for the first quarter published on 10 February: order intake increased by 42 percent on a like-for-like basis (Q1 2021: 15.9 billion euros). All industrial businesses show a high growth rate. The start into the new business year was successful and the previous forecasts for the further course of the business year could be confirmed.
Mobility recorded the highest order intake (5.4 billion euros) in one quarter in the history of the segment. This shows that the rail market has not only recovered from the Corona pandemic, it also renews the promise that tomorrow’s mobility will be found on rail. This is also the view of Karl Blaim, CTO of Siemens Mobility. He goes one step further and promises that Siemens Mobility will shape the mobility of the future.
In order to be able to achieve this, Mobility is continuing to focus on standardised software solutions in the area of “Mobility-as-a-Service” and in this course will merge the software activities of its subsidiaries Hacon, Sqills, eos.uptrade, Bytemark and Padam Mobility into a new software business unit.
Until now, no railway technology company has taken the step of placing its software and hardware solutions “on an equal footing,” as Karl Blaim assures us.
By focusing on digitalisation and sustainability as well as connectivity, Siemens Mobility is not only adapting to current challenges, it is also leading the way for other companies.
You can read more about Siemens in our new Company Report:
European Railway Awards 2022
This year’s European Railway Awards took place on February the 8th. The prize, which comes with €10,000 in prize money, has been awarded since 2007 to honour special services to the railway industry.
Who the winners were and for which achievements they were honoured could be read in various news portals – in the case of Manfred Weber, his award was even announced in advance. UNIFE has summarised the event particularly nicely. So if you haven’t heard the news about the (deserved) awards yet, you can read about it here. Why do we still want to write about the award? Because the event dealt with an important topic that is close to our hearts: How to make railway sexy again? This question was raised by Andrey Novokov, Member of the European Parliament and Chairman of Rail Forum Europe, during the roundtable discussion.
Even if the attribute “sexy” seems somewhat provocative, it cannot be denied that rail has lost some of its attractiveness as a means of transport. Partly dilapidated networks, delayed trains and the fear of contracting COVID-19 in crowded trains have put a damper on the transport turnaround.
This makes the European Railway Award and the attention it draws to the industry all the more important. The Award not only honoured the achievements of the winners, but also left room to look back on the past European Year of Rail. Last year showed us how rail travel can connect Europe – despite the pandemic.
While Andrey Novokov said many things on Tuesday that we can only agree with, we have to vehemently disagree with one! Rail travel does not have to become sexy again, it already is.
If you missed the award ceremony, you can watch it here in the stream:
Infringement Cases and EU Rail Legislation
The EU is addressing the challenges for a unified European Railway Area with its four railway legislative packages to date, the creation of the European Union Agency for Railways and the development of the European Rail Traffic Management System.
The EU Commission as guardian of the treaties has to make sure that EU law is duly followed by the relevant parties. The member states have the duty to apply EU law and, if not done so, it has the right to introduce an infringement case against the specific member state.
The insufficient transposition of the rules and regulations for the establishment of a Single European Railway Area and more specifically insufficient market access and non-compliancy regarding infrastructure governance are the most common causes for the opening of infringement procedures. Austria, Luxemburg, Spain, Italy, Greece and France are one step away from being taken to court.
Additionally, in 2021 the Commission has opened new cases against Denmark, the Netherlands, Hungary, Czechia, Bulgaria, Germany and Ireland.
Finally Germany is currently the only member state that currently faces a court ruling!
The Commission’s claim that Germany insufficiently insures interoperability of the rail system within the Community (2008/57/EC) in Germany. With the 1st formal notice having been sent in 2016, Germany has not taken the necessary steps and in 12/2021 case INFR(2015)2157 has consequently been referred to the judges. The same applies for the countries incorrect transposition off Directive 2004/49/EC on railway safety which has, as case INFR(2016)2058 equally been brought forward to the court of justice.
It is not yet clear when a court rule for the German case is to be expected and which other cases will be brought forward to the court of justice or whether the respective member states will manage to negotiate other solution with the Commission.
More information is available in our Insight.
Freelance Consultant on Transport Policy
Freight Transport with a Future – Digital Automatic Coupler
The Digital Automatic Coupler (DAC) is a fundamental building block and milestone for the growth of rail freight transport throughout Europe!
On January 19, 2022, Germany’s Transport Minister Volker Wissing will send a freight train equipped with the DAC on a test run across Europe. This is another important milestone on the road to the Europe-wide rollout of the DAC. Dr. Sigrid Evelyn Nikutta from DB Cargo AG and Daniela Gerd tom Markotten will demonstrate the function on site on the train’s couplers, and the train will also be shunted.
In the history of the freight car, screw couplings have been used exclusively ever since. In this process, an approx. 20kg bracket must be placed on the hooks of two wagons in order to then be able to connect the two wagons by turning a screw thread of the couplings. The air lines for brakes as well as power and data bus lines are then coupled by hand. Thanks to the DAC, freight cars are now automatically connected to each other without the need for manual work by the shunting personnel. At the same time, all the necessary connections are also coupled together.
By 2030, all trains in Europe are to be equipped with a DAC. This is the demand of a joint charter of industry players. The charter’s goal: By 2030 at the latest, freight cars throughout Europe should be able to couple automatically, freight trains should be completely digitized and digitally networked from the locomotive to the last car.
The industry believes that the Digital Automatic Coupler is the most important component of an automation and digitalization of rail freight transport. The DAC is intended to create faster and more efficient processes. To achieve this, the charter presents three core requirements:
Accelerate development phase | Ensure funding for a Europe-wide rollout | Establish European roadmap for DAC migration
More information is available in our Insight.
Stadler Rail improves Market Position
In 2016, Stadler ventured into the market for control and signalling technology on the rolling stock side. As part of the Angelstar joint venture between Stadler Rail and Mermec from Italy, Stadler was able to successfully enter the market for ETCS on-board systems, thereby gaining a degree of independence from the supplies of the major railway system houses. The new ETCS product Guardia has been installed on around 1000 vehicles.
Stadler has been developing and building rail vehicles since 1942. In 2020, the company achieved a turnover of 2.8 billion euros and is one of the 10 largest railway system houses in the world. The company has been listed on the Swiss stock exchange since April 2019.
An exciting development can currently be observed around Stadler Rail again. In quick succession, the leading Swiss railway group has taken over the German medium-sized interlocking manufacturers BBR Verkehrstechnik and Bär Bahnsicherung AG from Switzerland.
Stadler Rail has already made its goal of clearly positioning itself in control and signalling technology in the railway infrastructure sector with its activities to acquire Thales Ground Transportation Systems in the summer of 2021. Hitachi Rail ultimately won the competition for Thales. But Stadler has consistently stuck to the implementation of its signalling technology strategy, even if the current acquisitions do not close the product gaps in operation management and dispatching technologies. The market can also look forward with interest to the further development of interlocking technology at Stadler. The SIL.VIA interlocking system from BBR and Eurolocking from Bär are two competing products. According to current knowledge, Eurolocking has the more modern digital system architecture.
Irrespective of the success of the upcoming integration process, Stadler has succeeded in securing extensive signalling know-how and expert knowledge with the takeover of the two companies, in order to be able to operate successfully on the world market for digital interlocking.
A compact analysis of the development of Stadler Rail AG and about the signalling technology market in Europe can also be found at:
Signal to drive?
A short analysis of the railway policy aspects of the coalition agreement of the new german government.
On December 8th 2021, the Social Democrats together with the Greens and the Liberals formed the 25th German federal government. For the first time, a liberal, Volker Wissing will be the new Federal Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure. He has chosen Daniela Kluckert, Oliver Luksic and Michael Theurer as his state secretaries. Apart from Theurer, all have prior experience in transport politics.
Wissing’s nomination comes as a surprise to many political observers. During the coalition talks, many were expecting the Greens to nominate the new minister, since the shift towards a more sustainable mobility is one of the key priorities for the party.
The coalition agreement is rather vague on transport issues.
Relatively few projects are clearly defined and concrete numbers are rare to find.
One of the concrete measures will be the restructuring of the Deutsche Bahn AG. The infrastructure units (DB Netz, DB Station and Service) will be merged into a new, public interest-oriented infrastructure division within the group. In the future profits from the operation of the infrastructure will remain in this unit.
The investment funds for DB Infrastructure are supposed to be increased and costs for the usage of the rail infrastructure should be decreased for all operators. Though the latter will depend on budgetary approval.
On a more general level the coalitions wants to achieve an increase of the share of rail freight transport to 25% and the doubling of the traffic permanence in passenger transport by 2030.
In the long term a clock-face scheduling, the „Deutschlandtakt“ is expected to be established.
To lay the grounds for such a cyclic schedule, planning procedures for and prioritization of major rail infrastructure projects will be accelerated.
Among these are:
- the line Hamm-Hannover-Berlin,
- the Middle Rhein corridor including the Frankfurt and Mannheim nodes,
- the lines Hanau-Würzburg/Fulda-Erfurt,
- the line from Munich towards the DE/AT-border including the Munich node,
- the line Karlsruhe-Basel including the Mannheim node,
- the triangle Hamburg-Hannover-Bremen („Optimized Alpha E+“) combined with the Hamburg node,
- the southern section of the Eastern Corridor as well as the connection from Nuremberg to the DE/CZ-border.
Last but not least the notorious Cologne node is supposed to be improved.
Furthermore the coalition wants to improve cross-border traffic, increase the number of night trains and electrify 75% of the railway network by 2030.
Innovative drive technologies are a „want“, likewise the speeding up of the introduction of the digital automatic clutch.
Yet there is some hope because digitalization „will“ be prioritized. Additionally the capacity as well as the network will be extended.
How the goals, that were set in the coalition agreement, will be achieved remains vague and the new transport minister will have to be measured on his achievements.
Freelance Consultant on Transport Policy
Why rail transport needs AI
In our everyday lives, we increasingly encounter applications that are automated by artificial intelligence (AI) methods or new fields of application that are opened up by AI. These include not only Siri, Alexa or chatbots that support customer relationship management, but also fully automated translation and speech recognition programs, intelligent robots and much more.
Overall, artificial intelligence can be subdivided into various sub-areas. These include neural networks, deep learning, natural language processing (NLP), machine learning and the aforementioned robotic process automation.
AI-based components are also increasingly being used in railway technology. This is about much more than automating processes. Rather, AI is capable of improving the effectiveness and flexibility of rail operations.
The tools for doing so are versatile. AI algorithms and corresponding hardware can perform predictive maintenance or condition-based monitoring. Monitoring functions can be applied to vehicles, stations, tracks and switches, or visual inspection of track structures, overhead lines or tunnel structures. Use in safety-related systems is also quite conceivable. From assistance systems such as driving and braking control to safety systems such as collision protection and autonomous or semi-autonomous driving, AI applications can make rail operations safer. A particular challenge here is the verification of functional safety for systems that use deep learning.
How the future market for signaling technology will develop in Europe was examined in detail in the market study Europe Rail Signalling Market 2021-2026.