Topic of the week
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.