The digital coupling is taking freight transport into the future

The goals of the policy are clearly formulated: The share of freight trains in the transport of goods in Germany should increase from nineteen to at least thirty percent. In return, a reduction in truck traffic on the motorways is desired. However, a large part of the transports are commissioned by private companies. So the state cannot simply order the switch to rail. Instead, the goal can only be achieved if the attractiveness of transporting goods by freight train can be increased. The so-called single-wagon transport is particularly in focus here. This gives companies the option of not having to book an entire train at once. Instead, they can also only load individual wagons. This makes freight transport by rail attractive for companies with smaller transport volumes. The disadvantage, however, is that because the individual wagons do not all have the same destination, there is significantly more coupling effort.

Image: DB AG / Oliver Lang

Previously, the coupling process had to be carried out manually

Here, however, the lack of modernization of rail transport in Europe is now becoming a problem. Because the coupling process is basically still the same as it was in the 19th century: shunting workers have to connect the individual wagons by hand using a heavy bracket and a hook. The tensioning of the clutch by means of a screw thread and the connection of the air line for the brake is still done manually. All this is not only hard physical work, but also takes up a lot of time during which the freight trains cannot run. So if you want to shift more transport to rail, you have to make improvements in this area. This is exactly where a joint European project comes in. Numerous railway companies want to introduce the so-called “digital automatic coupling” – in short: DAK. With this, the individual wagons can be coupled together quickly, efficiently and without heavy physical work.

The conversion could be completed by the end of the decade

In a first step, four industrial companies developed corresponding prototypes. These were then extensively tested. Ultimately, the project partners decided on the so-called Scharfenberg coupling. A test train has now been equipped with this and will be traveling throughout Europe over the next few months to put the new technology through its paces. The main focus is on tests under extreme conditions such as steep inclines, tight corners and sub-zero temperatures. If no unexpected problems occur here, the Europe-wide introduction could then be realized by the end of the decade. A study estimated the costs for this at up to 8.6 billion euros. In return, this will increase the capacity of rail freight transport in Germany by ten to fifteen percent without having to expand the infrastructure. The single-wagon transport, which is so important, is also becoming more attractive for potential customers.

Via: Deutsche Bahn

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