A Test Train Equipped with Digital Automatic Couplers Has Embarked on Its Journey across Europe

A train equipped with digital automatic couplers had departed on a practical test journey that will continue for several months.

The German Federal Minister for Transport, Dr Volker Wissing, was there to give the train a symbolic departure signal at the start of its journey across Europe.

Digital automatic coupling is being put to the test on a train travelling through Germany, Austria and Switzerland
Digital automatic coupling is being put to the test on a train travelling through Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Digital automatic coupling (DAC) is key to digitalising rail freight and an important tool in helping rail freight’s competitiveness over road transport. The technology makes it possible to couple freight cars automatically, dispensing with the need for manual involvement. The car connections for the brakes are also made automatically. This is the first time freight cars will be fitted with end-to-end power and data lines.

Digital automatic coupling speeds up the shunting process significantly. This in turn increases the capacity of transhipment stations dramatically. Freight trains can also become longer and heavier. Additionally, freight trains can go faster.

Dr Daniela Gerd tom Markotten, DB Board Member for Digitalisation and Technology, said:

“This coupling technology is a revolution; it is the future. DAC makes freight cars smart and fast, when coupling but also when driving. With this technology, not only can more freight cars run on the rails, it also enables rail traffic to be densified, which benefits everyone. Without the DB engineers and their know-how, this coupling would not exist. We're getting it ready for series production together with the manufacturers. We're getting DAC on track!”

The freight train will first travel from Germany to Austria and then onwards to Switzerland. Other EU countries will be added to that list. Digital automatic coupling is being tested in different driving situations that can occur in Germany. These include steep inclines, tight curves and a number of climatic conditions. The test drive should lead the digital automatic coupling technology to series production.

The practical test is to be completed by the end of 2022. There have already been some test drips in Germany in the past few months as well as coupling tests at marshalling yards.

The test train is part of a research project funded by the Federal Ministry for Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV) with 13 million euros. A consortium of six companies is involved. In addition to DB and its subsidiary DB Cargo, these are the Swiss and Austrian freight railways SBB Cargo and Rail Cargo Austria as well as the wagon keepers Ermewa, GATX Rail Europe and VTG. The goal is the EU-wide introduction of the DAC.

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