SBB Cargo develops ‘freight car of the future’

SBB Cargo is bringing to life what it calls the ‘freight car of the future’ – saying it will be quieter, lighter and more powerful than ever before. Working with partners, SBB will this year launch a four-year test phase involving 16 converted cars.

The 5L-Zug comprises the five major improvements that the new goods wagon will bring: quiet, light, robust, logistical, and life-cycle-cost-oriented. Innovative components of this pioneering work include radially adjustable wheel sets in the bogie instead of being permanently mounted. The result is reduced wear & tear and less noise, benefiting not only the traditional freight customers but people living near the railway.

Greater efficiency

This is complemented by new disc brakes and silencer-equipped wheel sets, resulting in a noise reduction of five to 10 decibels, which is almost twice as low as before. This is reflected by the overwhelming majority of goods wagons currently in service, which are traditionally equipped with composite brake blocks (or ‘K-soles’). SBB says that the freight car of the future will be no louder than a passenger train. Greater efficiency, particularly in the marshalling yards, will also be achieved through the use of automatic couplings.

Pioneering work

SBB Cargo has carried out this work in collaboration with Technical Innovation Circle for Rail Freight Services (TIS) and several component manufacturers. The project is supported by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and Transport (BAV). The first car is currently being converted and, after approval, it will be deployed in regular operations from the middle of this year. It is designed to achieve a running distance of at least 400,000 kilometres from the middle of 2018.

This new generation of goods wagon builds on SBB’s reputation as one of Europe’s top rail freight innovators, with various projects ongoing to develop the automation of goods. Freight cars are already equipped with features including weighing technology, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging, temperature monitoring, GPS software, and a power supply for cooling containers throughout the SBB network.

New timetable

SBB has also rolled out a major new change in how it schedules its freight transport, by introducing a new booking system that minmises impact on the passenger network. It worked for two years to develop a new timetable, which now provides more weekend services and express connections. SBB accounts for around a quarter of all the goods transported in Switzerland by rail and road, with around 1,300 kilometres of track linking the modes.

Author: Simon Weedy

Simon is a journalist for - a dedicated online platform for all the news about the rail freight sector

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.