RailWatch and METRANS test digital wagon inspection system

An electricity powered METRANS locomotive.

RailWatch and METRANS are developing jointly the ‘DigiTwin’ project to digitise the inspection routine of freight wagons. It is a measurement system that will be used to inspect the safety condition of freight wagons before the train departs. The companies will test the new tool for two years under the German Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure funding. The total funding will be 3,5 million euros as part of the “Future Rail Freight Transport for the Promotion of Innovation” directive.

RailWatch is a data company based in Bonn, Germany. It builds measuring stations next to railway lines that scan trains when they pass by. By collecting the data from these measurements, the company overviews the technical conditions of freight wagons and provides them to customers. RailWatch’s team will be the one responsible for developing the ‘DigiTwin’ system. It will include cameras, lighting, laser sensors, thermal sensors and acoustic sensors.

A measurement station capturing a train on the go

Changing wagon inspection

Typically before a train’s departure, an inspector checks the freight wagons one by one to spot any possible damages. The Digital Twin tool aims to change that. A camera will scan the train, automatically detecting, analysing and digitalising the complete condition of freight wagons.

In particular, the DigiTwin system will collect data from wheel profiles, wheel flats, heat build-up, under-floor, side views and loading gauge clearance. It will also take thousands of pictures from the wagons. All these data will compile a ‘Digital Twin version’ of each wagon with the help of artificial intelligence software. Additionally, data assessment will be compatible with the General Contract of Use for wagons (GCU) which defines the rights and obligations of Wagon Keepers and Railway Undertakings.


Both Railway Undertakings and Wagon Keepers will benefit from the trial project. The automated data collection and analysis will be less time-consuming but equally reliable. Moreover, wagon Keepers can use it to implement predictive maintenance.

“We look forward to implementing this project together with our cooperation partner METRANS to make rail freight more efficient and more competitive in comparison to road freight”, said Michael Breuer, Managing Partner of RailWatch. “We are on the way to a digital future. This trial project enables us to support the digital transformation in rail freight transport and to reach the new level of Industry 4.0”, underlined Tobias Frede, CTO of RailWatch and Project Manager for DigiTwin.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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