Is optimised data sharing a solution to Rhine-Alpine issues?

Panel discussion during Hupac's Intermodal Forum. ©Hupac Group.

Approaching the issues that the Rhine-Alpine corridor faces from time to time can be a challenging task. However, the solution could be simpler than expected, relying mainly on an optimised data-sharing environment able to transform the route. “We need to provide answers to the shippers and prepare for deviations in advance when a disruption occurs”, commented Michail Stahlhut, CEO of Hupac.

An essential prerequisite to fulfilling Stahlhut’s requests is coordination-something that infrastructure managers along the Rhine-Alpine route almost completely lack currently, according to Hans-Jörg Betschi, chairman of the Hupac Group. However, “electronic means would be the best way to reach a level of good coordination”, he added, hinting that a new data hub in the making could speed things up in this sense.

A data sharing pool

The insights mentioned above were shared during Hupac’s Intermodal forum in Lugano, Switzerland. Data and digitalisation were an integral part of the conference discussions and informal chats between the attendees. “We need to know the estimated time of arrival of trains when disruptions occur no matter what”, said many people when referring to the disrupted Rhine-Alpine route and the lack of communication with IMs.

“We need an answer to provide to the shippers. It is one thing to know where a train or unit is and another to know when it will reach its destination. Investing in data is the key here. We need solutions today and predictable answers from IMs for the shippers”, said Stahlhut.

Indeed data sharing could become a game changer for Rhine-Alpine rail. A shared and integrated data platform from the IMs involved in the Rhine-alpine corridor would be a great solution and the first step to more coordination. In this way, rail companies could have real-time access to a data pool able to inform them in case of disruptions and prepare them by providing the available deviations.

As a result, rail freight operators could have a clearer picture of what is happening on the route and inform the shippers about the extent and the duration of a disruption. Since shippers are, understandably, all about knowing where their cargo is and when will it reach the final destination, such a solution would be life-saving.

But apart from-real time tracking, data sharing could also enhance the optimisation of alternative train routing during scheduled construction. “We can prepare for infrastructure works, but we also need a clear and timely picture of available deviations and stop thinking on a national level. There are available deviations right there, but we do not think internationally”, emphasised Stahlhut. According to Stahlhut, an integrated data pool would help provide alternative solutions in advance that companies can implement in their networks on time.

Rhine-Alpine IMs are probably very close to launching a data sharing hub since pressure from the market does not allow for more setbacks. The Swiss government is also pushing in this direction because it wants its international rail freight and intermodal investments to pay off and use the full force of data. It might sound surprising that Europe’s largest IMs haven’t adopted such a solution yet, but this is the nature of the Rhine-Alpine corridor’s problems. Hopefully, soon technology and data will alleviate some burden from Europe’s rail backbone.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

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

1 comment op “Is optimised data sharing a solution to Rhine-Alpine issues?”

bönström bönström|16.05.22|18:24

ETA, the urgently requested – and handsomely rewarded, by ware owners that have shifted strategy to On Demand, as well at railways, has been present, but just at some particular – domestic and short tracks.
Industry now has to accept fact, that railways, the not robust…, is the most vulnerable device – and accordingly find the timely strategy.
(Primarily all technicalities, that are documented sources for unplanned stops etc., now decisively, should be outed, from lines claiming high qual.!)

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