Knorr-Bremse tests automated brake testing system

Automatic coupling and uncoupling is part is part of extensive testing of the coupling systems; this picture shows two passenger coupling systems. © Knorr-Bremse.

German transportation technology firm Knorr-Bremse has announced the start of trials for a new automated brake testing system for freight trains. The new technology is designed to increase efficiency and flexibility of rail freight transport and will be tested in partnership with rail operator Havelländische Eisenbahn.

“The key to shifting freight to rail is to digitalise and automate the rail freight sector in Europe, which still largely depends – for the time being, at least – on manual operations,” Nicolas Lange, chairman of Knorr-Bremse Rail Vehicle System, commented.

FreightControl automation system

With around half a million freight cars in the EU today, manual testing can be time-intensive and costly, but automated systems have not yet been proven to meet the same safety standards. The new test programme will generate data to compare automated brake testing with the current approach.

“Knorr-Bremse’s FreightControl automation system comprises a new kind of electronics that combines centralised railcar intelligence with innovative sensor technology for the braking system,” the firm states.

If successful, this new automated system will allow drivers to perform brake testing directly from the cab using a handheld tablet, offering the potential for far quicker turnaround and departure.

Knorr-Bremse plans to utilise the data produced by this trial to not only accelerate the development of automated brake testing but also drive a broader digitalisation strategy, refining train composition recognition, train integrity monitoring and electro-pneumatic brake control systems.

This work will be closely tied to Knorr-Bremse efforts to develop its FreightLink DAC system. Made of special steel, the FreightLink coupling system can withstand high torsional and longitudinal forces and will be linked directly to big data analytics in the cloud.

“Later in the year, Knorr-Bremse is already planning to install a more advanced version of the DAC in a trainset for testing under real-world conditions as part of the ERJU. By 2025, the aim is to develop – in collaboration with other ERJU partners – market-ready products for the anticipated DAC rollout. In parallel, Knorr-Bremse is working on its own electric contact coupler, which will also be brought to market as part of the ERJU,” a spokesperson for the firm said.

TÜV approves PJM brake testing system

Earlier this month, certification association TÜV approved a rival automated brake testing system developed by PJ Monitoring (PJM) in cooperation with SBB Cargo and Rail Cargo Austria.

This system is based on the digital WaggonTracker system, which is based around a hub generator, which autonomously supplies cars with power.

“Due to the modular concept, our system can be connected with the future DAC with reasonable effort. Whichever European standard will be implemented in 2030, our system will be compatible. Thus, the urgently needed automated brake testing can be rolled out now and not just at the end of the decade,” Günter Petschnig, CEO of PJM, said.
PJM reports that automated brake testing is already in use by SBB Cargo on 200 wagons. It estimates that the system delivers time-saving of up to 45 minutes per 500-metre-long freight train and can be carried out with only one employee instead of two.

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Author: Malcolm Ramsay

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