SNCF, Shift2Rail introduce digital brake testing on freight trains
SNCF, Shift2Rail and Traxens revealed a digital brake testing system for freight trains at trade fair InnoTrans 2018 on Tuesday. It is the first step towards a fully digital freight train, the companies said. The project received certification from the French railway safety authority last week. Shift2Rail, SNCF Fret and DB Cargo will test interoperability of the system in 2019.
“The past two years have been very exciting,” Bertrand Minary of SNCF Fret said. “We have created something entirely new.” It took two years of testing to get the system right and to gain certification from the French railway safety authority EPSF, he explained. SNCF has officially implemented the system last week. Currently, 145 trains are retrofitted with the new technology.
According to Minary, there are three main advantages of digital brake testing. “First, this system is more efficient. It is twice as fast as conventional brake testing.” Efficiency improves the punctuality of the freight train. But the digital test also makes the procedure much safer, as the train driver no longer has to carry out the arduous task, which requires actual strenght, the French official explained.
“Third, for freight train operators, it is a flexible system. It works on all kinds of trains and for different kinds of purposes.” Brake test automation is only one example of what the combination of a device and sensors creates. This, the companies call ‘the digital freight train’.
Florence Delalande of Traxens, who played a big role in designing the system, explains how it works. “Every train gets several devices, each of which emits its own network. Together, they create a mesh network that covers the whole train. They communicate with sensors that can be put on different parts of the train. They transmit information locally to the driver, to a tablet or cellphone, or worldwide to the cloud.”
Delalande explains that one device is compatible for multiple purposes. “It can be used by railway undertakings for brake test automation, by fleet managers to monitor mileage or information on abnormal shocks and by shippers to receive updates on wagon location.”
The system takes less than one hour to be installed anywhere, anytime. It is currently compatible with eight per cent of the European wagon fleet and will soon cover hundred per cent, the companies stressed.
Traxens, a company that creates digital solutions for rail and ocean shipping, collaborated with the railway organisations on the project. Jacques Delort, General Manager of Traxens emphasises that it hopes to create a system that is universal. “This will not only be delivered to SNCF, we want it to be an open system, so it can be used by anyone, everywhere.”
Delort goes on to compare the system to cellphones. “Whether you have a Siemens or Nokia, it always works. The device and sensors we make, are going to be able to communicate with all the other sensors you can find here at InnoTrans.”
Executive director Carlo Borghini of Shift2Rail commented: “Freight is a global service. We must not create new boundaries with this system, we want it to be interoperable an integrate it with other systems. This is a success story and the first step towards delivering a digital freight train.”
Shift2Rail, SNCF Fret and DB Cargo have agreed to set up a pilot project on cross-border traffic. In this way, they want to test the interoperability of different technologies, as part of a standardisation scheme. This pilot is planned for 2019.