Switzerland next stop for DAC test train

After an extensive test program at five Austrian stations from the beginning of February to the beginning of March 2022, a freight train with Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC) will be tested in Switzerland now. The DAC replaces the current screw coupling, a manual process. The Coupling prototypes were presented in Vienna on Monday. 

In Europe, freight wagons are currently connected manually to the screw coupling. With each coupling process, a screw weighing more than 20 kilos has to be lifted and the airline connected. This accident-prone activity has to be carried out around 300 times per shift, regardless of the weather. Digital Automatic Coupling automates this process. Also, as ÖBB CEO Andreas Matthä puts it, “it turns a formerly “dumb” train into an intelligent, digitised freight train”. DAC is also expected to make a decisive contribution in shifting traffic of goods to rail.

The European consortium DAC4EU is testing digital automatic couplings for rail freight transport as part of a research project commissioned and financed by the German Ministry for Digital Affairs and Transport. The consortium, which started in June 2020, consists of DB AG, the freight railways ÖBB Rail Cargo Group, DB Cargo and SBB Cargo as well as the wagon keepers Ermewa, GATX Rail Europe and VTG. The aim of the DAC4EU research project is to develop essential bases for the selection of a standard DAC in the EU. After tests in Germany and recently Austria, the testing continues in Switzerland this year.

Technical skills

Research and development work is currently underway at both a European and national level in order to get the DAC ready for series production. Last year, the ‘Schafenberg’ design was chosen out of three options to go forward with for a standard DAC. From 2026 to 2030, it will gradually replace the conventional screw coupling in Europe. This concerns around 450,000 freight cars and 17,000 traction units.

Roman Hebenstreit, chairman of the Austrian trade union Vida: “With the same enthusiasm, concrete measures and their financing are now needed to ensure social security for railway employees and to get them (in good time) involved in the transformation process. That means investing in the technical skills of our colleagues so that they can also meet the new requirements in the course of digitisation.”

The European DAC Delivery Program (EDDP), enabled by Shift2Rail, brings together a wide range of institutions to realise a European DAC solution through an integrated joint programme that builds on research results and pilot projects and includes the necessary measures for a fast and technically and economically feasible Europe-wide introduction of the technology by 2030.

This article was originally published on our sister publication RailTech.com.

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Author: Esther Geerts

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