Part IV: How are the prototypes of the Digital Automatic Coupler tested?

13. 07. 2021

Die Digitale Automatische Kupplung ist ein Meilenstein, um den Schienengüterverkehr in Europa wettbewerbsfähiger zu machen: Sie sorgt nicht nur dafür, dass das Kuppeln einfacher und sicherer wird, sondern auch effizienter.

We have answered the most important questions about the testing of the DAC prototypes in the fourth part of our series.

How are the DAC prototypes tested?

Until July 2021, DAC4 prototypes from four different manufacturers will be put through their paces in the pilot project of the DAC4EU consortium. The consortium is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVI), in order to create a decision basis for a design. Subsequently, a so-called "demonstrator train" will travel through Europe with all couplers that have proven to be operationally safe in phase I. The "European DAC Delivery Program" was launched in 2020 to find a decision with all stakeholders and to plan and accompany the migration to DAC in European rail freight. 

What does the DAC test procedure look like? 

The four prototypes were put through 440 individual tests on a tight schedule. The technical requirements were tested in various test scenarios. For example, the performance of the different prototypes was tested in track curves with different radii, as well as coupling at different speeds and under different loading conditions. In a speed range from 2 to 12km/h, measurements of occurring forces are carried out as well as tests for derailment safety. After completion of the tests on the site, the prototypes are taken to the climate chamber to be tested under extreme weather conditions (-40C to +45C).  

What else is planned for the demonstrator train of the DAC4EU consortium?

The demonstrator train will start in Mannheim in August and will then travel to various marshalling yards in Germany, Switzerland and Austria to test operational processes in different environments. For example, the wagons will be pushed over the hump several times, shifted on the level or pushed off. Furthermore, measurements of power and data transmission are collected on track runs. 

DAC4EU - Coupling Tests

What is the European DAC Delivery Programme (EDDP)?  

Once the testing is completed, the results will be an essential part of the decision as to which DAC design will be selected for the rollout in Europe. This decision will be made on a European level within the Shift2Rail-European DAC Delivery Programme. Furthermore, technical and operational specifications will be formulated in several work packages, migration scenarios will be evaluated, the impact on infrastructures will be determined, possible automation components will be investigated, and costs as well as funding opportunities will be calculated. By 2030, all freight wagons throughout Europe should be equipped with the new technology, revolutionizing rail freight transport in Europe.

The DAC4EU consortium is committed to equipping trains throughout Europe with the Digital Automatic Coupler. The consortium consists of the consortium leader DB AG, the rail freight operators ÖBB Rail Cargo Group, DB Cargo and SBB Cargo, and the wagon keepers Ermewa, GATX Rail Europe and VTG. The consortium started its work in June 2020. By 2030, trains throughout Europe should be equipped with the new technology and help ensure that rail freight plays a key role in the European mobility system of the future. The German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) is funding the project with around 13 million euros over the two-and-a-half-year project period.

The Austrian Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK) is funding the TARO project, in which topics relating to the DAC are also being worked on, with a total of EUR 3.5 million from the RTI program Mobility of the Future, which is handled by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG).

In the next part you will learn more about the next steps for the introduction of the DAC!