Revolution in freight transport: We are part of the DAC4EU consortium to test out Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC)

13. 08. 2020

A pioneering innovation is in the pipeline with Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC). This new technology lays the foundation for the automation and digitalisation of rail freight transport in Europe and represents a significant step towards increasing its attractiveness and productivity. The consortium got to work in June 2020. Trains all across Europe are to be equipped with the new technology by 2030.

Roads are rail freight’s biggest rival. Trucks do much more damage to the environment, but they reach their destinations faster and often at a lesser cost.

Rail freight transport must become more efficient and offer more services so that it can keep up with competition in the future.

DAC lays the foundation for this. Pure mechanic screw coupling is currently used, but is time-consuming and expensive. It also requires a lot of physical exertion and can be dangerous for staff.

DAC4EU is a consortium project by six public and private freight transport companies which will be testing different coupling options over the coming years: Along with the RCG, DB Cargo (Germany), SBB Cargo (Switzerland), the freight wagon leasers and rail logistics companies Ermewa, GATX Rail Europe and VTG are also on board. DB AG is the consortium leader.

Einbau einer DAK der Firma Faiveley Transport in einen Zags Kesselwagen. I Installation of a DAC of the company Faiveley Transport in a Zags tank wagon.
Installation of a DAC of the company Faiveley Transport in a Zags tank wagon

Why do we need DAC?

Coupling is used to attach wagons to trains. Right now, freight wagons still have to be coupled to each other and then checked by hand. In the future, wagons will be attached to each other using digital automatic coupling: a middle-buffer coupling with an air pipe, power line and data cable. It means that compared to pure screw coupling, the coupling process will not be carried out by hand anymore; it will be fully automated instead. On top of that, it guarantees constant electricity supply and data links to the wagons for the first time. With DAC as an enabler, the RCG is laying the foundation for automated operational processes – for instance automated brake tests and train integrity monitoring.

What are the plans for the coming years?

Various types of coupling mechanisms from four different manufacturers are being tested until the start of 2021. The consortium will base their decision on the outcome of these tests. After this, the European rail freight sector must agree on one coupling design that meets the requirements of everyone involved. Then, what is known as a “demonstrator train” will travel across Europe to gain more operational experience with the preferred form of coupling.

The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) is financing the project with around 13 million Euro over the next two and a half years.

You’d like to follow the developments? We’ll be keeping you posted on all our channels!