Rail freight transport has a key role to play in Europe’s future mobility system in achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal. Shifting freight traffic to rail is one – if not the best – way to stem ever-increasing carbon emissions. The sector must be digitalised and automated in order to achieve such modal shift.
In this context, the Rail Freight Forward (RFF)  members are working to create an open European digital ecosystem that will facilitate seamless information between all rail freight partners via platforms, thereby enabling flawless end-to-end transport and efficient freight automation throughout Europe and beyond.
At the RFF meeting on 26 April, the members confirmed an ambitious interim target for 2024, with a range of initial solutions serving as a lighthouse for the initiative. The aim is to deliver strong business benefits and boost operational efficiency even at an early stage.
Members expect that the digital platform will contribute to a leap forward in international rail freight operations by means of a trusted digital ecosystem connecting key European rail freight partners.
Unique selling points
The RFF digital platform will offer unique benefits by addressing multiple rail freight objectives:
- Creation for wide and early adoption
- Reduction of entry barriers to participation
- Easy access to data
- Data quality improvement
- Bridge current scarcity in data exchange
The sector believes that embarking on this journey will drive modal shift and strengthen rail’s position in a greener logistic chain.
Digital automatic coupling
Amongst the meeting participants were European DAC Delivery Programme (EDDP) Managers Mark Topal-Göckeli, Chief Technical Officer at ÖBB, and Jens Engelmann, Founder of railiable. Digital automatic coupling (DAC) is one of the key elements for transformation of the European rail freight sector. The DAC will increase productivity, efficiency and service quality, either directly or as an enabler, thereby increasing competitiveness. Together with smart capacity increases, DAC will be a game changer in shifting more freight traffic to the European rail system, facilitating the Green Deal, improving workers’ safety and creating value for Europe.
Discussions at the meeting provided an opportunity to share insights on current project development. In relation to use case definition, the programme managers stressed that functionality is being enabled by DAC and additional automation components for which R&D is still necessary, perhaps best placed in the Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking. They also emphasised the need for strong RU engagement, particularly for current activities relating to the cost-benefit analysis and migration where COO support is needed. Europe’s full range of digital rail freight operations can only be achieved through implementation of DAC.