The European Commission is working towards the creation of a Single European Railway Area (SERA), and has promoted a modal shift from road to rail in order to achieve a more competitive and resource-efficient European transport system. However, rail’s share in the European freight and passenger transport markets is still not satisfactory. EU research and innovation (R&I) therefore helps rail to play a new, broader role in global transport markets, both by addressing pressing short-term problems that drain rail business operations, and by helping the sector to gain a stronger market position.
Optimization study in rail cargo: FR8HUB
2018 was the year when a strong team of specialists came together and analyzed processes and conditions at interexchange terminals. Their main question: what to do differently in regulating the exchange of trailers, swap bodies and containers b/w road and rail transport in order to increase the efficiency and quality of the Freight Rail system.
The FR8HUB project as part of Shirt2Rail gathers participants form Rail industry (Trafikverket, DB-DUSS), Academia (KTH, RISE) and IT and Telecommunications vendors (Indra, Ericsson), with the right mix skills and experiences that was necessary to identify the best tools and technologies.
In a domain where scale and cost are of primary importance, where environmental conditions are often challenging, and where electric power sources are hardly available, the source of information is guaranteed by passive RFID sensors readings and image scanning of wagons and containers that transit through terminal control gates. Therefore the challenge for innovation is to translate such information into structured digital data and to make it available to all participants of the supply chain, to implement new applications and optimization algorithms.
The needs of the industry are multiple:
- Trucks' drivers may inquiry when the container, they have to pick up, will arrive at the nearest terminal;
- Terminal operators may want to know in which order they could park and align incoming trucks with corresponding train wagons, in order to accelerate the transfer of containers and swap bodies to and from the train;
- Terminal operators need to accelerate the control of conditions, origin and characteristics of arriving trains, and cross-check with train and shipping documents sent by transport operators.
In all such cases, video technology can detect and read relevant information while internet technology ensures the timely and secure distribution of data across all parties.
In particular the Internet of Logistics (IoL) – based on Semantic Web principles and standards – was a natural choice in order to establish a secure, flexible, interoperable data exchange infrastructure, for all participants of the road/rail supply chain.
The demo at Innotrans has validated this innovative concept at one of the most important rail transport trade fairs worldwide. The next phase in 2019 will apply these concepts to a field implantation on commercial freight trains.