Shift2Rail logo A body of the European Union

Technologies for Sustainable & Attractive European Rail Freight

IP Coordinator: Norbert Kahl - DB


Total Project Value:
€ 17 705 027,89
from 01/07/2020 to 31/03/2023
S2R (Of H2020) co-funding:
€ 7 829 217,10
Arne Henning
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR)
Complementary projects:


FR8RAIL IV seeks to increase technical readiness of the specific technologies developed through innovation actions up to TRL 7. In the framework of the general challenges highlighted in the S2R Strategic Master Plan, the following specific challenges consistent with the Annual Work Plan 2020 will be addressed by the FR8RAIL IV project: 

  1. Condition based maintenance (CBM): Rail operators are facing an increasing complexity of influencing factors on their competitiveness. The required flexibility and agility for adaption can only be granted, if digital technologies are used globally – which is often not the case today. Condition Based and Predictive Maintenance need to transform from a support function of rail freight and asset operation to a source of innovation. 
  2. In the future, CBM plays a key role in identifying potential for additional revenue and profitability using current freight locomotives and wagons. Each European country is currently using its own maintenance rulebook with individual thresholds that indicate required maintenance activities. This will affect the roll-out of the defined condition monitoring thresholds tremendously. CBM use cases will be defined for rail freight, resulting in user-centric specification and design of CBM dashboards with the objective of being used all over Europe with their individual specifications. In this manner, CBM use cases will be aligned with the European rail traffics. The challenge is to create an advanced monitoring solution of locomotive and wagon components to monitor the conditions in different rolling stock types across Europe in a centralized way. Centralized collection of performance metrics for development of digital maintenance rules is essential. 

  3. Smart Freight Wagon Concepts: In order to meet the key challenges in rail freight, it is important that the innovations brought forward are affordable, cost effective and have a quick market uptake. The challenge is to demonstrate these innovations developed earlier in IP5 research projects and to put forward the foreseen innovations: 

  4. Wagon concepts: new wagon concepts will contribute to increased reliability of the freight transport while increasing the payload per meter of train and therefore will bring the desired solutions to different rail freight market segments: 

    1. Core Market Wagon: demonstration activities with the innovative wagon for the rail freight core markets, following its-5L-wagon design, will prove the benefits and accelerate the rail freight market-uptake. By putting the enhanced design of the Core-Market Wagon in the context of connected asset with operationally relevant and affordable add-ons. The core market wagon will provide mechanical & digital Interfaces for future solutions such as automatic couplers to enable modular and scalable system. The integration of new braking technologies will allow higher speeds and load per axle at same or better safe performances and reduced weight. 

    2. Extended Market Wagon (EMW): demonstration activities of a novel two-axle freight wagon in its entirety will be build up as physical demonstrator. It will address the demands on the future freight traffic and demonstrate the achievable efficiency. The final holistic mechanical design of the complete wagon will therefore be realized. A novel methodical approach will be used for the systematic and far reaching final optimization of the load bearing structures under consideration of the relevant frame conditions and the already achieved results. The relevant mechanical and electrical components will be integrated and realized in the novel wagon, which is targeted for extended rail freight markets.. 

    3. Telematics & Electrification and Automatic couplers: Digitalization and automation are changing processes in many sectors, by offering new services not imagined before. Rail freight is not an exception and it needs to take advantage of the digitalization. This will be the way to fill the gap to other means of freight transportation and to increase the reliability and efficiency of rail freight. 

  5. Freight Loco of the future: New freight products and services require future freight locomotives to be able to offer the highest flexibility and availability, everywhere and at any time, and independence from the infrastructure setup. Energy efficiency remains a key driver and is an integral part of the challenge. Therefore, the objective is to increase the modularity and independency from a specific energy source for the traction chain, for instance by further studying hybrid propulsion systems and modular propulsion concepts, distributed power modules and innovative auxiliary networks. 

  6. Long Trains: The freight sector needs to find ways to rapidly decrease unit costs to improve its competitiveness against the road sector. Major boundaries are the readiness of infrastructure for longer trains and the maximum load on the coupler hook, which limits the maximum weights of trains. Distributed Power in freight trains will solve this problem by distributing the traction and braking forces for long freight trains up to 1,500 m. 

  7. Automated train operation (ATO): ATO is of key importance in helping to ensure that the future European rail freight sector will be attractive and sustainable. It will help to reduce system costs significantly, fostering optimal energy-efficient, low-wear, resource-efficient and flexible operations. It will be essential in terms of achieving the objectives of improved services and customer quality, reduced system costs, enhanced interoperability and simplified business processes. 

The results of these S2R JU activities is an interoperable, modular and compatible architecture for European ATO over ETCS, able to deliver goods safely, reliably and cost-efficiently, making rail the first choice for European freight customers for medium and long distance cargo transportation. The overall aim is to move ahead with the user-centric European development of intelligent auto-piloted freight trains which know their exact position, control the locomotive and wagons under ETCS supervision, react automatically to obstacles, allow better use of bottleneck resources, offer relevant fall-back solutions. In order to deploy the first ATO technology in European Freight, a paradigm shift in the development is needed, which IP5 will drive jointly with the community of European users, based on previous experience and inside of S2R IPs (IP1, IP2, IP5, IPX). 

Project Structure

WP01 - CBM - Condition Based Maintenance

The overall goal of this work package is to use the experience and the findings gained from FR8RAIL III in order to develop CBM from a support function of rail freight and asset operation to a source of innovation and the main maintenance strategy for European companies. Therefore, CBM needs to be integrated into the overall maintenance and operating processes initiated and pushed by a project status. The integration includes all the changes in processes and in the type of work done by employees so far. Main demands are to avoid parallel and ill-aligned maintenance actions and to rethink roles and responsibilities in a digitalized maintenance process initiated by the development of advanced monitoring solutions for all kind of asset components. One crucial step during this development process is the definition or adjustment of thresholds as basis for the optimization of the current maintenance rules. These efforts also comprise prior reliability analyses of different components / spare parts. To describe the “condition” of a component, locomotive, wagon or fleet, a continuous monitoring based on different measured values, algorithms and KPIs and their defined thresholds will be set up. Finally, an end-to-end CBM workflow for a European fleet will be demonstrated.

WP02 - CBM Wayside Monitoring

Condition-based maintenance of freight wagons is rarely implemented in current practice. Wayside monitoring was started within the framework of FR8RAIL III WP1 (Condition Based Maintenance) in Task 1.5 “Alignment task to wayside monitoring”. The main goal of this task was to examine the possibility of moving from the existing reactive approaches to a more proactive approach. This would support a CBM strategy for the vehicle, with the aim of reducing the number of capacity consuming events and the probability of introducing failures or wear to the infrastructure. The first analysis in this task show positive results for a transformation of the maintenance. Until now, wayside diagnostic systems have mainly been used to detect already existing damage like hot runners (because of massive Bearing Damage, blocked Brakes or wheel flats).

Newer systems in the field could offer the possibility to determine the condition of freight wagons (with damages in an earlier stage). However, newer systems integrated in the main tracks have not yet proven their operational capability to a large extent.
Due to their cross-border use, freight wagons are also subject to special requirements and responsibilities (GCU). Therefore, a supra-regional acceptance and reliability of the diagnostic systems is necessary and has to be analyzed to enable cross-border guidelines.
Within the scope of this work package, the focus will be on the analysis of the output of different types of wayside monitoring systems (e.g. wheel flat detectors, wheel profile measurement systems). The result of this analysis will partly be connected to the work of WP7 where the generated information could be combined with the on-board telematics systems. In addition, a basis for analysis using artificial intelligence, for example, is to be created and the workshop processes are to be questioned and optimized.

WP03 - Automatic Coupler

Test FR8RAIL I and II Automatic Coupler technical solution, in real operational conditions, to check the level of compliance with the functional requirements, defined in FR8RAIL I and II. This will allow achieving a higher TRL level, with a proved solution, fostering a future standardization in Europe, and a product to be released to the market in the short term.
Depending on the performance of the component, validation activities will be completed progressively, starting from simple workshop tests, up to complete operational conditions in a real demonstration consist.

WP04 - Automation of Rail Freight

Automation of rail freight is a key precondition to achieve an intermodal shift to rail. It will tackle the most pressing challenges of rail freight, to become more cost competitive based on LCC-savings, more reliably, based on a highly automated production system, faster in lead time and more agile to respond to market demands, due to decoupled rolling stock and personnel planning.

WP05 - Core Market Wagon

The result of the previous work in the previous stages of the project is a functional mock-up CMW, which by its parameters represents the first in the European market in terms of existing covered wagons with sliding side walls. This Project in itself embodies all the benefits and features of a 5L (low weight….) Wagon that has been optimized to the best possible extent using long-term experience combined with modern technology. In order to meet the requirements of the 5L wagon, it is important to mention the FR8RAIL-bogie chassis developed in parallel, which was presented with the CMW at the Innotrans exhibition in Berlin in 2018.

The activities in WP05 are seamlessly linked to the results and outputs achieved under FR8RAIL I (in particular WP01 and WP04) and FR8RAIL II (in particular WP01, WP02 and WP05). It is based on the successful completion in this framework of Task 1.1 Core Wagon design (FR8RAIL II), as described in TD 5.3 –Smart Freight Wagon Concepts of the Draft Shift2Rail Multi Annual Action Plan, Part B (20 May 2019). The CMW will contribute to increased reliability of the freight transport due to its integrated solutions for telematics and electrification. The challenges are to increase the payload per meter of train by means of lightweight design. Optimized aerodynamics and acoustics will contribute to a greener and more efficient operation.

The main objective is to increase the attractiveness of rail freight transport, including by means of a new smart wagon meeting all 5L parameters. Attractiveness lies mainly in the possibility of transporting pallet material, white and black electronics, food and moisture-sensitive material that provides the opportunity to replace road transport. In connection with the aforementioned modern technologies, its competitiveness is at a high level.
The subsequent work in the FR8RAIL IV project will focus and combine blocks 5.3.1 Running Gear and 5.3.2 Core market wagon. It will contribute to the vision of smart, ecological, efficient propulsion technologies by means of a modern and innovative lightweight wagon structure with reduced aerodynamic drag and with optimized running gear.

In FR8RAIL IV a demonstrator will be developed and built, consisting of an Aluminium bogie suitable for CMW, which means also for the existing UIC and TSI freight wagons. This will increase the wagon load capacity by nearly 900 kg. The modified and improved CMW will integrate elements for automatic coupling, monitoring, brakes and telematics. It is particularly important that the CMW not only remain as a result of development on paper, but that it is cost-effective and attractive to the customer. The benefits of the chassis designed and manufactured in the FR8RAIL I and FR8RAIL II phases, will be integrated into the new Aluminium solution. This solution will enter the CMW and as a whole will achieve the aforementioned benefits, in particular weight, and LCC enhancement, with an emphasis on product manufacturing and marketability.

In this work package the wagon design concept and the demonstrator will undergo operational field tests, where we can integrate the best solutions and results from FR8RAIL I and FR8RAIL II collaboration. Laboratory tests with the new bogie for the CMW as well as a field test of the innovative brake disc will also be performed.

WP06 - Extended Market Wagon

This work is a consistent continuation of the work done in the FR8RAIL (WP4 Smart Wagon concepts), II (WP 1 Wagon Design & Automatic Coupler) and III (WP 4 WP4 Extended Market Wagon) project. It is based on the successful completion in this framework of Task 1.2 Extended Wagon design, as described in TD 5.3 –Smart Freight Wagon Concepts of the Draft Shift2Rail Multi Annual Action Plan, Part B (20 May 2019). The subsequent work in the FR8RAIL IV project will focus on the Task 5.3.4 Complete freight wagon demonstrator and deliver the building blocks 5.3.1 Running Gear and 5.3.2 Core market wagon. It will contribute to the vision of smart, ecological, efficient propulsion technologies by means of a modern and innovative lightweight wagon structure with reduced aerodynamic drag and with optimized running gear.
For the demonstration of the high potential of a new freight wagon, its structure with an innovative running gear system, according to the specifications defined in FR8RAIL, and under consideration of the conceptual design developed in FR8RAIL II and FR8RAIL III, will be confirmed. It is based on a two-axle wagon solution, provided with a new running gear design that fosters weight reduction and an improved steering capacity in order to minimize wear and damage of rail and wheels. The wagon will be realized as a rollable physical demonstrator (up to TRL 6) under consideration of the frame conditions. Furthermore it will be the base for the further integration and demonstration of the components which are necessary e.g. for the electrification of the wagon.

In order to achieve the addressed issues and to push forward the development of the next generation freight wagon, research and development in the following areas is proposed:

  • Detailing of a new wagon design
  • Systematic improvement and development of a structural and lightweight-design-optimized car body structure
  • Develop further the novel running gear design concept based on methodical approaches under consideration of frame conditions
  • Construction of a rollable physical demonstrator of the wagon including all relevant components such as couplers, brakes, running gear, WOBU, Wagon Monitoring System (WMS), which consists of a DPU and sensors for condition monitoring, brake control and others etc.
  • Development of optimal train composition in terms of aerodynamic drag reduction
  • Extensive measurement campaigns with a 20-foot Swap body container which has been developed in the framework of the FR8RAIL II project. It is equipped with sensors to determine the acting wind forces and characteristics of the boundary layer. It also provides a platform for field tests of OBU equipment.
  • The influence of material properties on wheel rail wear will be further studied. Different contact laws developed in FR8RAIL I and II will be implemented in Wear Simulation Programs and the benefits achieved by using improved material combinations will be assessed.

In this work package the wagon design concept is laid out and detailed based on the achieved results in FR8RAIL II and the frame conditions (e.g. of the specification inFR8RAIL I). This includes the wagon design and the mechanical architecture with the possible geometries for the main parts. Concepts for the integration of the electrification of the wagon from FR8Rail III are considered here along with the impact on the Wagon structure that will be completed to the necessary detail for the prototype demonstration.

WP07 - Telematics and electrification

Freight Condition Based Maintenance (CBM) will be enabled by the intelligent wagon based on Telematics and Electrification. Based on the results of previous S2R IP5 projects, the objectives of this work package are aligned towards completing the demonstrators of the intelligent wagon with regards to the interoperability of the system:
  • Integration of the demonstrator of the intelligent wagon based on telematics and electrification (T7.1).
  • Demonstration activities of the intelligent wagon based on telematics and electrification (T7.2).

The main objective of this WP is to test the features of the wagon On-Board Unit (wOBU), focusing on the communications for the Wireless backbone infrastructure. This infrastructure is composed by several wagon On-Board Units (wOBU) wirelessly interconnected. Along this infrastructure, several services can be provided. The provided services which are centralized by the wOBU in this demonstrator are CMS, WMS, OTI, Positioning and Automatic Coupler.

The scope is to demonstrate the feasibility of a Wireless communication backbone infrastructure along freight trains able to provide seamless on-board communications services for sensors and service layer applications. The main impact is providing added-value services for wagon and cargo monitoring applications in real-time using the Wireless Train Network along the freight composition. The demonstrator will set the basis for the subsequent demonstrators related to telematics and electrification planned on the FR8RAIL IV Project, Communications and wOBU will be validated on the initial demonstrator. The demonstrator is related to Telematics & Electrification (TD5.3 Wagon Design) and it is close linked with Core Market Wagon Demonstrator and Extended Marked Wagon Demonstrator.

WP08 - Long Trains with Distributed Power

This WP continues the activities started in FFL4E and FR8RAIL II aiming at the final goal of a system capable of running trains with Distributed Power up to 1,500 m. FFL4E and FR8RAIL II has been focusing on the development and demonstration of the basic Distributed Power technology. FR8RAIL IV focuses on preparing the regular operation of Distributed Power in European rail freight sector. The objectives of the WP are:
  • Further Refinement of Distributed Power Technology
  • Development of concepts for migration the railway system to bring Distributed Power into regular service
  • Development of concepts to use Distributed Power in older loco fleet

WP09 - Freight Loco of the Future

This WP mainly continues the work started in FR8RAIL III regarding the onboard energy storage system and the new SiC based auxiliary converter system. It also studies the results achieved in IP5 so far, relevant for freight locomotives to be ready for future production modes for rail freight.

The main objectives are (1) demonstrating the technologies developed in R8RAIL III and IV and (2) creating the requirement baseline for freight locomotives to be fulfilled for future production modes.

WP10 - Managemen

To ensure an efficient coordination with the WP leaders and the technical management team (TMT) is aligned
  • To ensure efficient management of common consortium activities
  • To ensure efficient overall administrative and financial management of the project
  • To ensure the running of a quality assurance process
  • To manage the risks and propose mitigation strategies and contingency measures if needed

WP11 - Dissemination

This work package aims at establishing and running the required dissemination and exploitation plan, according to what has been described in Section 2.2. in detail.
The goal is to successful,
  • Establish the project as a point of reference among the end user stakeholders.
  • Develop and manage effective communication interfaces and dissemination channels between the project partners and with the outside world.
  • Exploit sources of external knowledge and requirements related to the scope and aims of this project
  • Disseminate the results that emerge from the project and to guarantee the diffusion of knowledge using the Shift2Rail platform.
  • Foster the use and application of the results that take place when the project has been completed In addition, specific attention will be given to the information of relevant authorities, and in particular the European Railway Agency, and of relevant organisation bodies at the European and international levels.




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Arne Henning

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No:101004051