Rail freight automation and digitalisation is an important enabler for the transport sector to meet the EU’s greening targets.
There is a common understanding of the need to strengthen rail freight in Europe, which is in decline today. It is nine times better in terms of CO2 emissions than road transport and will help Europe in achieving its Green Deal and decarbonisation targets. Electrification of road transport is far from being mature and cost-effective and will sll consume seven times more energy than freight transport on rail.
Automation and digitalisation will enable rail freight to become more efficient and attractive for logistics service providers and shippers and will bring relevant benefits for European society in general. It will increase the still underestimated growth potential for single wagonload traffic and strengthen the role of intermodal transport, both strategic segments for the modal shift. Especially, together with future ERTMS developments, they will contribute to increase infrastructure capacity. Their implementation will also increase safety at work and counter the predicted labour shortage in the sector by replacing outdated, mostly manually-operated technologies of the past, especially the coupling of freight wagons.
The rail sector stakeholder signatories of this paper are convinced that rail freight automation and digitalisation as well as a better, more modern and safer working environment are key to the viability and long-term prospect of this sustainable mode of transport in Europe.
However, the market alone cannot bear such a transformation, and no single company will be able to gather alone the necessary capital investments for such an endeavour, because it is first and foremost a European scale type of investment. Should social and economic benefits materialise, substantial public support is therefore urgently needed, especially for the introduction of the Digital Automatic Coupler (DAC) and its associated automation and digital technology.
We are fully committed to achieve the deployability of this technology through intensive testing campaigns and we are ready, under a clearly pre-defined EU strategy and with fulfilment of the below preconditions, to the successive deployment of DAC and its automation and digital technology at European scale. A challenge of this dimension would indeed require the support from the European Commission and the Members States, to ensure that all the necessary investments are properly coordinated and that obvious market failures are addressed by the policy-makers, such as the imbalanced distribution of costs and benefits among actors, and counter-balanced with appropriate funding and financing measures.
Read the full joint Position Paper :