IN less than a year after the official launch of Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking, the partnership has kicked-off the first phase of its activities with six large rail research and innovation Flagship Projects (FP) worth more than €550m, involving more than 200 entities. These FPs, under the Innovation Pillar, will help to deliver interoperable, reliable, efficient and competitive railway services in the European Union (EU). Key results from the projects are expected by 2026, feeding the next phases of the partnership’s activities.

The six Phase 1 projects jointly look at the long-term strategic changes needed to satisfy customer requirements and operational needs defined within the System Pillar, delivering the performance and capacity required by clients.

While the objective of the Innovation Pillar is to research, design, create, validate and demonstrate innovative technological and operational solutions via the FPs, the System Pillar looks to deliver the future concepts of operation and the underpinning system architecture necessary for the rail system to evolve with a modular approach and provide confidence in investment.

The FPs will provide solutions for traffic management, vehicles, infrastructure and services, aimed at achieving faster uptake and deployment of innovations. The new FPs will exploit the immense potential for digitalisation and automation to reduce rail’s lifecycle costs, increase capacity and enhance flexibility and reliability, benefitting from the results of the predecessor Shift2Rail programme.

FPs will also directly contribute to the EU’s objectives, including the European Green Deal, the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy and the Fit for 55 Package. With these new projects, Europe’s Rail will not only facilitate research and innovation to deliver an integrated European railway network, but will also deliver a sustainable and resilient railway by developing zero-emission, climate-resilient infrastructure. Strong emphasis will also be placed on rail freight and intermodal services to deliver green freight, with the Digital Automated Coupler (DAC) as a key technical enabler, fully integrated in the logistics value chain and utilising the potential of automation and digitalisation.

The Flagship Projects, funded under Europe’s Rail, will bring together the entire European rail sector and will encourage a major transformation by encouraging an integrated system approach covering network management, automation and digitalisation of rail operation, sustainable and resilient systems, rail freight as part of the supply chain and regional and branch lines.

Flagship Project 1: Motional

FP1 Motional, worth €92.6m with 88 partners, will address network management planning and control. The project will facilitate the implementation of a railway digital enabler and digital twin environment, where all digital elements can interact symbiotically in a coherent and interoperable way.

By 2026, FP1 Motional will improve rail network strategic and tactical planning, integrate planning systems and processes, including cross-border planning, and support timetable optimisation.

Increased resilience of a connected real-time rail network will be at the core of the project. It will focus on integrating Traffic Management Systems (TMS) and processes including cross border, as well as improving disruption management at the European level. Linking TMS to ATO/C-DAS for optimised operations will be researched with a focus on automated decision making and decision support for traffic management optimisation. The project will also help to integrate rail with other transport modes to develop door-to-door services.

Flagship Project 2: R2Dato

FP2 R2Dato, worth €160.8m with 76 partners, will help to deliver digital and automated rail operation up to fully autonomous train operations. The objective is to deliver the next generation of European automated train control (ATC) system and scalable automation in train operation to optimise operation and increase capacity.

The project will demonstrate enablers such as ATO GoA 3/4 over mixed radio-based ETCS levels, hybrid Level 3, moving block and the Train Integrity Monitoring System (TIMS), connectivity, perception, train positioning, automated functions and digital register. It will also demonstrate remote driving and command in depots and yards. FP2 R2Dato will also develop the next generation ATC, with modular onboard and trackside ATC architectures, at proof-of-concept stage, in close collaboration with the Europe’s Rail System Pillar.

By 2026, FP2 R2Dato aims to develop a proof-of-concept and validation in the laboratory and in the field for virtual coupling, self-driving wagons, autonomous path allocation, and validation and certification. It will also demonstrate a functional open coupling system prototype and a modular hardware platform using architectural software design patterns and methods.

Flagship Project 3: Iam4Rail

FP3 Iam4Rail, worth €106.9m with 94 partners, will aim to deliver holistic and integrated asset management for both infrastructure and rolling stock. It will be based on the latest technologies and concepts to minimise asset life-cycle costs and extend life.

One of the main focal points of FP3 until 2026 will be the integration of asset condition information into the traffic management system, enabling optimisation of train routing decisions and improving the overall life cycle of monitored assets. Additionally, on board and wayside technologies will be designed, tested and validated for intelligent rolling stock asset management solutions.

FP3 will address long-term maintenance and costs, track systems, innovative multi-purpose Intelligent Asset Management System (IAMS) starting with the prototypes developed in Shift2Rail technical demonstrators on infrastructure applications and assets such as structures, earthworks and geotechnics. FP3 Iam4Rail will also investigate the use and implementation of digital twins’ across the rail system.

In addition, the project will create robotic platforms for railway interventions, exoskeletons and augmented reality solutions to support railway maintenance.

Flagship Project 4: Rail4Earth

FP4 Rail4Earth, worth €95.1m with 71 partners, will address the sustainability goals of European railways by developing innovative solutions and services based on leading edge technologies to reduce rail’s energy and resource consumption and environmental impact.

By 2026, the project will investigate the alternatives to diesel rolling stock, with a focus on high performance battery-powered regional trains and hydrogen hybrid locomotives, leveraging the cooperation already established by the EU’s Clean Hydrogen and Batt4EU battery initiatives. Attention will also be paid to energy consumption in rail infrastructure and stations, including hydrogen refuelling, smart low consumption electrical infrastructure with local renewable energy sources, ground energy storage and smart stations.

To aid rail’s effort to become more resilient to climate change and natural disasters, FP4 Rail4Earth will develop components to minimise noise and vibrations. FP4 will also develop air-less solutions, such as electro-mechanical braking systems, optimised motors and gearboxes, heating ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems using green refrigerants or new cooling technologies, including contaminant removal and aerodynamic optimisation. To improve the attractiveness of train interiors, elements such as access, lighting, thermal and acoustic comfort will be improved, together with the ability to adapt rolling stock interiors to increase capacity.

Rail freight

Flagship Project 5: Trans4M-R

FP5 Trans4M-R, worth €95.1m with 71 partners, aims to transform European rail freight. FP5 Trans4M-R will bring together end-users, industry and train operators, covering the entire value chain to deliver fully digital freight train operation by developing interoperable DAC-enabled technologies and applications.

A major focus of FP5 Trans4M-R is to develop a fully digital freight train with DAC types 4 and 5 by 2026. These will include energy and data supply, hybrid couplers and automated brake tests. Distributed power and electro-pneumatic braking will also be developed for further demonstrations in 2027 and 2030.

FP5 Trans4M-R will also help to develop systems and solutions for automated shunting, real-time data management and processing to improve cross-border timetable planning, timetable management and train path ordering. In addition, FP5 will develop standardised railway checkpoints to automate handover controls and dynamic yard/terminal management systems.

Flagship Project 6: Future

FP6 Future, worth €32.9m with 71 partners, will propose initiatives to revitalise and ensure the long-term viability of regional railways by reducing capital and operating costs. FP6 Future also aims to improve booking and ticketing solutions in an integrated mobility service, to make regional services more attractive.

FP6 Future will demonstrate a single integrated operations control centre covering interlockings, radio block and traffic management for regional lines that are not connected with main lines. In collaboration with FP2 R2Dato, FP6 Future will demonstrate a simple on-track radio network using the latest communication technology applications to minimise civil works and energy consumption.

FP6 Future will propose an application for traffic management systems to optimise regional train operation. The project will investigate the use of cost-efficient wireless, energy self-sufficient wayside components, such as Control Command and Signalling (CCS) trackside, as well as addressing track vacancy detection and signalling.

FP6 Future will seek to integrate on-board information systems to aid multi-modal services such as car sharing. The project will address passenger congestion rate monitoring, flow optimisation and a low-cost passenger information system for regional services.

More information on the six flagship projects will be available in future on Europe’s Rail website, together with a timeline for the first results.