GERMAN Rail (DB) says it has launched the largest modernisation programme for its vehicle fleet to date, claiming that by 2030 the group will invest more than €19bn in new locomotives and trains.

DB made the announcement at the InnoTrans 2022 trade fair in Berlin, where the rail company also had exhibits of rolling stock showing what modern regional fleets and freight trains could soon look like.

“We are now investing in the trains of the future,” said CEO of DB, Dr Richard Lutz. “With the record sum of more than €19bn, we are creating the capacity for even higher demand. Modern vehicles not only make the railways more climate-friendly, but also more reliable and customer-friendly.”

Among the exhibits was a prototype double-deck coach developed in collaboration with the state of Bavaria and Bavarian Railways (BEG). The coach is designed to test new seating concepts for both first and second class travel and innovative passenger information screens with several different types installed. The train has 5G mobile communications, special window glass to improve mobile reception, and three types of USB plugs.

The vehicle’s separate office cabins with wall-mounted desk space, and by contrast a spacious family area, are cited by DB as examples of how travelling in regional transport is becoming even more comfortable and customers can make even better use of their time on board. Also in the area of long-distance transport, DB is expanding its ICE fleet with the new ICE L. DB is expecting three new ICE trains every month in 2023, and by 2030 this fleet will grow to around 450 trains.

“What began with innovative ideas and a vision will in future be experienced very closely by our travellers in everyday life,” says DB member of the management board of for regional transport, Ms Evelyn Palla. “Whether you’re in the office cubicle or in the family compartment - with our new offer we will ensure more comfort, more information and more quality. A train of ideas has become a real train of the future.”

One of the DB "freight train of the future" wagons fitted with digital automatic couplers (DACs) on display at the InnoTrans 2022 event in Berlin. Picture: Simon Artymiuk/IRJ

The freight train of the future that DB Cargo presented at InnoTrans is designed to be more climate-friendly than any currently in operation - even counting those running on electrified routes. Freight wagons are to become more modular and extremely flexible, and the aim is that the digital automatic coupling - currently being tested - will become the new backbone of the freight train, not only making the operation of forming trains faster but also adding a new dimension to the supply chain on rails by enabling through power and live data monitoring capabilities. Thanks to the m2 freight car system developed by DB, wagons can be adapted more quickly to the needs of customers.

“The new m2 wagons can be used flexibly and modularly for different goods,” says board member for freight transport at DB, Dr Sigrid Nikutta. “There is a wagon platform available in different lengths so different structures can be placed on it for transport. If we combine this train with digital automatic couplers, that can be a decisive lever to get more goods onto climate-friendly rail, which can then become finite in capacity.” 

Another novelty at InnoTrans was the DB Cargo dual-powered locomotive, which was being presented for the first time and can be operated with both green electricity and climate-friendly biofuel. They are used over long distances as well as over shorter distances or in shunting operations. 

Wagons on the InnoTrans 2022 DB freight train of the future connected up using digitial automatic couplers (DACs). Picture: Simon Artymiuk/IRJ

DB says it is solving the future challenge of getting more trains on the rails while at the same time aiming to become more punctual and reliable with digitisation and new technologies. In its test train, the advanced TrainLab, DB showed how knowledge from 180 years of railway history is being combined with the latest research. The TrainLab makes it possible, for example, to test mobile phone-permeable window panes, climate-friendly fuel, and sensors for the digitisation of trains and rails.

“The mobility of the future is digital, convenient and climate-friendly,” says DB board member for digitisation and technology, Dr Daniela Gerd tom Markotten. “With innovations and modern technologies, we can set new standards for more capacity, quality and flexibility. It’s about convincing more and more people and companies with a high-performance railway.”

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