GERMAN Rail (DB) has announced it will use 150 pop-up workshops to prepare its freight wagon fleet for the introduction of digital automatic couplers (DAC), beginning from next year.

DB says 500,000 freight wagons across Europe will need to be equipped with DAC by 2030. DB Cargo therefore intends to make all of its wagons “DAC-ready” as part of their normal maintenance schedule from 2023.

The retrofitting of DAC to vehicles will be carried out in DB’s own maintenance depots and using “pop-up workshops” - portable maintenance tents set up close to where the wagons are actually used - in order to limit the amount of time that vehicles are unavailable.

A side view of two DB wagons coupled together using the DAC system. Picture: Simon Artymiuk/IRJ

DB says that while the conversion process is underway, measures will need to be in place to ensure that operations continue despite there being two incompatible coupling systems - screw couplers and DAC - in use.

“Test runs through Europe have proven that digital automatic coupling works in practice,” says DB board member for freight transport, Dr Sigrid Nikutta. ”The next step is to find solutions for installing DAC in freight wagons quickly and efficiently. We have shown that it can be done with our innovative approach of using pop-up workshops. In just a few steps we can convert an analogue freight wagon into a smart, digital one. The mobile workshops will allow us to make thousands of freight wagons fit for the digital future in a short span of time.”

DB Cargo has completed practical test of the DAC at Bremen, finding that it speeds up shunting, increases capacity at transhipment yards and boosts the capacity of existing rail infrastructure. Retrofitting wagons with DAC means that wagons can also be equipped with continuous power and data lines, many for the first time.

A detailed overview of the next steps for the DAC rollout will appear in the November issue of IRJ, as part of the InnoTrans 2022 review.