ERRAC says the projects are required to maximise European railways’ contribution to meeting emerging mobility needs, strengthening green freight, and exploring new solutions such as automation, digital twins and smart asset management.

The council says the European rail sector is committed to changing the rail freight system, including improving integration with other modes in order to become the backbone of Europe’s mobility and the logistic chain.

SRIA also anticipates a new paradigm for sustainable multimodal passenger journeys. ERRAC says the research programme will look at ways rail can reduce inner-city congestion and pollution, while maintaining a multimodal system that adequately and equally serves metropolises, conurbations and their surrounding regions.

Railway networks must be made intelligent, SRIA says, in order to optimise the use of existing systems and increase capacity and flexibility. These developments will use autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), made possible by focusing on new telecommunications infrastructure that makes the best use of 5G technology or satellite communication.

A system vision in the SRIA sets out a framework of what is wanted through a system pillar, while the transforming projects, which will deliver the vision, will be developed within an innovation pillar.

ERRAC says the two pillars are intrinsically linked and mutually supportive, with the outputs of the innovation pillar providing the technical and operational means to enable the future railway envisioned by the system pillar, which will also ensure that the overall system-level arrangements and robust delivery mechanisms are in place.

The system pillar will focus on:

  • capturing and defining the general vision and target requirements for the railway system architecture while coordinating existing initiatives
  • ensuring the synchronised delivery of user and interface specifications for all required parts
  • defining a smooth transition path from the current situation towards the goal outlined in the vision
  • preparing the operational rules adapted to the new architecture, and
  • examining the business case for innovations and their socio-economic impact.

The innovation pillar will produce solutions directed at three targets, through the related transforming projects.

First, the railway sector and stakeholders will need to deliver new services, which place rail as the main mode for attractive multi-modal journeys through:

  • smart integration for railways within door-to-door mobility, and
  • rail becoming the backbone of a green freight logistic chain.

Secondly, the sector will transform its internal processes and optimise operations in order to exploit its genuine network advantages by embracing digitalisation and automation offering:

  • a connected and open rail framework for European mobility
  • network management planning and control, and
  • environmentally-friendly and attractive sustainable mobility.

Third, the sectonr will research and reveal innovative assets that have the potential to create capabilities for the railways that are not possible today:

  • assets for automated, autonomous, or remotely-piloted operations
  • smart asset management and maintenance
  • non-traditional and emerging transport models and systems, and
  • railway digital twin, simulation and virtualisation.

“Rail has already demonstrated it can safely transport goods and passengers in the most environmentally friendly manner, thanks to technology and innovation,” says Mr Alberto Parrondo, ERRAC chair and Thales vice-president. “It has also demonstrated it can simultaneously create value and industrial jobs throughout Europe, exporting freight produced in our factories, and help preserve our planet for future generations.

“Rail has demonstrated it can satisfy the mobility needs of freight and passengers, can accommodate capacity growth and can deliver large transformation programmes. The sector is rich in ideas to make effective use of technology and innovation.”

The SRIA can be found here.