FRENCH National Railways’ (SNCF) freight business Rail Logistics Europe will undertake trials in October of an automatic coupling developed under the Digital Automatic Coupling for Europe (DAC4EU) project.

The trials will be conducted with the assistance of DAC4EU and German Rail (DB), and will take place at Hausbergen marshalling yard in Strasbourg to test the operation of the coupling on the French railway network.

The DAC4EU consortium comprises DB and its subsidiary DB Cargo, Swiss and Austrian freight operators SBB Cargo and Rail Cargo Austria, and wagon leasing companies Ermewa, GATX Rail Europe and VTG. The programme was launched in 2020 and is funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Digitalisation and Transport (BMVI).

The project partners hope that the development of the new coupling, enabling wagons and their braking and data connections to be coupled and uncoupled automatically, will improve the productivity of marshalling yards and cross-border operations.

This should make rail freight more competitive with road and encourage modal shift to the benefit of the environment, while at the same time increasing the capacity of existing railway infrastructure by 10% to 15%.

“DAC is the major innovation that will be the game-changer for the European freight sector this decade,” says president of Rail Logistics Europe, Mr Frédéric Delorme. “Thanks to this technology, rail freight will become more competitive, safer, more efficient and thus more attractive to shippers. It is key driver of modal shift from road to rail and therefore of meeting European decarbonisation objectives.”