GERMAN Rail (DB) and Stadler have agreed to jointly create digital twins of DB’s entire Flirt fleet, the first time a complete twin of each train in a fleet has been created. The project also breaks new ground as Stadler only maintains some trains in the fleet, with the rest maintained by DB itself.

The digital twin project will initially focus on the DB class 429.1 Flirt 3 series trains used for Southwest Express (SÜWEX) services in Rhineland-Palatinate, Hessen, parts of Baden-Württemberg and Saarland. A prototype is currently being equipped with the technology for recording and transmitting data, initially focusing on the train’s air-conditioning, doors and wheelsets

The digital twin is a virtual digital image which collects and reports data, which will be processed with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) to create a virtual representation of the train. The twin will eventually reflect the condition of the train’s mechanical and electrical systems as well as the status of its software. The first train should have a fully functional twin by the end of 2021.

DB and Stadler see the new cooperation as a potential model for other operators and manufacturers. For DB, the digital twin is seen as key to increasing fleet reliability, as it will enable predictive maintenance.

“The cooperation with Stadler is a big step for the digitalisation of rail operations,” says Ms Sabina Jeschke, DB Management Board member for digitalisation and technology. “We are showing that exchanging data with train manufacturers benefits both sides. It is primarily passengers that are helped by trains becoming more punctual and reliable.”