Automatic digital couplers by 2030
EU structures are working on a project that involves the mandatory introduction of automatic digital couplers (DAC) in the entire EU freight fleet by the end of 2030. These plans are met with strong opposition from railway carriers, pointing to insufficiently developed and non-universal technical solutions and the high cost of their implementation. The project could cost the industry up to 20 billion euros. It is reported by Railway Supply magazine with reference to Nakolei.
According to the authors of the DAC project, the technology is set to revolutionize European freight railways by accelerating the formation of trains and equipping them with digital information exchange systems. The EU’s plans, led by Europe’s Rail, call for DAC to be mandatory by 2030 – both in newly developed vehicles and in existing rolling stock – although the solution is still in the testing phase and the project is subject to many objections from industry representatives.
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Organizations representing railway carriers from Central Europe, including Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia, point to insufficient and superficial validation of the proposed DAC solutions. According to experts, the tests carried out so far do not provide a sufficiently long-term verification of a particular type of hitch in real operating conditions.
The financial side of the technology also raises concerns. Currently, the cost of one automatic coupler in the basic version is 15-20 thousand Euro. There are about 500,000 freight wagons in Europe, each requiring two couplers. Thus, the project will cost the industry 15-20 billion euros, and this amount does not include either the full functionality of the DAC, or the cost of modernization work.
Before making a decision to force the transition to DAC, industry representatives require guarantees of co-financing of these measures, determination of the volume and structure of equipping the rolling stock with new equipment, modernization or renewal of the fleet, as well as clear and uniform procedures for agreeing on the conversion of vehicles in the EU to eliminate the risk of reduction operating fleet of carriers. Otherwise, the project to improve the competitiveness of rail freight transport will lead to its reduction, and for many smaller carriers, these changes will mean the beginning of the end of activity.
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