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Development of business units

Digitalization and innovation

  • With m²system, DB Cargo offers an innovative freight car system. In 2020, DB Cargo along with the railway freight car lessor VTG constructed a modular and multifunctional carrier car that offers new opportunities for vehicle design. Different containers and superstructures have been developed to match the m² carrier car. The aim is to adapt the cars to customer needs more quickly and in a more tailored way, thereby achieving greater flexibility. The m²system is unique in Europe. DB Cargo’s single-wagon-­capable freight car system has been fully approved since June 2021. Since then, DB Cargo has been driving the market launch. The market launch of the first pre-produc­tion series for various types of goods is partly funded by the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (Bundes­ministerium für Digitales und Verkehr; BMDV) program Future of Rail Freight Transport. The coil, scrap and timber applications were technically validated by November 2021, the first cars were delivered and tested for customer use by March 2022. Capital expenditures in climate-friendly and modern technology are shaping the new face of rail freight transport – green cargo. This is also the case with the m²-coil-scrap concept: a logistical solution for steel industry cycles. m² transports coils from the steelworks to the automobile manufacturer and takes steel waste products back to the steelworks for recycling. The containers can be handled by crane and truck – ideal for intermodal transport in single wagons. This gives customers without sidings access to rail. m² thus gets more goods onto eco-friendly rail.
  • Digital automatic coupling (DAC) (2021 Integrated Report) is one of the most important innovations for a green transport transition. The research project DAC4EU, which has received € 13 million in financing from the BMDV, has been running since June 2020. Thanks to the ongoing process tests, the DAC demonstration train is now making significant headway in the second phase of the project: in shunting operations under realistic conditions and on various routes in Germany and Europe. The DAC was presented to representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Federal Government and the industry together with SNCF in Strasbourg on June 7, 2022. DAC technology enables a continuous electricity and data supply to the trains. It provides the basis for the automation of further processes and is a platform for the automation of train composition and dispatching. In this way, the DAC creates process buffers, reduces the cost per unit and increases availability through data-based control. In addition, the DAC is a prerequisite for ETCS Level 31, enables longer, heavier, faster freight trains and accelerates train handling. This enables the existing infrastructure to accommodate more trains and makes capacity increases possible. DAC also enables the elimination of complex manual processes at customers’ and freight forwarders’ premises. These are the prerequisites for better shipment transparency and significantly higher flexibility and reliability of the transport chains in rail freight transport. The most important prerequisites for the successful implementation of this digitalization and automation of rail transport in Europe are a uniform European standard, viable promotion and financing of the introduction of DAC and the smooth conversion of freight cars and traction units in Europe without any major impact on customers. Important steps on the way to promoting and financing the introduction of DAC are the European Cost-Benefit Calculation for DAC and the European Investment Plan for DAC, both of which are currently being developed at the European level.
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