Product quality and digitalization


Digital Rail for Germany

Digitalization, automation and artificial intelligence are the key to greater capacity and an optimal utilization of the rail network. The vision of Digital Rail for Germany (Digitale Schiene Deutschland; DSD) comprises a digital, highly automated railway system. Digital interlockings (DSTW), the Euro­pean Train Control System (ETCS) and Automatic Train Operation (ATO) come together to form the basis of this vision.

The implementation of the DSD initiative started in 2020. As part of the launch package, the concrete planning and installation of ETCS and digital interlockings has begun in the context of the Stuttgart Digital Hub (Digitaler Knoten Stuttgart; DKS), the Cologne — Rhine/Main high-speed line and the ability to traverse the Trans-European Scandinavia — ­ Mediterranean corridor (ScanMed). Stuttgart will be the first region in Germany to receive the digital train control and interlocking technology. However, equipping the track infrastructure alone is not enough. In order to support the corresponding refitting of vehicles, the BMDV has published a vehicle funding directive for the affected vehicles in the DKS, meaning that the vehicle equipment (regional transport and S-Bahn (metro) multiple units) could begin in 2022. A total of 333 vehicles have been retrofitted for ETCS and ATO.

In the first half-year of 2023, the development project ­Sensors ­4 Rail (S 4 R) was successfully completed. The follow-­­up project Automated Train will replace S 4 R: within the next three years, for the first time we will see fully automated, driv­­­erless provision and stabling runs, which will result in a more flexible use of trains in the railway system of the future. The project will include the fully automated assembly and dismantling of the train. Moreover, sensor-based obstacle de­­­tection will be used to demonstrate an intervention in the vehicle control, i.e. by using intelligent software combined with sensors at the front of the train, it will be able to recog­nize the environment and respond (brake inde­­pendent­­­­­ly if obstacles are detected. The Federal Ministry of Econom­­ics and Climate Protection is spon­soring the project with € 42.6 million.

The roll-out schedule is currently being further developed taking into consideration clearly defined equipment priorities. An early increase in capacity is to be realized by prioritizing the equipping of associated transport corridors, with obsolescence and operational concerns to be taken into account and the equipping of the basic infrastructure being started in advance. Observing the general modernization of the high-performance network is also included in the DSD roll-out plan. The digitalization of the rail network on the high-­performance corridors is therefore being carried out at pace.

DSD is a major lever for advances in Germany’s transition to more sustainable mobility. In the middle of July, the respective ETCS equipment strategy up to 2028 was published on the DB Netz AG Web site under the Network Statement 2023. The published content provides details about the planned equipping of the lines with ETCS, ATO and the Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS). Simultaneously, the class-B systems intermittent automatic train control and the linear train control for DB Netz AG lines will be decommissioned by December 2028. The published route-specific commissioning and decommissioning data is based on the provision that the necessary means of financing are provided in the Federal budget.

Digital transformation

Digitalization is a success factor for the transformation towards a robust, efficient, state-of-the-art railway for our customers. For more quality and performance, we need a networked interaction in a digital overall system. Our vision is to create a digital railway. This means using integrated and all-embracing digitalization to bring about a networked overall system.

In order to ensure the completeness and suitability of activities relating to digital transformation in rail operations, the Digital Production Network (DPV) project unit was created in October 2022. In 2023, we are aiming to further build on the successes of the DPV and expand the portfolio of measures. Some projects that are already contributing toward a lasting increase in capacity, quality and efficiency are:

  • Artificial intelligence in scheduling: For the Stuttgart, Rhine-Main and Munich S-Bahn (metro) trains, AI is already used to support the dispatchers in controlling traffic as efficiently as possible in the event of a disruption. In 2023 the scope of functionalities shall be further developed and the technologies rolled out to include more S-Bahn (metro) trains as well as mixed traffic networks.
  • Automatic over-run measurement systems for maintenance: By using an automated over-run measurement system for maintenance, all wheel sets are measured ­automatically as they drive into the workshops. By the end of 2023, the number of automated over-run measurement systems will increase to 15 systems. All DB Long-­Distance depots and almost all S-Bahn (metro) trains at DB Regional will then have this state-of-the-art system, which significantly reduces manual labor and working hours.

With initiatives such as digital maintenance and the use of AI in the railway system, we are mutually forging ahead with the digitalization of the railway and joining forces in the use of new technologies to achieve a sustainable increase in capacity, quality and efficiency. Digitalization also counteracts impending shortage of skilled workers: alongside the loss of manual activities due to the automation of processes, intelligent planning and control of the use of employees and assets can be provided in a more efficient manner, and staff productivity can be increased with the support of digital assistance systems.

An example of this is the AI-based material identification for maintenance. The high heterogeneity in the vehicle fleet leads to time-consuming and in some cases incorrect identification in the maintenance plants. The unique identification number of the materials is essential for reliable maintenance. Together in the Integrated Rail System, an AI-based application has been developed that supports our employees by automatically detecting materials to facilitate their identification. The digital assistant helps employees to search for and identify materials so that more time can be spent carrying out the actual maintenance tasks. The application is currently being rolled out in the DB Cargo, DB Regional, DB Netze Track and DB Vehicle Maintenance business units, where around 12,000 employees will be using the application by the end of 2023.

Artificial intelligence in rail operations

DB Group is expanding the use of AI for the scheduling of trains. Rail operations are to become more punctual thanks to a tool developed in-house. The program supports dispatchers in efficiently controlling traffic and avoiding delays.

The tool is already being used for the Stuttgart, Rhine-Main and Munich S-Bahn (metro) trains. In 2022, a total of 58,000 minutes of delays were avoided in these areas. The AI will be introduced on the Berlin S-Bahn (metro) trains in the second half of 2023. We expect the system to help us avoid approximately 90,000 minutes of delays across Germany in 2023. 2024 the tool is also to be used in the Hamburg S-Bahn (metro) trains network. This means that in future all five of Germany’s S-Bahn (metro) train lines will be supported by AI.

The tool is currently also being tested on the line between Elmshorn and Sylt. In this section, the AI is operating for the first time outside the closed S-Bahn (metro) train system and must therefore handle mixed traffic networks, namely cargo, local and long-distance transport trains. If these tests run successfully, the next step will see the system used on the highly utilized line between Mannheim and Basel.

DB Cargo launches a nationwide diagnostic service for freight cars using AI software. High-resolution images from 13 camera bridges at eight DB Cargo locations provide information on damage and load securing on freight trains. This allows irregularities to be rectified at an early stage and more freight cars to be put into service.

Where would you most likely position yourself?How do you like our digital report?Thank you for your participation!

Where do you see room for improvement?

Sustainability indices

Filter report by: