By operating faster, longer and heavier trains, the freight rail service will be more effective. The European manufacturing and logistics industry will derive substantial service and costs benefits from this innovative business approach.
The MARATHON objective is to increase rail network capacity by: (i) lengthening the trains, (ii) increasing the total trains weight and (iii) increasing the train commercial speed. The project is founded on:
- rail freight capacity generation;
- increase of commercial speed leading to better service;
- traffic bundling for economies of scale;
- and operating costs reduction.
The costs reduction is a direct effect of "transporting more with less resources". The improvement of service performance is achieved through technology innovations, better management systems and operating controls.
Summarised, the aim is to extract the maximum productivity from the existing rail infrastructure for producing efficiency, reducing operating costs and attracting new traffic to rail.
The consortium consists of 16 partners. The project is due to run for 36 months. MARATHON is broken up into several work packages. Each work package ("WP") has a manager who is responsible for coordinating the activities of the respective work package. The work packages are as follows:
- WP1: Market Uptake;
- WP2: The Specifications and Systems Architecture;
- WP3: The Application of Technologies;
- WP4: Business Case Simulation and Evaluation;
- WP5: The Pilot Test;
- WP6: Dissemination and Knowledge Transfer;
- WP70: Administrative and Financial Coordination;
- WP71: Technical Coordination;
- WP72: Quality Management;
Shifting to rail via longer freight trains
The successful testing of a 1 500-m-long freight train marked the start of a completely new era in European freight transport. The test was a major step toward a more competitive rail freight industry with more efficient rail operation and decreased costs.
Longer, faster and heavier trains will attract more traffic to the railways, leading to less congestion and carbon dioxide emissions. Up to now, European infrastructure constraints and increasing passenger traffic have limited the size of freight trains.
The EU-funded project http://www.marathon-project.eu/ (MARATHON) (Make rail the hope for protecting nature) developed new technologies allowing operators to run longer trains and ensuring safety and compliance with the rules.
MARATHON enabled lengthening of trains by merging two trains running in the same direction, with the second train locomotive in the middle of the newly formed train. The slave locomotive was operated via a state-of-the-art wireless radio solution connected to the lead locomotive.
New braking technology minimising derailment risk was developed, while computerised interface managed signals between the lead and slave locomotives. Two antennas were mounted on the two locomotives that were capable of capturing the radio signals in open environments such as narrow valleys, village crossings and forests, or in tunnels.
The project's trains eliminate the need for investments in new rail infrastructure, recording savings of up to 30 % in the transportation costs of freight. The coupled trains use only 20 % more network capacity than a classical train, while being able to carry twice the payload. In addition, one driver is required for their control.
MARATHON demonstrated that its trains can be produced using both diesel and electric traction locomotives. A second MARATHON test took place operating a diesel locomotive that had a total length of 1 524 m – the longest freight train in Europe.
The project team included all the operational and safety procedures in a handbook for future reference and for training purposes. Additionally, a technical recommendation document was issued for submission to the competent European authorities. A final MARATHON project book, called 'The MARATHON 1500m train opening up new horizons in rail freight transport in Europe', was printed for dissemination purposes.