A sustainable and efficient freight transport in Europe plays a vital role in having a successful and competitive economy. Freight transport is expected to grow by some 50% (in tonne-kilometres) by 2020. However rail has, in many areas, been displaced from a dominant position as road transport services have grown and developed in capability and levels of sophistication that have not been matched by rail service providers.
The SUSTRAIL project aims to contribute to the rail freight system to allow it to regain position and regain market. The proposed solution is based on a combined improvement in both freight vehicle and track components in a holistic approach aimed at achieving a higher reliability and increased performance of the rail freight system as a whole and profitability for all the stakeholders.
The SUSTRAIL integrated approach is based on innovations in rolling stock and freight vehicles (with a targeted increased in speed and axle-load) combined with innovations in the track components (for higher reliability and reduced maintenance), whose benefits to freight and passenger users (since mixed routes are considered) are quantified through the development of an appropriate business case with estimation of cost savings on a life cycle basis. In fact, a holistic approach to vehicle and track sustainability has to be taken, since improvements in track design and materials alone are not enough as demands on the rail system increase.
Contributions from the different topic areas (vehicles, track, operations) will be demonstrated on real routes, offering geographic dispersion as well as differences in type, speed,and frequency of traffic.
A strong multidisciplinary consortium committed to concrete actions aligned toward a common outcome has been grouped for the achievement of the challenging objectives of the project with a balanced combination of infrastructure managers, freight operators and industry, including large and small enterprises, with support from academia.
Upgrading European rail freight
An EU team has contributed to modernising Europe's rail freight system via efficient new designs for tracks and vehicles. Four sets of candidate lightweight train technologies have been considered, plus the project designed new low-maintenance tracks.
Europe's economy depends on an efficient rail freight system. However, in recent years, usage of transportation has overtaken rail, thus rail must evolve to regain its former dominance.
The EU-funded http://www.sustrail.eu (SUSTRAIL) project aimed to initiate a new rail era by designing novel freight vehicles that utilise lightweight materials. Secondly, the project planned to develop new track infrastructure, involving optimised track geometry plus ground stabilisation and innovative monitoring techniques. The developments should improve rail freight efficiency and reliability, while reducing maintenance frequency and costs. The 31-member consortium ran over 4 years, concluding in May 2015.
Work to the end of the project's third year focused on identification and assessment of the proposed innovations. Initially, researchers benchmarked the technical and economic state of the current system. Furthermore, the team prepared new track design specifications that match requirements and address the performance of future vehicles. The resulting description supported key decisions regarding future systems.
The consortium reviewed four key train technology sectors. The candidate solutions were assessed and compared with reference to potential implementation in the SUSTRAIL prototype.
Group members also investigated a sustainable track design, intended to yield a low-maintenance track concept. The project defined a set of critical parameters to help determine the track modifications necessary for new freight vehicles and increased freight traffic. Following a Failure Mode and Effects analysis, a set of track innovations have been selected. The costs and benefits were being evaluated as of year four.
The SUSTRAIL project yielded innovative concepts for rail freight vehicles and tracks. The developments were expected to improve rail efficiency and lower costs.