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Tele-operated Systems for Rail Highways (Lot 1)

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Geo-spatial type
Infrastructure Node
Project Acronym
STAF (Lot 1)
STRIA Roadmaps
Connected and automated transport (CAT)
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Infrastructure (INF)
Transport mode
Rail icon
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

High fuel prices and general road congestion have made necessary the search for alternatives to long-distance road haulage. One of the solutions is the “rail highway” concept and the so-called Modalohr technique, which uses low articulated wagons for carrying standard road tractor-trailers. The freight journey is divided between rail transport and off/on loading. In this respect, the service quality and productivity of the offloading/on-loading phases are crucial determinant in the efficient transfer of road flows towards the rail highway.

In this setting, automation is a source of operation enhancement. However, not all operations are can be automated and human presence is necessary for several tasks: interface management between human and automated tasks can be problematic, reducing initial expected productivity gains. Therefore remote-operation could avoid this caveat by implementing man-machine cooperation, dividing tasks between the human operator and machines when necessary. The STAF project's ambition was to conceive, develop test and deploy a pilot remote-operated system for conveying tractor-trailers on Rail Highway terminals.


STAF’s general objectives were to develop and test: 

  • Tractor trailers specifically designed for rail/road terminals, simplified (no cabin), green (electrically powered), and remotely-operable.
  • An automatic de-coupling system for tractor-trailers.
  • The requisite infrastructure on ground (sensor network) and in air (data transmission).
  • The global command-control system and the associated HMI.

Within this general framework, STAF’s objectives address several stakeholder categories:

  1. For rail/road terminal operators: improving the terminal’s handling capacity without reducing quality of service, as well as enhancing productivity of the Rail Highway without degrading operators’ working conditions and safety.
  2. For rail infrastructure managers: improve the rail networks utilisation rate.
  3. For logistics players: share real-time information, and dispose of an information database on legal aspects.
  4. For road-haulage operators: improved market efficiency (e.g. delays), and improved driver safety.
  5. For the Community: contribute to modal transfer, road de-congestion and reduced pollution.

For STAF Lot 1, the object was to devise the functional specifications of remote-controlled operations, the object of STAF Lot 2 being the prototyping and field test.


The methodology for STAF Lot 1 was structured around the so-called "TST Approach" (Technologies – Societies – Territories). This approach considers that the success of an innovation not only depends on technical considerations, but also a wider range of social, economic, environmental, and regulatory factors. Therefore, STAF Lot 1 was divided into:

  • Supply analysis,
  • Demand analysis,
  • Functional specifications’ development.

In this setting, different actions were carried out:

  • Back-office data collection: bibliographical and Internet research on existing related studies, technical and economic documentation on the Modalohr technique.
  • Field data collection: interviews with stakeholders (operators, industrialists...).
  • Functional analysis: programme outline, studies on effort and movement and user sequences, legislation and norms’ referencing.
  • Detailed conception, using 2D and 3D tools,
  • Model and simulation of the system’s inter-relations and the associated physical and economic throughputs.     


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
(1) METLTM: Ministère de l'Equipement, des Transports, du Logement, du Tourisme et de la Mer (Ministry of Public Works, Transport, Housing, Tourism and the Sea), DRAST (Research Directorate)(2) Ministère Délégué à la Recherche et aux Nouvelles Technologies (Ministry for Research and New Technologies)
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


The main result of STAF Lot 1 is that there is a wide interest for a solution based on an automated and remotely-operable electric vehicle, with driver-assistance features allowing the operator to better envision the work sequences and optimise her work, thus doubling the workflows and shuttle pace, and increase productivity gains.

Moreover, such a system can allow for increased service capacity, while introducing scale economies on manpower costs and reducing maintenance costs on easier-to-use and simplified vehicles. Last, such a system can reduce the environmental impact of handling operations.

This result of STAF Lot 1 calls for developing a prototype and its implementation for field tests, in order to test and measure its concrete operational effectiveness.

Technical Implications

STAF Lot 1 was not technically oriented, as the prototyping and testing is to be carried out in the follow-up project STAF Lot 2.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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