THE DIGITAL AUTOMATIC COUPLER (DAC) IS A FUNDAMENTAL BUILDING BLOCK AND MILESTONE FOR THE GROWTH OF RAIL FREIGHT TRANSPORT THROUGHOUT EUROPE!
In the history of freight cars, screw couplings have been used exclusively ever since. In this process, a shackle weighing approx. 20 kg has to be placed on the hooks of two wagons so that the two wagons can then be connected to each other by turning a screw thread of the couplings. The air lines for brakes as well as power and data bus lines are then coupled by hand. Thanks to the DAK, freight cars are now automatically connected to each other without the need for manual work by the shunting personnel. At the same time, all the necessary connections are also coupled together.
By 2030, all trains in Europe are to be equipped with a DAK. This is the demand of a joint charter of industry players. The goal of the charter: By 2030 at the latest, freight cars throughout Europe should be able to couple automatically, freight trains should be completely digitized and digitally networked from locomotive to last car.
The industry believes that Digital Automatic Coupling is the most important component of an automation and digitization of rail freight transport. The DAK is intended to create faster and more efficient processes. To achieve this, the charter presents three core demands:
Accelerate development phase
The development phase is already underway and is being driven by a variety of projects from stakeholders in the sector. The signatories of the charter call for greater political commitment to further accelerate the development phase and thus quickly move into widespread implementation.
Securing funding for a Europe-wide rollout
Across Europe, around 450,000 freight cars will have to be retrofitted and equipped with the new coupler technology. It is not only the scale of this task that poses a challenge to the industry, but also the associated costs of up to ten billion euros that will be incurred by the sector. Support programs to finance DAK investments are therefore called for.
Establish a European roadmap for DAK migration
To successfully introduce DAK, clear political guidelines and the creation of framework conditions for the migration process are needed. Timeframes for implementation and specifications for technical standards are needed. To ensure that the nationwide introduction of the DAK is successful, a clear changeover date is required.
For a DAK, a distinction can be made between 5 levels. Stage 0 would be the current screw coupling. From stage 3, however, it is only possible to speak of a functioning automatic coupling, as this is the first time that a power line is also coupled. A level 4 DAK, which is to be introduced in Europe, can couple the air, power and data bus lines in addition to the actual coupling of the cars, has an electropneumatic brake (ep brake) and can uncouple partially automatically.
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