Revitalising the European rail sector

The European Rail Research Advisory Council discusses its three-year rail research roadmapping project ERRAC ROADMAP

The European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC) is a European Technology Platform and an advisory body to the European Commission representing Member States and all stakeholders in the sector. One of the main tasks of ERRAC is to advise the European Commission on the research needs of European rail stakeholders gathered in the platform. It has in the past developed a ‘Strategic Rail Research Agenda’ to inform on the planning of research programmes across the EU (ERRAC SRRA 2020).
Current activities of ERRAC focus on concrete and detailed roadmaps on common European R&D to implement the ERRAC Strategic Rail Research Agenda (SRRA). Officially the ERRAC-ROADMAPS project started on 1 June 2009. However, things started rolling soon after the submission of the project proposal for the 2nd Call for Proposals of the 7th Framework Program for Research of the European Commission and Work Package teams for the future project were formed.
The first task these WP teams set themselves was to prepare their contribution to the content, topics and topic descriptions for the 3rd FP7 Call for Proposals inline with the future roadmaps.
In December 2008, ERRAC, through its provisional Roadmap WP teams, sent the European Commission its recommendations for railway research priorities and the Commission took them into account in the published FP7 3rd call in July 2009, the new ROADMAP formula gathering the European rail stakeholders in ERRAC was shown to be a success.
Following the Call for Proposals, ERRAC has facilitated the forming of some of the proposals and has followed those that we knew were being prepared. Forming consortia were advised to use the “EU project checklist”, which was developed by the ERRAC Evaluation Working Group, in their proposal preparation. This list is based upon an ongoing ERRAC process of evaluating the impact or “market uptake” of EU-funded rail research projects and considers all factors that can have a negative or positive effect on the success of a project.
Fulfilling its advisory role towards the Commission ERRAC also submitted in December 2009 the sector research priorities for the FP7 4th call, expected to be published in June/July 2010.
To better respond to the FP 7 Work Programs, the six main priorities in the updated SRRA have been translated into the EC priorities for Transport Research, adding an Evaluation and Rail research Database and a Management WP, resulting in the following six working packages.

Going green

Work Package 1 – The greening of surface transport, led by Christophe Cheron (SNCF) and co-led by Manfred Walter (Knorr Bremse), intends to provide three contributions to this large roadmap process. The first contribution will be an energy roadmap followed by a strategy for noise and vibration mitigation and finally a concept for optimised recycling and environmentally friendly products.
The railway system will be significantly affected by the impact of climate change, with increases in temperatures leading to more severe operating conditions. However, the environmental benefits of rail in a European transport environment driven by carbon trading will foster political expectations that rail will take a much higher share of passenger and freight transportation than at present. Furthermore, even though the railway is the most energy-efficient and green transport mode, research is needed on energy efficiency and eco-design to further improve the performance of rail in a context where energy resources are getting scarce and legislation on emissions stricter.
Control of exhaust emissions (e.g. particulate generation and propagation in diesel mode) and the necessary reduction of dependence on fossil fuels (e.g. use of bio-fuels of 2nd generation) will therefore be examined. Furthermore, despite electric propulsion being environmentally friendly due to very efficient electric motors and the fact that eco-energy can be used, the way in which energy is lost in the infrastructure, the rolling stock, the interfaces of the system and how these losses could be saved or how energy could be temporarily stored to maximise the global efficiency will also be examined.
As regards noise and vibration mitigation, these have to be considered in a system and holistic approach to reduce emissions and external perceived noise levels. Much has been done but the research efforts should go on by reducing noise from individual sources (freight trains, diesel engines, etc.), or developing technologies for active noise and vibration control. Software tools will assist the development of methods to reduce noise at source, to derive technologies and to enhance system assessment and decision-making processes.
Last but not least, becoming greener means that the overall railway life cycle and especially elimination of materials with a negative environmental impact should also be considered. Measures such as closed cycle waste management systems for a high level of recycling, historical legacy of old infrastructure (creosote sleepers), greener land use, pollution from the rail sources (chemical treatment against shrubberies) and the emissions of electromagnetic waves will thus be considered.

Flexible supply chains
WP02 – Encouraging modal shift (long distance) and decongesting transport corridors, led by Bo Olsson (Banverket) aims to identify research that can promote efficient supply chains that are more flexible in responding to customer demands. The objective is to achieve a seamless door-to-door transport for goods with the use of technologies, systems, processes, equipments and business cases capable of ensuring effective intermodality. This broad scope allows identification and prioritisation of knowledge gaps to be researched in order to integrate the railways, co-modality, into an effective European freight logistics system meeting market demand and the need of society at large, ensuring rail freight business moves towards achieving the declared ERRAC objectives of doublingthe freight traffic volumes by 2020.
In order to obtain capacity or an increased rail freight volume, a dynamic approach to capacity management that enables a more fluid traffic and energy savings can be explored. Tools for enabling should be based on the application of existing technologies in order to facilitate implementation and market uptake. This also means investigating and proposing ways to harmonise or standardise important interfaces.
As regards passenger traffic, the focus lies on identifying and proposing research to the European Commission, which supports seamless door-to-door passenger transport with a focus on long-distance rail services, also looking into interfaces with urban transport systems and other transport modes.

Sustainable urban transport
WP03 – Ensuring sustainable urban transport (including modal shift, light rail vehicles and metros) led by Yves Amsler (UITP, International Association of Public Transport) and co-led by Antonio Ruggieri (Ansaldo STS) focuses on ensuring sustainable (sub)urban transport by identifying future research priorities. Work is split into two sub-work packages: the first focusing on the rail point of view and dealing with suburban and regional rail, and metro and other urban rail-guided systems, while the second, developed in cooperation with ERTRAC SAFIER (a parallel research project allocated to the Technology Platform for Road which includes a work package on “urban mobility” led by POLIS) focusing on urban mobility, addresses the wider issue of sustainable urban mobility, including road transport and “soft” modes (bikes, walking…), as well as land use. This task is building on EURFORUM, a former FP6 R&D project coordinated by UITP (2004-2007) which dealt with European Research for Urban Mobility.
From the rail side, the major aim is defining ways to improve the cost effectiveness of “local” rail systems. Meanwhile, from the urban mobility point of view, the ultimate objective is to develop new mobility and land use schemes that rationalise the use of private cars and commercial vehicles and promote public transport and soft modes.
As part of the rail sub-package, two studies are underway. The first study is investigating the market for metro and light rail systems in Europe. Essentially, it is an update of the study “Light Rail and metro systems in Europe” produced by ERRAC in 2005. The second smaller study is investigating the current and potential evolution of the light rail market in Eastern countries.
Two questionnaires have been circulated and results are being analysed. The results will provide valuable information on existing systems and infrastructure, demand data and future projects and modernization plans. The results will feed into a report to be produced next year, which will identify research priorities for these two markets.

Safety & security
WP04 – Improving safety and security working package 4, led by Gino Di Mambro (Italcertifer) and co-led by Antonella Semerano (MerMec), aims to enhance awareness of and perform actions relevant to certain strategic issues that are key to improving safety and security in the railway sector. It tackles, in particular, issues relevant to the field of standardisation, safety measures, interoperability, safety innovation and cost-effectiveness.
The WP04 has started to undertake a work of review of the main safety and security concerns in the rail sector and has identified the following five priorities:
Priority 1: When considering the reduction of cost induced by the rail sector, fatalities represent by far the largest preoccupation for the sector (65 per cent of total accident costs are spent to cover death and 5 per cent to cover injuries costs1). Within the scope of reducing these fatal accidents occurrence, it is very important is to give priority to harmonisation of the data collection to which the European Railway Agency is devoting a big effort. Such efforts should be supported in order to accelerate this process completion and hence provide actual meaningful opportunities to analyse, draw conclusion and run concrete mitigations actions.
Priority 2: When targeting mitigation actions for the occurrence of fatalities in rail transport, level crossings and rolling stocks in motion are the two situations of most critical interest.
Priority 3: A thorough analysis and identification of mitigation actions to decrease the occurrence of suicides on the railways is needed.
Priority 4: Increasing the unmanned controls and consequent automated action to improve safety of both the infrastructure and the trains is of increasing importance. Giving the high incidence of fatalities occurrence at level crossings as well as on open lines, further research is urgently needed to see how the control of these specific assets can be increased, endowing them with extra inspection and monitoring systems which may alert and likely prevent from unauthorised or improper use of the assets (e.g. unauthorised trespassing of tracks, tunnels, tunnels and bridges, improper use of the train doors, etc.)
Priority 5: There is a need to investigate further on some other CSI’s (Common Safety Indicators), such as VPC (Value for Preventing Casualties) and VTTS (Value for Travel Time Savings) as they promise to have a high impact on railway safety performance and on the whole sector trends achievements.

Cost model
WP05 – Strengthening competitiveness, led by John Amoore (Network Rail) and co-led by Dave Farrington (Corus), deals with the research priority areas of competitiveness, strategy and economics and infrastructure.
Changes to the railway system to deliver the railway of the future will have an impact on the cost of rail transport. The first WP05 open workshops will therefore focus on investigating the railway system cost model to ensure that resources are not committed to reducing cost where this will have little benefit to the overall cost of rail transport, or that small improvements in services will not have a large unfavourable cost impact.
This process will use a top down and bottom up approach designed to provide the following benefits:

  • Suggest areas where the greatest economic benefit will be found
  • Assist other work streams in understanding the possible cost impact of project proposals
  • Indicate where further research is required to understand the cost structure
  • Provide information to those responsible for transport strategy on what may be realistic targets for railway cost reduction
  • Lead to a better understanding of trade offs when considering improved services, capacity and sustainability

The high level cost structure for an integrated railway based on UK cost data, presented by the Institute for Transport Studies at Leeds University, and Network Rail at the first WP05 open workshop held in London 27 October 2009, provided examples of detailed costs for infrastructure maintenance and renewal to demonstrate how large cost categories may be further investigated.
The next open workshop, to be hold in Brussels on 22 April, will develop the cost model against wider European cost data and suggest further research needs.

The overall scope of WP06 Past projects evaluation and Evaluation Database Working Group, led by Luisa Velardi (Trenitalia) and co-led by Mark Robinson (Newrail), is to bring forward and enhance the work done in providing essential information and tools on the lessons learnt from the evaluation of past projects. This will allow relevant rail-related stakeholders and roadmap producers to make better informed choices and decisions when devising new rail research projects.
During the past years, a great number of rail research projects have been funded by the European Commission in previous Framework Programmes and billions of euros have been spent. Yet it has not always been easy to gain full awareness of all the relevant research that has been carried out. Valuable research results are often lost and the risk of overlapping and/or generating redundant rail project initiatives is significant. The aim of WP06 is therefore to provide a database of previous and existing national and European projects to support the ROADMAP Work Packages 1-5 to ensure that valuable research undertaken in the past is not forgotten. The project evaluation methodology is based on an analysis of project results and deliverables, together with a set of interviews with project participants and other stakeholders. The aim is not so much to evaluate the contents of the projects per se, but rather to assess the actual implementation and market uptake of the project results once the work has ended.

Future events
WP02 Freight Workshop
25 February 2010, Brussels

WP02 Long-distance passenger services workshop
3 March 2010, Brussels

WP06 evaluation workshop
18 March 2010, Brussels

2nd WP05 Workshop
22 April 2010, Brussels

ERRAC Plenary
18 May 2010, Brussels

WCRR (World Congress on Rail Research)
22-26 May 2011, Lille


1.The Railway Safety Performance in the European Union 2009

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