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Digital automatic coupling: an important component of the European Green Deal

The CargoFlex reliably connects and disconnects freight wagons even under extreme weather conditions

The CargoFlex reliably connects and disconnects freight wagons even under extreme weather conditions

At Europe's largest rail marshalling yard in Maschen, just outside Hamburg, up to 3,500 freight wagons a day are dispatched at peak times on an area the size of almost 400 soccer pitches. The coupling and uncoupling of the individual wagons is still largely a manual process. There are two bolted couplings on each wagon, which an employee has to separate or connect by hand in the dangerous space between the wagons. With shunting, brake testing and wagon inspection, the train preparation can take an entire shift on its own. The processes have changed very little over the past 100 years.

The digital automatic coupling is paving the way for process change. In addition to the standardized automatic coupling system for around 450,000 freight wagons and around 23,000 locomotives in Europe, rail freight transport can also be digitalized with the new standard. For this purpose, the committee for the Europe-wide delivery of the DAK (EDDP Board) recently defined the basic functions that the freight coupler must provide. In addition to automatic coupling, including air, data and power lines, automatic brake testing, recognition of the wagon sequence and completeness of the train as well as automatic uncoupling of the wagon should also be standard in the future. Voith can provide most of these functions with the CargoFlex already today.

Proven technology refined

Voith's CargoFlex is based on the well-proven technology of Scharfenberg couplers. Switzerland's SBB-Cargo, one of the world's most demanding rail operators in rail freight transport, has been successfully using the CargoFlex in regular daily commercial operations since May 2019.

System solution for transition phase

During a transition phase, manual and automatic couplings will coexist. However, Voith has developed the CargoFlex Hybrid in order to integrate the entire vehicle fleet of rail operators into the process of increasing productivity. It enables coupling on draw hooks as well as with automatic coupling, as the head can be set to automatic or manual position as required. Converting the entire fleet to DAK is a major challenge for wagon keepers. To ensure a smooth migration process, Voith therefore also offers comprehensive support from fleet preparation to installation. Both the CargoFlex and the CargoFlex Hybrid are designed to meet future specifications.

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