European experts meet in Donostia to discuss the train of the future

el tren del futuro-Ceit-IK4
el tren del futuro-Ceit-IK4

The projects that are currently underway include installing on-board 5g communication technology and determining the location and status of rail cars and the freight they carry via the cloud.

This past 12-15 September, about fifty researchers and railway industry experts, representing companies, research centers and EU administrations, gathered at Ceit-IK4 to explore and discuss the train of the future. A number of European projects are laying the foundations for the train of the future, prioritizing the safety, reliability and compatibility of its systems.

Several Ceit-IK4 research teams are working on various European projects that are part of the Shift2Rail program. The goals of this EU-backed initiative are to: cut the cost of rail construction in half by 2021, double the capacity of European rail lines, and improve the reliability and punctuality of trains by 50%.

Attaining these goals requires the creation of a Single European Railway Area (SERA), which will promote more efficient and safer railways for the transportation of passengers and goods within the borders of the European Union (including Switzerland). These undertakings will also help solve some of the major environmental challenges that need to be addressed in the coming years: increased traffic and climate change.

The EU’s Shift2Rail initiative, currently the world’s largest railway research initiative, consists of five lines of research. Under the leadership of researcher Jaizki Mendizabal, Ceit-IK4 investigators are carrying out projects within two of the five lines: Advanced Traffic Management and Control Systems, and Technologies for Sustainable and Attractive European Rail Freight.

The projects that fall under the first line of research address railway management and safety and include work on communications, safe positioning and train reliability. The ‘X2Rail-1’ project seeks to install 5G wireless technology in trains in order to improve the speed and security of communication between trains and between trains and the control center. Installing communication technologies like 5G will, among other benefits, eliminate the lag time that exists in current systems and that can jeopardize rail safety. This project will establish the communications backbone of the train of the future. Another project, ‘X2Rail-2’, is developing an autonomous on-board system that can monitor the state of rail cars and their engines without relying on external elements.

The second line of research that Ceit-IK4 is involved in is geared toward freight transport and increasing the quality and capacity of freight cars. The FR8RAIL project seeks to monitor the location of freight cars at all times and determine the status of the load being transported. A related project, FR8HUB, is developing a system for monitoring rail infrastructure and detecting the status of both rail cars and the rails that they travel on.