Having lost ground to road transport in recent years, rail freight may be on the verge of making a comeback in Europe with the development of a wagon fleet management system that promises to increase efficiency, expand market potential and offer important benefits to society as a whole.
Due to begin trials this summer, the system developed by the IST project F-MAN offers fleet managers, railway companies and end customers with an integrated set of Web-based applications to trace wagons, manage their availability and make rail haulage more reliable. In doing so, it promises to help railways compete with road cargo transport, potentially reducing congestion on Europes highways and cutting pollution.
"Our aim is to create an efficient system at low cost that enhances the ability of railway operators to manage thousands of wagons," explains F-MAN coordinator Stefano Savio at the University of Genova in Italy. "By increasing the efficiency of the fleet, wagon operators can expand their market against road transport, for example, allowing them to satisfy a wider number of orders with the same number of wagons."
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