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Putting rail freight transport back on the map

The rail sector has been progressively losing its share of freight transport markets over several decades, even though it delivers better ecological performance than road transport. The E! 3198 LOGCHAIN E-RAILMAP project is developing new tools to help rail transport users better control and manage the movement of goods, hoping to make rail the option of choice for European freight.

In spite of efforts by railway companies, it is still not easy for users to arrange the movement of their own goods, especially when compared with road transport. One basic tool for defining rail transport parameters is the detailed railway map. “Nowadays, on the European market, it is possible to obtain several types of wall rail maps,” explains Petr Kroca from JERID in the Czech Republic. “But these maps do not provide sufficient detail, and wall map production technologies are unable to integrate updated data on a regular basis; hence the information may not be a correct reflection of the reality on the ground.”

Efficiently tracking and tracing transported goods is only possible when certain conditions are met and all transport parameters are precisely defined. Current wall maps only serve to provide basic orientation within the network, says Kroca. They lack the ability to deliver the kind of real information that is needed for improved railway freight transport.

New solutions to an old problem

The objective of E-RAILMAP was to create an electronic map of the European railway network. With support from EUREKA, JERID and partners from Germany and Austria, have gone much further, developing a powerful tool that collects information on rail wagon positions, using conventional methods of railway system data gathering and innovative telematics technologies.

Maps can be displayed via both desktop-based and Internet-based computer applications, incorporating enlargement and diminution capabilities as well as links between graphic symbols and other regularly updated information, including text. Once logged in, users can access a list of wagons, detailed information about their positions and a history of movements. They can also use the system as a data management tool, exporting and importing information to and from data files. But E-RAILMAP also provides crucial control capabilities, allowing users to send messages to wagon units.

Measurable success

“E-RAILMAP has been a very successful project. We have created a real and profitable software product, with many satisfied customers, now numbering 200 in 12 countries all over Europe. Our maps include the positions of all railway stations and additional tools for tracking objects such as individual wagons, trains and locomotives,” says Kroca.

Sally Horspool | alfa
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