It is one of the main goals of the German Federal Government to strengthen the competitiveness of rail transport. However, to transfer goods transport and passenger transport onto the rails, a reliable and economically reasonable transport is required. The German Centre for Rail Traffic Research studies how rail transport can be made more efficient by means of technological developments and by governmental acting, and how it can play an improved role in modal split.
Costs, time, reliability, and availability are central parameters defining the attractiveness in goods transport. A purposeful and adequate development of goods transport thus requires a profound knowledge of the customers’ needs and the understanding of possible incentive systems. Increasing the reliability and efficiency of vehicles by reducing the disruptive factors allows for a better utilization of the existing capacities of infrastructure. Moreover, the scope of costs is extended, and planning reliability is increased. There lies some saving potential in the usage of technologies that predictively detect wear and defects in vehicle components and determine their risk of failure. The necessary sensor technology can be implemented on vehicles, in a maintenance depot, and along the railway line. Logistic concepts like single wagon transport or systems for easily changing forms of transports, e.g. intermodal systems for the last mile, have to be extended. In the further development of vehicles, for example, new construction methods, composite materials, or the usage of up-to-date control and regulatory systems can reduce costs and increase safety.
Also in public transport, the railway can become more attractive. In this regard, digitization may be an important factor, e.g. through infotainment or digital ticketing. Integral clock-face scheduling and improved linking of means of transport contribute to predictability. These areas need to be further developed. It is necessary to carry out holistic analyses on the needs of particular user groups as, for example, elder people, people with reduced mobility, and families as well as particular forms of public transport usage (e.g. night trains or motorail trains). Against this backdrop, measures that motivate the customers to use public transport are to be found and evaluated.
An optimized usage of the present infrastructure can increase the capacity in rail transport. Establishing the European Train Control System (ETCS) may be able to contribute to this, but also requires appropriate technical support. Solutions like “Moving Block” or running longer trains have to be evaluated and studied with respect to their applicability.
A low-cost infrastructure supports the railway system’s economic efficiency. All phases from planning and construction via operation including maintenance through to modernization have to be studied in their entirety. To achieve a profitable data storage and use of information for all life-cycle phases of a building, Building Information Modeling (BIM) is intended to be used within the German Federal Administration. The development of conceptual and application-oriented principles for automated maintenance concepts through monitoring systems is as relevant as the development of management approaches for the total lifespan of a facility in comprehensive consideration of its life-cycle costs. The goal there is a widespread use of so-called “predictive maintenance” approaches for a demand-oriented and efficient maintenance of infrastructure. The need for studies exists also with regard to the standardization of infrastructure elements that can play an essential role to reduce costs of rail infrastructure.