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Keeping track of rail freight
06 August 2009
The EUREKA E! 3161 LOGCHAIN+ E_RAILMAP project has developed an electronic rail map of Europe that provides full freight details for 23,000 stations in 40 countries but also can instantly indicate the position and progress of individual wagons. The system has already been extended to cover Russia and the Ukraine, enabling tracking of the increasing amount of rail cargo coming from China – rail transfer is three to four times faster than sea transport.
The lead project partner, Czech SME JERID, which specialises in rail transport software, saw the need for a system that not only could provide full information about the international railway network – what can be carried, where goods can be loaded, etc. – in graphical form but also track loads in real time.
“When we started the project, the only generally available rail maps were printed,” explains Petr Kroca of JERID. “While electronic maps are now more widely available on the Internet, they are without a sufficient predicative ‘railway’ layer. Users of railways for transporting goods had no information about where the stations were or how goods could be accepted – this is why we started this project.”
Good basis for additional information
“Our initial idea was to gather all the information about the position of stations suitable for the transport of cargo in all European countries. But we quickly realised that this map was a very good basis for displaying other information – so we went further and tried to connect to different systems that provided dynamic information: positions of wagons, locomotives, goods trains….”
The result is a powerful system that obtains data from national railway companies and independent GPS-based wagon tracking. National railway systems can be queried to find the position of freight wagons in terms of railway station number. These numbers are shown on the E_RAILMAP map and so wagon positions can be displayed. Alternatively, wagons can be fitted with GPS positioning and mobile phone equipment to send regular SMS messages to the JERID server, allowing real time tracking of a wagon’s location.
Benefits for all partners
The consortium approached EUREKA as it offered a good platform for international co-operation and provided access to national funding. “It was our first EUREKA project but we have now been involved in several more and will continue,” says Kroca. “In addition, the LOGCHAIN+ Umbrella provided good support, matching us to new possibilities and ways to continue the project.”
An initial version of the map covering central Europe was already available at the end of the first year of the project. It covered the whole of Europe by the end. A follow-up project is underway to improve integration of national railway infrastructure information and to develop and optimise route-planning software.
E_RAILMAP received a boost when it won the EUREKA 2009 Innovation Days Award for outstanding technological and commercial achievement. “It was a big surprise,” says Kroca. “But when I filled in the proposal and answered all the questions of the award committee, I realised how successful our project had been.”
To view the full success story, visit www.eurekanetwork.org