Technology

ČD Cargo Leader in digitalization in the rail transportation market

Published: 28. 9. 2022
Author: Michal Roh
Photo: Photo ČD – Telematika, Michal Roh
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While the 19th century is often dubbed the century of steam, the 21st might one day be known as the century of digitalization or electronization. The ČD Cargo joint stock company has been paying increased attention to both these trends. Our focus is on communication with our customers and improving the quality of our services, as well as augmenting safety and refining the technical aspect of our vehicles, etc.

One of our hot new items is the launch of the Sledování (Tracking) portlet, which allows all registered customers to easily view the location of their shipment or the empty wagon ready for loading. To put it simply – how their shipment is coming along. The estimated time of arrival at the final destination is a new feature. The information is available either on a map or in a concise table. Filters with a wide array of criteria can be used in both views to look up a specific order. There is an easy way to export all the data into Excel as well. All information provided as part of the portlet is completely free.

That is not all, though. We are one of the very first rail freight carriers to provide its customers with another revolutionary option for tracking their orders, and that is the ČDCgo mobile app. Logging into the application is identical to the EROZA customer portal. Our customers can get a comprehensive overview of their orders in a matter of seconds. They are able to see the status of a specific order and track its position on a map. The app is, of course, translated into English and German as well. It is available free of charge as of early July 2022 on the App Store and Google Play.

Safety is paramount

We are intensely invested in improving the safety of rail operations. In March 2021, as part of project DISAF (DIgital SAfety First), we launched the beta test of a new app for engine drivers called NavTrain. It keeps them informed of the most recent conditions on the track all along their route via a tablet. The app is running smoothly now, and so the drivers have a long-awaited tool at their fingertips that helps collate data from tabular schedules and digital railway track conditions published by the Railway Administration. We are planning another extension later this year. If the driver is to set out on a route they have not been on for some time, they will be able to do a dry run in simulation mode. This mode in the app will guide the driver throughout the entire track and point out any major changes. The ČD Cargo app bears some resemblance to the GPS in your car. The key difference is, though, that the app does not tell the driver where to go, but instead displays all the most important data from all along the track that they need to be aware of.

Starting on January 1, 2025, certain railway lines will only be allowed to operate under the surveillance of the European Train Control System (ETCS). Considering how large and varied the ČD Cargo locomotive fleet is, we are taking the utmost care in implementing this new system. Unlike some smaller railway carriers who own dozens of locomotives at most, we kicked this project off with an ample amount of lead time in 2015. All in all, ČD Cargo has put out 20 public tenders for the implementation of ETCS, and we currently have nearly 200 locomotives equipped with this control system. These are both brand new locomotives as well as older ones that are retrofitted with the system. ČD Cargo trains use ETCS in regular operation on Austrian railways, other than that the control system is in the so-called switch-off mode. We are also prepared to adapt our operations to be fully monitored by ETCS on the Olomouc-Uničov line starting on January 1, 2023.

Careful implementation

Speaking of cutting-edge technological trends, we must not forget to mention digital automatic coupling (DAC). This project is in its very early stages at ČD Cargo, however. We were convinced to this end by the results of tests that our company took a big part in this July, which showed some glaring imperfections in the tested systems. The way that certain European projects propose to implement DAC in the future is also rather unfortunate. The so-called Big Bang, which would mean halting all rail freight transportation for a period of two weeks to fit the new coupling on all wagons is unrealistic. There are both technical reasons (limited manufacturer capabilities) as well as business and financial reasons, of course. Speaking strictly in terms of ČD Cargo, a full implementation of DAC would mean a CZK 13–18 billion investment. A full implementation represents a unnecessary revolutionary measure with various potential pitfalls along the way. We are looking for ways to cut costs in order to make rail transportation more competitive, keep goods on the railways, and obtain new shipments. DAC investments in the order of billions would jeopradize these efforts. We are by no means disputing the future positive impact that DAC can have, but we need to be sensible when dealing with its implementation.

The Company

ČD Cargo is a rail carrier, specialized in freight transport. It is a subsidiary of Czech Railways, which owns 100% of the stock.

ČD Cargo was founded on October 31, 2007, based on a government decree from July of the same year, it was officially established on December 1 by listing in the Trade Register.

When all rail freight transportation activities were transferred away from Czech Railways, a full third of all CR locomotives, all 32 thousand freight wagons, some of its railway depots, and roughly 13 thousand out of the former 55 thousand CR employees were assigned to ČD Cargo. Furthermore, the ownership stakes that Czech Railways had in certain companies were also transferred to ČD Cargo, which transformed them into its subsidiaries.

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