During the past years and within the scope of the S2R freight innovation pillar (IP5), the sector has been working on the freight Digital Automatic Coupler (DAC). This solution, in addition to the mechanical and pneumatic coupling, will integrate digital communications and energy for the rail freight segment. DAC is an enabler that will enhance the performance and safety of rail freight as it will eliminate manual interventions and, by transmitting data and power through the freight train consist, it will allow addressing the operational gaps to increase the competitiveness of rail freight.

The Europe’s Rail Flagship Area 5[1] is including in its first work-stream the concept of a “full digital rail freight operations”, focusing on increasing substantially the productivity, quality and capacity of rail freight by full digitalization and automation of operational functions and processes including innovative freight assets. In this context DAC is a key enabler and it is expected that the linked project stemming from the topic HORIZON-ER-JU-2022-FA5-01 will deliver proven and test technical solutions addressing the different operational use-case throughout Europe, reaching by 2025 up to TRL 8-9.

The project stemming from this topic is expected to take stock and make use of the work already achieved within the S2R R&I project DACcelerate[2] and in the context of the work of the European DAC Delivery Programme (EDDP)[3], an open platform enabled by the Joint undertaking to gather the entire community around a shared delivery programme for ensuring a fast, technically and economically feasible European‐wide DAC roll‐out.

For the past years EDDP has endorsed different studies and high-level plans paving the way for the introduction of DAC in EU. The next years are of key relevance as the high-level migration plans need to unfold, making use of the DAC technical solutions being finalised, and develop the necessary preparation for the successful deployment of the DAC with a dedicated migration roadmap and implementation plan and related separate actions that the project stemming from this topic should develop and professionally manage.

The coordination and supporting action of the project stemming from this topic should set up and develop further in a rolling planning the industrial migration plan (including milestones, key deliverables, etc.) that will enable the `future deployment of the DAC throughout Europe by 2030, ensuring interacting with different actions contributing to it. In this regard, it is expected that the project will be identifying the required topics/actions and related resource availabilities and needs, structuring the needed implementing actions around an integrated delivery plan. The project should therefore detail scope & objectives, then sub-task, integrate and manage the elements identified in the different works prepared by the launch of the project as outlined in the scope below, in order to set-up an EDDP DAC migration roadmap towards deployment. It should ensure the management, revision, challenging and (iterative) interface management incl. regular overview and reporting on the status/progress of the actions. It is expected to further manage related EDDP work streams .

The project should also define and present for decision the DAC technology packages/components for deployment in function of the progress in the FP5 FDFTO technical development and the ERA tailor-made authorisation process and shall develop major criteria/options for overall migration/ deployment scenario optimisation. Overall the projectshall ensure the industrialization of the Migration via a professional industrial management of the overall project/programme with the creation of a detailed action plan, including a backlog and stakeholders management, on how and when and by whom mobilize necessary resources across EU to effectively manage the necessary retrofit and new installations/production.

The project stemming from this topic should further support strongly the Joint Undertaking and cooperate closely with it on

  • Identifying and potentially setting up the optimal and required DAC deployment funding/ financing mechanisms contributing to the overall deployment programme
  • Ensuring proper risk and deviation management and the taking of appropriate countermeasures also for the implementing actions if needed
  • Support the EU Rail JU in relation to the EDDP mechanisms, to Flagship Area 5 activities related to the DAC, stakeholder management (EU + MS bodies + Sector actors)




The introduction of automation (automated functions) in the railway sector to be developed by the EU-RAIL programme and digitalization will bring new opportunities to improve the passenger and freight services: increasing capacity on the network, increasing the reliability of the overall system, increasing the punctuality, increasing operational flexibility, etc. are among the key improvements that will be brought into the system.

The project stemming from this topic is expected to identify what are the opportunities for new type of services that could be enabled by these new automated functions and in general the digitalization of the rail system and sub-systems and to consider their business case(s). The latter should take into account who will bear the costs and who will get the benefit, researching as well how those new type of services can increase the competitiveness of rail and model its potential evolution in the transport and mobility sector in the next decades.

The Project stemming from this topic is expected to provide all the following:

  • Definition of new business services (at least 4 new services) for both passenger and freight that can be enabled with the introduction of digital solutions in the rail sector and ecosystem, in particular with automated functions. These new services should take into account evolution of customers’ needs and expectations as well as innovations in other sectors.
  • Definition and analysis of high-level business cases associated to these new potential business services, highlighting the benefits gained for all the different actors involved in the value chain up until the final customer(s) as well as the possible additional costs to be borne by the sector.
  • A model on how modal split will evolve with the introduction of these new business services. This shall also take into account possible economic, political and societal evolutions which may impact the transport sector, and as a consequence, the needs of the customers.