UK’s first ‘digital wagon’ starts four month trial

UK’s first ‘digital wagon’ starts four month trial

Britain’s largest private freight wagon leasing company, VTG Rail UK, and Knorr-Bremse Rail Systems (UK), the market leader of braking systems and other systems for rail vehicles, have announced the network trial of the UK’s first digital freight wagon.

The VTG iWagon aims to improve freight performance on rail by introducing new safety capabilities, and creating efficiencies in operations and improved availability.

The first phase of the nine-wagon trial will focus on ground-breaking technology developed in collaboration between VTG and Knorr-Bremse. The first three wagons to be fitted are VTG Rail JPA tank wagons, modified at Tarmac’s Maintenance Depot at Dunbar in Scotland with further wagons being trialled on the Hanson and Mendip Rail fleets.

Launching the iWagon, VTG Rail UK managing director, Colin Denman, said: “The iWagon has been over a decade in development and we are delighted to be at the stage where we can commence country wide trials of the UK’s first digitalised freight wagon which will enable real-time data to ensure safer railways and better wagon utilisation.

“The launch of the iWagon is very exciting for VTG Rail UK, Knorr-Bremse and the wider industry. For the first time, we can see how axles perform on the network in real time and see where adhesion issues are occurring. Locked axles, leading to wheel flats and derailment of freight wagons have caused high profile incidents in recent years in the UK.

“Digitisation allows us to prevent wheelset damage and axle locks, in real time ensuring multiple parties are given information quickly allowing appropriate corrective action.”

Features that will be trialled include axle lock detection and Wheel Flat Prevention (WFP) technology – a patented system which monitors wheelset slide and brake condition. Each of the wagons has also been fitted with new wheelsets containing four axle end generators which provide power to the WFP system.

The trial wagons begun four months of testing at the start of this month, on Tarmac’s daily return service from their cement plant at Dunbar to their depot at Seaham in County Durham.

Sanjay Albert, director of engineering and innovation at Knorr-Bremse commented: “Working in collaboration with VTG Rail UK is very exciting for us at Knorr-Bremse Rail Systems UK, especially as part of our mission to combine mechatronic expertise with our digital monitoring capability. Our patented Wheel Flat Prevention technology increases wheel life and reduces potential deep wheel flats which may result in track damage, or in worst cases, derailment.”

The companies are also hopeful on other technological advancements which have been in development including brake condition monitoring which will allow VTG to analyse the performance of a wagon’s brake system, with the final goal of removing annual brake tests.

It is expected that initial data from the nine-wagon trial will be available in January 2024 ahead of the first 50 production ready wagons planned for Q2, 2024.

Image: VTG Rail

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