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EU launches ‘MODBRAKE’ for rail interoperability

The EU-funded MODBRAKE project, aimed at developing and interchangeable brake systems, kicked off on 27 June 2006 in Brussels. European Commission officials say it represents an important contribution to the practical implementation of railway interoperability across Europe.

Modular train
MODTRAIN takes form

The introduction of modular rail production and operation methods means firm economic advantages for both suppliers and operators, including reduced manufacturing costs, economies of scale, increased productivity of new rolling stock as well as increased reliability.

All of these benefits respond directly to the objectives of increased railway competitiveness and interoperability, as defined in the Strategic Research Agenda of the European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC) and in the First and Second Railway Packages enacted by European Union legislation.

MODBRAKE continues and extends the approach of the MODTRAIN project, which concentrates on fixed-formation passenger trains and universal locomotives. As the MODTRAIN programme has advanced, its scope has been enlarged to encompass all rolling stock likely to operate over both high-speed and conventional interoperable European rail networks. It has also given rise to a number of subprojects, including MODBRAKE.

A fundamental subsystem

The braking system is one of the most critical and complex subsystems of rail vehicles, especially in relation to safety requirements. The current situation in the brake supply sector is characterised by the unnecessary and costly diversity of systems design, and testing, validation and maintenance procedures.

The MODBRAKE project will apply the concepts of modularisation to reduce this complexity and therefore the cost of braking systems. New system specifications will be elaborated, evaluated and tested. The aim is to come up with standardised modules that are interchangeable but that still retain characteristics specific to different manufacturers. This, say project partners, will guarantee continued technological progress through inter-supplier competition.

MODBRAKE partners include members of the high-speed railway sector – the two main European brake suppliers, the four major European system integrators, the three largest European railway operators and two industrial associations, assisted by three research centres and one project management company. All have joined forces to contribute to the ambitious goal of providing the European rail customer with an affordable, attractive and safe railway system.