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Innovative Modular Brake Concepts for the Integrated European High-speed Railway System

MODBRAKE, focusing on the brake systems, aims at contributing to the practical implementation of interoperability of railway systems across Europe. The objective of the project is to reduce the complexity, and therefore the costs, of brake systems by incorporating them in modular form.

Tags: Rail


The MODBRAKE project aspires to make a significant contribution to the achievement of the ERRAC Strategic Rail Research Agenda (SRRA) published in 2002.

In the framework of the two railway packages, the High Speed and Conventional Rail Directives are being implemented through the publication of technical specifications for interoperability and validated via new and improved voluntary standards. The practical implementation of interoperability requirements however requires a joint approach by the railway stakeholders to ensure that the standardisation process across Europe will become more efficient. Brake-related issues of interoperability and standardisation will be thoroughly addressed within the MODBRAKE project.

The difficulty in developing and describing universal brake requirement specifications is a major handicap to the opening up of the Interoperable European Rail Network – a key element of EU single market policy.

The braking system is one of the most critical and complex sub-systems of rail vehicles, particularly as far as safety requirements at train-level are concerned. The brake system may be 5% of the value of the train but of far greater importance and complexity than most other items of similar value. In fact, up to 40% of the efforts in generating interoperability specifications for rolling stock and control command and signalling systems are related to braking performance and how it could best be achieved.


During the implementation of the MODTRAIN project, it became clear that this Integrated Project could not address brake-related issues beyond the brake-relevant interfaces in a sufficiently appropriate manner, and that there was a strong case for a separate project dedicated to braking performance, brake modules and their interfaces to TCMS and the other sub-systems of rolling stock.

It is critical to carry out research on braking performance and brake module interfaces, which will enable a comprehensive approach to be applied to modular high-speed trains and universal locomotives.

To reduce this complexity, and therefore the costs of brake systems, the project proposes to develop a modular brake system. The related system specifications will be determined, evaluated and tested to develop a modular brake concept. The standardised modules will be interchangeable in terms of functions and interfaces, but they may still be specific to each manufacturer so as to guarantee future technological progress.

The MODTRAIN consortium therefore proposed to start a MODBRAKE project, which focuses on the braking system starting from the interfaces defined in MODTRAIN. The field of application for MODBRAKE will be the same as for MODTRAIN: TSI high-speed trains and universal locomotives (locos, train sets and EMUs) capable of speeds greater than 190 km/h.

Description of work

A four-phase approach will be adopted to achieve MODBRAKE’s scientific and technical objectives.

In the first phase, the work within MODBRAKE will be concentrated on understanding the existing standards and regulations for brake systems on one hand, and the interface results and the functional, system and safety requirements coming from the MODTRAIN project on the other.

In the second phase, the project will focus on:

  • detailed determination and definition of standards for the functional requirement specifications and system requirement specifications for the identified modules (top down approach – harmonisation on system-level)
  • starting from existing specifications, MODBRAKE will elaborate complete standard proposals for a range of interchangeable components.

In the third phase, the modules, derived from the harmonised rolling stock architecture on the relevant level, will be evaluated through life-cycle cost analysis. For this analysis, a software tool, already developed in MODTRAIN, will be enhanced so as to be suitable for brake specific data on life-cycle costs.

As a result of this evaluation, two of the identified brake system modules will be developed, tested and evaluated in the fourth phase of the project. An appropriate amount of interchangeable modules will be identified, selected and specified within the macro-modules.


The outcomes of the MODBRAKE project will be:

  • the specification of the brake system modules (according to all relevant levels of the rolling stock architecture) and the delivery of tested prototypes
  • a design for the development of the modules and their interfaces
  • the specification of validation/assessment and maintenance processes (especially inspection/test criteria for safety or reliability)
  • the development/improvement of a tool to evaluate the life-cycle cost of brake modules
  • direct proposals to standardisation bodies concerning the standardisation of future brake requirements and of standards that need to be updated
  • prototype modules integrated within mock-ups.

Impacts foreseen:

  • the brake suppliers will have clear and stable requirements for each module. The current costs to conceive, design, develop and validate new systems for every contract will be reduced in future
  • the decision to standardise the brake system at the level of functional modules, and not at the level of components, will still allow the brake suppliers to continue their R&D efforts for future innovation in the technological content of the modules
  • market competition will be increased: clear and stable-over-time specifications will facilitate market entry of new suppliers
  • car builders and maintenance providers will have the opportunity to choose from a standard catalogue of interchangeable modules.