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Innovative Modular Vehicle Concepts for an Integrated European Railway System

MODTRAIN is defining the necessary functional, electrical and mechanical interfaces and validation procedures to deliver the range of interchangeable modules, which will form the basis for the next generation of intercity trains and universal locomotives.

Tags: Rail


In September 2001, the Commission published its White Paper, "European Transport Policy for 2010: time to decide", in which, for the first time, the Commission is placing the needs of the users at the heart of its transport strategy by proposing over 60 measures to refocus Europe’s transport policy onto the needs of its citizens. The first of these measures is designed to shift the balance between modes of transport by 2010 by revitalising the railways.

The European Commission wants to ensure that the development of transport in Europe goes hand in hand with an efficient, high-quality and safe service for people. For railways, the goal for 2010 is to maintain the modal share of rail transport at the same level as that in 1998. Rail transport is thus expected to grow significantly as the total transport demand in 2010 is expected to be 40% higher than in 1998.

In its White Paper, the Commission also announced its intention to table a set of new proposals to improve access to the railway network for freight transport and to amend existing directives on the interoperability of conventional rail systems and high-speed rail systems, as well as a proposal to create a European Railway Safety and Interoperability Agency.

To meet these objectives, affordable and attractive interoperable rolling stock must become the norm for use on European networks.


To avoid the risk of each new train being the subject to independent interpretations of the requirements and built from unproven prototype sub-assemblies, interoperable constituents must be defined, validated and promoted at European industry level. This is why the main European railway system manufacturers, sub-system suppliers, railway operators and professional associations have decided to combine their efforts with highly skilled research centres to reach this objective.

The MODTRAIN Integrated Project will define and prove the necessary functional, electrical and mechanical interfaces, and validation procedures necessary to deliver the range of interchangeable modules that will make the next generation of intercity trains and universal locomotives possible.

The principal elements to be defined in MODTRAIN using end-users’ requirements and validation (via the MODUSER platform) are:

  • the running gear (MODBOGIE)
  • the train control architecture (MODCONTROL)
  • the onboard power systems (MODPOWER)
  • the man-to-machine and train-to-train interfaces (MODLINK).
EUCAB: mock-up of the driver's cabin developed by MODTRAIN
EUCAB: mock-up of the driver's cabin developed by MODTRAIN

Description of work

The industry is detailing, in continuous collaboration with the operators, the necessary functional and physical interfaces, requirements and validation procedures as a reference to deliver the range of interchangeable modules that will make the next generation of intercity trains and universal locomotives possible. The operators then assess, amend and approve these specifications. At the end of the project, open standards will be achieved for the most appropriate train components and their interfaces.

Therefore, the three main steps representing the main thread on which the implementation plan is based are:

  • detailing a generic functional requirements specification (FRS) and system requirements specification (SyRS): this is the precondition for further technical and scientific work regarding the principal elements running gear, the train control and monitoring system, the onboard power system, the man-to-machine and train-to-train interfaces
  • standardisation of functions and interfaces: this will not stop at the level of the four principal elements (subprojects). It also encompasses the definition of interfaces of smaller units and components (spare parts)
  • the interfaces of the modules and components: these will be described in terms of open standards (to operators, industry and maintenance service providers).


The main outputs of the MODTRAIN project are related to standardisation:

  • operational requirements specification (ORS) from the operators group which provide the operational requirements, specifically for high-speed trains and locomotives, with the aim of maximising the degree of standardisation possible without losing operational performance
  • the train architecture and the functional requirement specifications which will be used for companies’ future projects
  • standardised functional interface specification between the main subsystems of the train.
  • standardisation of certain components such as the water pump, HVAC nozzles of the driver’s cab or the vertical damper for the secondary suspension. These documents will be written in English to ease the adoption of the English standard for the future.
  • a proposed driver desk (console) (EUCAB) compliant with the EUDD requirements is being developed and functional tests will be performed using SNCF simulator equipment
  • EUPAX car mock-up to specify an interoperable door system, access for disabled passengers, passenger and crew information interfaces, safety alarm and emergency information systems.