Duisburg (Photo DB).

GERMANY: The Federal Ministry for Transport & Digital Infrastructure has invited applications for funding of projects designed to improve the economics and efficiency of rail freight.

Proposals should relate to digitalisation, automation and vehicle technology, and applications should be made via the Federal Railway Office in Bonn. Grants of up to €30m a year will be available, with the programme running until the end of 2024.

Guidelines covering applications were published in the Bundesanzeiger, the Federal Gazette, on May 19. A two-stage process for submissions has been drawn up. Applicants seeking funding for projects involving test sites and pilot schemes will qualify for federal funding of 50% to 100%, depending on the size of the organisation submitting the application. Schemes involving ‘demonstrators’ will receive funding from 25% to 100%, the amount of funds again being tiered according to the size of the organisation.

Submissions covering the introduction of innovative technologies to the market may also be made. These will qualify for 50% federal funding.

The funds will be made available from a federal programme promoting innovations in rail freight, itself part of the Master Plan for Rail Freight published in 2017. The objective of the Master Plan is to raise the market share of freight moving by rail from around 17% to 25%.

Examples of suitable projects suggested by the ministry include automated operation, innovative freight trains, data-based predictive vehicle maintenance, automated loading and unloading or ‘hub concepts’, and the introduction of ‘sharing platforms’ for the optimal use of resources.