Innovative Freight Wagons


Against the backdrop of the huge national tasks faced concerning noise, energy, climate, environment and investments – and in addition to the research program Shift2Rail (S2R) initiated by the European Commission and the European rail industry – it is essential that we also step up national research efforts in the rail sector.

With this in mind, Department LA18 – the department in the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) responsible for the control and coordination of research and development of noise and environmental protection in the rail sector – commissioned a review of the state of research and development of noise and environmental protection in the rail freight transport sector. This revealed that many relevant research and development projects have been carried out, particularly in the area of noise protection, that show there is considerable technical potential for noise mitigation in the rail freight transport sector. However, these encouraging attempts have seldom reached the market due to lack of economic viability. Based on the program “Future Investments in Particular for Public Infrastructure and Energy Efficiency” (ZIP) of the Federal Government, the aim of the contract research is to investigate options for the migration of noise mitigation and energy efficiency improvement technologies.

For this purpose, existing components and technologies were to be designed, built and tested to create new and innovative freight wagons (hereafter referred to as IFW). The results of the project shall serve to accelerate the implementation of innovative freight wagons that are quieter, more energy-efficient and more economical than existing rolling stock. The energetic, acoustic and cost effects will be determined and demonstrated by, among other things, operational tests. The IFWs built on this basis will represent a considerable step forward with regard to the aforementioned objectives and performance characteristics. The aim is to build at least three different wagon types.

In the fall of 2016, within the scope of an invitation to tender, the BMVI awarded the consortium DB Cargo AG and VTG AG a research contract entitled “Development and testing of innovative freight wagons” designed to investigate the migration of noise mitigation and energy efficiency improvement technologies to the freight wagon sector.

 Projekt-Ausschreibung durch das


For the purpose of this research project, DB Cargo AG and VTG AG formed a consortium, each with a share of 50%. DB Cargo AG is Germany and Europe’s biggest rail freight operator. With some 90,000 freight wagons, it has the biggest fleet in Europe. VTG AG has more than 80,000 freight wagons worldwide and, with a fleet of approx. 60,000 freight wagons, is the biggest private wagon provider in Europe.

About DB Cargo AG

DB Cargo AG is a 100% subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn AG. With approx. 30,000 employees at sites in 15 European countries, DB Cargo AG provides high-quality services across all transport operators. With 4,200 customer rail connections and the biggest fleet of rolling stock on the continent, DB Cargo offers a huge network on Europe’s rails. Almost 60% of DB Cargo’s transport services are pan-European. DB Cargo’s services include Europe-wide transport and logistics solutions in block trains and single wagons and connections to ship and HGV carriers. In order to achieve this, DB Cargo has networked its production: cross-border offerings and production concepts, a central pan-European transport control with origin and destination responsibilities and pan-European control of vehicle deployment represent an impressive integration of a whole range of different production areas.

In 2015, DB Cargo AG generated a total turnover of €4,767 million, during which it transported approx. 300 million tonnes of goods by rail and achieved a total transport volume of some 98.4 billion tonne-kilometers. Overall, DB Cargo AG has 2,869 locomotives and runs 4,520 trains daily. DB Cargo is the keeper of approx. 90,000 railway freight wagons and is also ECM for these freight wagons, for which it has held an ECM certificate since 17.05.2013. It has its own set of maintenance regulations for approx. 250 freight wagon types and their components, in particular wheelsets, bogies and coachwork, as well as for a range of procedures, including non-destructive testing, welding and adhesive bonding. The maintenance of the freight wagon fleet is carried out in some 40 workshops owned by the Deutsche Bahn AG and approx. 30 external workshops, including authorized wheelset workshops.

About VTG AG

VTG AG is a listed company and an international market leader in the wagon hire and rail logistics sector. Founded as a limited company (GmbH) in 1951, VTG AG has many years of experience and expertise in all aspects of rail transport – in particular where the flexible transport of liquid and sensitive goods is concerned. In the fiscal year 2015, VTG generated a turnover of €1.03 billion. The group is globally active and has approx. 80,000 rail freight wagons. With approx. 60,000 freight wagons, VTG runs the biggest private freight wagon fleet in Europe, primarily tank wagons, intermodal wagons, modern high-capacity freight wagons and flat wagons. In total, the fleet comprises some 1000 different wagon types. For the majority of these vehicles, VTG is both keeper and ECM.

In the last decade, VTG has played a key role in the shaping of the VPI maintenance guidelines and is active on all committees. Based at 10 European sites, a large workforce looks after the maintenance of the wagon fleet in approx. 90 contract workshops and an even greater number of service centers. Many of these contract workshops and facilities are regularly audited by VTG’s own staff.

VTG also has three of its own facilities in Europe: Waggonwerk Brühl in Wesseling (DE) with approx. 200 employees, Waggonbau Graaff in Elze (DE) with approx. 200 employees and Ateliers de Joiny (FR) with approx. 130 employees.

VTG is responsible for approx. 10,000 inspections and 30,000 service assignments every year.

VTG offers its customers a whole spectrum of preventative maintenance, from mobile and stationary services through to heavy-duty maintenance and conversion projects.

As well as wagon hire, VTG AG also organizes the rail transport of goods and the global transport of liquids in tank containers, which can be conveyed by rail, road or sea.

Aim: Noise mitigation, reduction of energy consumption, cost-effectiveness


Noise mitigation:

The consortium is convinced that it can achieve a significant reduction in noise emissions with its innovative freight wagons concept. With this in mind, the consortium has set itself the goal of reducing the noise emissions of the innovative freight wagons compared to the limits of 3 to 6 dB(A) specified in the current European Commission Directive on the technical specifications for the interoperability of the subsystem “Vehicles – Noise”.

Reduction of energy consumption:

With regard to a reduction in traction energy consumption, the consortium will be focusing on two approaches. By further developing the design of all four freight wagon types used in the project, it will be endeavoring to significantly reduce the weight of the wagons. In particular, this will reduce traction energy consumption for unladen journeys, but also for laden journeys with a constant load capacity. In the case of 4-axle freight wagons (intermodal freight wagons and tank wagons), we expect to achieve a considerable reduction in traction energy consumption through the implementation of innovative bogies with radially adjustable wheelsets. Overall, the consortium aims to reduce traction energy consumption by 3–8% compared to conventional freight wagons by reducing the wagon weight and using innovative bogies.


In the past, technically interesting innovations for rail freight have often failed due to lack of economic viability. The aim is to identify and trial innovative components that contribute towards reducing overall life-cycle costs.


Within the scope of the project, the consortium designed a demonstrator train with a total of 12 IFW and 8 reference vehicles. In addition, three further existing freight wagons were fitted with automatic couplers. The IFW were optimized and structurally enhanced with regard to noise and weight reduction on the basis of existing wagon types, such as the 6-axle flat wagon for the transport of steel products, a 2×2-axle open car transport wagon, a 4-axle tank wagon and an 80 ft container wagon. In addition, innovative components – e.g. rubber-spring-loaded bogies with radially adjustable wheelsets, innovative disc brakes, low-noise wheelsets, wheel noise absorbers, wheelset coatings, noise skirts, telematics/sensor technology, power and data bus lines, electro-pneumatic brakes and a range of other innovations – were installed and trialed, then measured and evaluated using criteria such as noise mitigation, energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness. On delivery, the new rolling stock will be subject to noise and energy consumption measurement runs on a test track and compared to reference vehicles. This is to be followed by a field test of the demonstrator train. During the field test, regular wear measurements will be performed on the components in order to evaluate the effects of the innovative components on the cost-effectiveness of the IFWs. The end of the project is planned for 31.12.2018.


The following overview shows the project management team, the subcontractors providing expert support in the area of project management, feasibility studies, technology screening and the scientific consultancy team.

Overall project manager

Dr. Holger Schmidt
(Head of Technical Management Freight Wagons)
DB Cargo AG
Speaker of DB Cargo / VTG consortium

Dr. Hanno Schell
(Head of Technical Innovations)
VTG Rail Europe GmbH

Project Office

Stefan Hagenlocher
(Managing Director)
hwh Ges. für Transport- und Unternehmensberatung mbH

Project partners
Feasibility study / technology screening

Nicolas Wille
(authorized signatory, Head of Cologne Office)
SCI Verkehr GmbH

Scientific consultancy

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Markus Hecht
(Head of specialist field Railway Vehicles at the ILS of the TU Berlin)

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Christian Schindler
(Head of the Institute for Railway Vehicles and Transport Systems (IFS) at the RWTH Aachen)


The project was started in September 2016 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2018. Key milestones were the delivery of new rolling stock, including innovative components, in December 2017, followed in January/February 2018 by a several-week test phase of the IFW and reference stock on the Siemens test tracks in Wegberg-Wildenrath. A separate institute of measurement and testing was commissioned by the BMVI to carry out neutral noise and and energy measurements of the IFW and the reference vehicles.

The test runs in Wegberg-Wildenrath were followed by several months of field tests of the IFW and reference vehicles as demonstrator train. The IFW will initially run nationally on several test loops. Following their approval, the IFW will also be subject to field tests in neighboring countries. Overall, the aim is to achieve a high mileage of approx. 150,000 km. In September 2018, the IFWs will be showcased at the InnoTrans trade fair in Berlin. The project will end on 31.12.2018.