DAC: Ensuring rail freight can play the role it deserves in Europe

Heiko Fischer, President of the International Union of Wagon Keepers (UIP), explores why and how digital automatic coupling (DAC) is an imperative solution to assist Europe, and the rail freight sector, in achieving Green Deal objectives.

DAC: Ensuring rail freight can play the role it deserves in Europe

Credit: Deutsche Bahn AG


As freight volumes will continue to grow, with the knowledge that rail is by far the most environmentally friendly mode of transport, investing in the future of the rail freight sector is the linchpin to successfully change the modal split and effectively tackle climate change. Freight trains emit up to nine times less CO2 and particulate matters than road transport. In fact, even if road transport reduces its externalities, rail freight will continue to consume six to seven times less energy than road transport.

In its Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, the European Commission (EC) targets an increase of rail freight transport in Europe of 50 per cent by 2030, bringing rail’s share to 30 per cent of the modal split. Achieving such an ambitious objective in less than a decade requires a system transformation and a huge technological leap. Some may even call it the “Freight Revolution”. The future of transportation needs more rail freight, and we need to revolutionise the way we work.

Digital automatic coupling (DAC)

In this context, the introduction, deployment and speedy rollout of digital automatic coupling (DAC) at a pan-European level will be the game changer. The current works of the European DAC Deployment Programme (EDDP) thus far structured under Shift2Rail and today under its successor programme, Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking, represent both an incredible challenge, but also a unique opportunity to ensure rail freight can play the role it deserves as the backbone of goods mobility across Europe.


Credit: European DAC Deployment Programme (EDDP)