CroBIT: an Information Platform for European Cargo Railways
Eckhard Kuhla, EKonsult, DE
CroBIT is enabling each railway stakeholder to get status and event informations about their consignments. This is the first pan European application and offer to get valid informations with Internet access.
Rail more and more will get an integrated partner ? like any other transportation system ? in the Supply Chain Business. That business needs real time status information and updating capability -europe wide. International freight traffic is growing immensely, except the rail mode. One reason for that is the rail ?Info Gap?, compared with the benchmark ?Lorry?. Road transportation is setting the standard.
This rail information deficit mostly derives from the poor data availability across the border, that means it is mostly delayed and not real time. A paradoxon: the relevant information (e.g. train position) are existing but not supplied across the border. The railway companies have tried hard in the last decades to overcome that IT Gap, but without any major success. There are many reasons for the poor availability like the different national software systems, too many interfaces, intercultural problems, mostly manual input but most important of all: the agreed upon rules are not mandatory.
The EU (DG TREN) is funding another solution: an information platform using modern IT technologies like information access via Internet, message broker systems etc. That project is called CroBIT (Cross Border Information Technology). Members of the con-sortium are the UIC, rail IT departments, the Fraunhofer Institute, software companies etc. Most of them implemented their existing (?best practice?) software, a requirement by the EU.
A platform concept is drastically reducing the number of interfaces in the international data processing. Instead of classical bilateral agreements between neighboring railways a platform reduces the information access to one data channel. It is not a new idea: a money earning company in the US called Railinc already operates that concept.
The ?Front Office? of CroBIT is consisting of data usage and data provision. The CroBIT data are used by Rail Undertakings (RU), Infrastructure Managers (IM), Logistic Service Providers (LSP), Terminal Operators, Authorities etc. The Internet access is being defined by specific user?s contracts to secure their unique selling proposition. In other words: each user is getting his specified product out of CroBIT, based on a sort of Service Provider contract. Data input and output is protected by different access rules, depending on the kind of service being paid.
The data provision is represented by the product elements of CroBIT like:
- connectivity (coupling of each existing software system),
- visibility (position and status of the entities like consignment, wagon / loading unit, train)
- alert (like delay) management with query and (?watchdog?) functions inclusive an ETA calculation
- reporting functionalities via a data bank
With those elements a ramp-to-ramp monitoring can be contracted.
In the ?Back Office? the data initiation and availability plays an important role. The basic operational information is initiated by the classical train control systems of the IMs: the train status information. This information is a part of the slot contract of an IM with the relevant RUs. With an information platform like CroBIT it is more meaningfull to contract the data provision of this basic information for the sake of every partner in the transportation process. The vision for CroBIT is to automate each data input. All kind of data in all different formats can be processed by the CroBIT toolset.
Another added value of CroBIT is concerning standards: CroBIT has implemented most of the European TAF-TSI items (Telematic Applications for Freight ? Technical Specification for Interoperability) as the first European project. Those standards are based on an Euro-pean agreed upon process model.
CroBIT has undergone intensive testing. Different RUs and terminal operators on two different corridors or are operating the demonstrator with dedicated trains. These are corridors between Northern Italy and Finland with different transportation modes and between Portugal and Spain with container trains.
The CroBIT toolset also will especially serve the needs of those RUs, which are focus-ing their business on more international operating trains. This requires a specific information service of the relevant IMs, which will be a part of the slot contract.
In a succeeding stage negotiations will take place with the railways in the accession countries. There is a serious need to overcome the national ?IT borders?.
For medium future the CroBIT consortium started talks to commercialize the service ? like the American Railinc ? within a money earning company called RISE: Rail Information Service Europe.
Association for European Transport