The declared aim of the research project Rail4Future is to investigate the dynamic behavior and condition of components such as rails or switches as well as the long-term trends of railroad structures such as bridges or tunnels.

In the “Smart Rail (Safe Rail)“ work package, Fraunhofer scientists are investigating the reliability of non-destructive testing methods for determining the longitudinal rail stress in the track under changing seasons and variable test environments.

This involves conducting experiments in mechanical test rigs on rail segments using component tests with colleagues from the TU Munich's Traffic Route Construction research department. Ultrasonic, magnetic and acoustic methods for determining the longitudinal stress of the rails on the track are being investigated. The aim of these investigations is to develop a testing strategy suitable for use that combines reliable testing with the potential of a mobile and time-effective method.

In addition, at the end of the evaluation, tests are to be carried out on endlessly welded tracks in the ÖBB rail network in order to provide proof of connectivity as part of bilateral projects.

About the overall Rail4Future project

The future of efficient use and management of railroad resources lies in a fully networked and digitalized railroad system. ÖBB is working with around 20 partners from industry and science to realize this highly complex research task. The project volume is around €5 million.

Major challenges in the field of rail mobility

In order to be able to exploit its full potential as a mobility and logistics service provider in the future, ÖBB will have to overcome a number of challenges. For example, higher capacities must be made available, which means more wear and tear on all components in the track when using the existing rail infrastructure facilities. At the same time, the overall costs for the provision of infrastructure, i.e. for measures relating to new construction as well as conversions and maintenance, must be reduced. It is also necessary to maximize the resilience of the railroad system to environmental influences. As weather-related disruptions to rail operations are constantly increasing, considerable investment in technical protection measures and new transport concepts are required to make the entire infrastructure fit for climate change.

Rail4Future Key Data

Coordination by Österreichische Bundesbahn ÖBB
Project term:  04/2021 bis 09/2024
Total funding: approx. 5  million €
Fraunhofer IZFP project management: Michael Becker