Focus on digitalization and technology

Our digital and technical strategy is designed to develop an ultra-smart mobility network by 2030 – connected, automated and customer-oriented. In the future, travel should essentially “plan itself” and adapt to changing circumstances in real time in the event of deviations. To this end, our digitalization processes must be understood and designed as an intelligent overall system – a long-term development, with three core tasks under the Strong Rail strategy:

  • fully connected,
  • self-organized development, and
  • making it easier for customers to use mobility services.

In six strategic areas, digitalization and technology are the key to success for the Strong Rail strategy:

  • Digital rail operations are making us more robust, for example by using automated timetable planning and scheduling.
  • Digital maintenance is making us more efficient, for example as a result of real-time transparency and more proactive planning.
  • The digital customer experience is making us more modern, for example by using more efficient travel chains and more intuitive booking options.
  • The high availability of rail technology is making us more robust – by increasing the availability of infrastructure and vehicles.
  • Flexible rail technology is making us more efficient, for example through the comprehensive modernization of the fleet and infrastructure.
  • Green rail technology is making us more modern, for example through emissions-free and environmentally friendly rail operations.

All of these initiatives will help to steadily increase capacity, efficiency and quality. Implementing the digital and technical strategy also requires a culture that supports ideas and plans for a new working environment, and inspires enthu­siasm for new technologies and new forms of working (together).

IT infrastructure is the basis for driving digitalization. The digital infrastructure concept for a Strong Rail comprises five components:

  • Connectivity: Connectivity is the most basic requirement for data transfer and exchange, because a Strong Rail needs high-speed communication.
  • Cloud services: Cloud services help provide dynamic, scalable and on-demand IT services, because a Strong Rail needs resilient IT resources.
  • Cybersecurity: The area of cybersecurity will also continue to be improved, because only a secure rail system is a strong rail system. Cybersecurity means comprehensive protection of all (digital) assets, systems, data and processes.
  • Development platforms: Our development platforms offer modular services to help speed up the development of software.
  • Data management: The objective within data management is to provide tools and standards for the general use of all data within the Group.

By 2030, the goal is to have trained mobility systems to detect, calculate and network automatically and hence, to keep everything permanently up to date. Artificial Intelligence (AI) determines the pace of this by facilitating new ways of managing capacity, eliminating barriers and satisfying requirements before they are even identified and formulated. The vehicles are highly automated, communicate with each other, update themselves indepen­dently and report potential defects even before they occur – with new sensors, drones and robots.

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Ecosystems and partnerships

Digitalization and global competition are fundamentally changing market conditions. Due to much shorter innovation cycles, new markets are created faster, and there is growing pressure on established market players to innovate. We need to transform into an ecosystem-focused company so that we can tap into growth potential in this area and ensure DB Group stays competitive in the long-term. DB Group is therefore using partnerships to drive greater innovation and is systematically expanding collaboration. The first partnerships will be established in the following four areas:

  • Production Tech: The digitalization of production processes makes it possible to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of operating processes. This means, among other things, that capacity increases and an increase in the availability of trains and cost savings can be achieved in the Integrated Rail System. We are currently placing particular focus on this ecosystem in line with the Strong Rail strategy.
  • Sustainability Tech: Partnerships for the development of innovative, environmental and customer-oriented solutions, particularly in the areas of climate protection and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Logistics: Innovative, value-driven aspirations and competitive value-added chains also require integrated transport and logistics solutions with partners.
  • New Mobility:NeMo is committed to providing robust public transport which is climate-friendly, simple and comprehensive. Together with traditional passenger transport, the unit with its New Mobility companies offers integrated mobility from a single source for contracting organizations and municipalities.

Digital transformation

The digital transformation is focused on the inclusion and qualification of employees through training, new working methods and agile structures. In 2021, the focus was on expanding digital skills.

  • We created the DB Digital Base in Berlin, a central location for digitalization within DB Group. This provides executives and employees with free access to a wide range of events and workshops on digital topics.
  • In order to achieve the goals of the Strong Rail, we want to implement digital business models for DB Group. In 2021, DB Intrapreneurs validated a product-market fit for two project teams and transferred them to DB Bahnbau as an internal foundation.
  • In 2021, the Digital Transformation Academy was developed to foster employees’ digital skills. More than 80 participants from seven business units were equipped with skills in agile working and agile product development.
  • Since the beginning of 2018, we have been promoting our digital talent in the areas of digitalization and business model development through our digitalization trainee program, as well as building digital skills for the whole DB Group.
  • Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures is our corporate venture capital arm, which invests in innovative business models.The research fields are based on our Strong Rail strategy and our digital and technology strategy. The main focus is on the power of start-ups and technology partnerships to change the market and their ability to establish trendsetting customer and industrial solutions.
  • As a start-up hub and innovation driver, DB mindbox works closely with business units and start-ups to support innovative technologies and digital applications within DB Group. Innovative solutions from start-ups are adapted to the needs of DB Group and live-tested through various start-up programs and open data initiatives. More than 190 start-ups have already participated in the support program.For about 60% of the start-ups, specific products and innovations were pursued as part of follow-up partnerships after the DB mindbox process.

Digital Rail for Germany (Digitale Schiene Deutschland; DSD)

Our target is to offer more attractive rail transport with more capacity of a higher quality, without the need for additional tracks. We will do this with the creation of a digital platform for the rail system, and by equipping the system with digital interlockingsno. 145 and the European Train Control System (ETCS). This platform will then be used to operate new technologies to enable the rail operations of the future.

After reaching a consensus on the implementation of the Digital Rail for Germany program with the Federal Railway Authority (Eisenbahn-Bundesamt; EBA) and the German Railway Industry Association (Verband der Bahnindustrie; VDB), followed by the signing of a letter of intent in Septem­ber 2020, we are on the way to speeding up the rollout of Digi­tal Rail for Germany. As a result, the network can be fully equipped with digital command and control technology by 2035. In addition to securing financing (for infrastructure and vehicle equipment), this will require, among other things, series-ready technology, optimized processes for planning, implementation and commissioning, sufficient radio capacity and the securing of personnel resources. Implementation is discussed in five regular working groups together with the Federal Government and the sector players, as part of a Digital Rail for Germany project.

As part of the 2020 launch package, the concrete planning and installation of ETCS and digital interlockings has begun in the context of the Stuttgart Digital Hub (Digitaler Knoten Stuttgart; DKS), the Cologne — Rhine/Main high-speed line and the accessibility of the Trans-European Scandinavia — Mediterranean corridor. Stuttgart will be the first region in Germany to receive the digital train control and interlock­-ing technology. In early 2021, the BMDV published a vehicle funding directive for the corresponding refitting of the relevant vehicles in the Stuttgart Digital Hub, and made funds available in the budget.

In order to accelerate the switch to digital interlockings, the Federal Government provided additional funds for a fast-track program, amounting to€ 500 million by the end of 2021. In a total of seven projects, the existing signaling and level crossing security technology will be replaced by modern and digital interlocking elements. This program will be used for developing and testing new processes and technologies together with the railway industry in order to equip the network comprehensively with digital interlockings.

Key milestones have also been reached in the digitalization of the rail system:

  • As part of the “Digital S-Bahn (metro) Hamburg” pilot project, highly automated rail operations based on Auto­matic Train Operation (ATO) and ETCS were demonstrated at the ITS World Congress in October 2021. Four existing vehicles on the Hamburg S-Bahn (metro) network were equipped with digital technology, and 23 km of track were upgraded. In addition, the fully automated shunting process was demonstrated at the ITS World Congress at Bergedorf station in Hamburg. Training and qualifications are also being run for additional train drivers. The ATO and ETCS journeys are scheduled to start in daily passenger operations from April 2022.
  • Together with our project partners Siemens Mobility, Bosch Engineering, ibeo automotive and HERE Technologies, we have equipped another S-Bahn (metro) Ham­burg train with state-of-the-art sensors as part of our joint project Sensors4Rail. The 14 sensors record information about the train environment using the radar, lidar and camera systems. The sensor information can be matched with a digital map to precisely position the vehicle. In future, based on this data, trains will be able to be controlled optimally and run at shorter intervals. This should allow an increase in network capacity. At the ITS World Congress, the Sensors4Rail project was put to the test for the first time on the S 21 S-Bahn (metro) line between Bergedorf and Hamburg Dammtor stations. From 2022 to 2023, we will continue testing the technology in continuous operations. Data will be collected and scenario tests will be carried out to improve the (AI-based) functions.
  • At the “Digital Rail Test Site” in the Erzgebirge region, switches and signals for the Erzgebirgsbahn are already being provided digitally in the Annaberg — Buchholz section. This is complemented by the expansion of a 5G test network along the Markersbach — Schlettau section. In 2021, the development of a research environment with eight 5G radio masts along the line was completed and commissioned. In addition, various innovative technolo­gies relating to the new Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS)/5G standard were tested for use in operation. For example, innovative antenna technologies for the railway network of the future were tested together with Ericsson and Rohde&Schwarz. Findings from the tests serve to optimize radio network planning with regard to future digital rail applications.

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