Language tool for rail transport

The UIC (International Union of Railways) and Railnet Europe (RNE) have joined up to launch the initiative “Translate4Rail” and have developed a prototype for a language tool that does away with language barriers. The Rail Cargo Group is one of the key players testing out this tool.

Cross-border information-sharing is crucial between infrastructure and railway undertakings for making rail freight transport fit for the future. It all hinges on communication. Locomotive drivers and dispatchers must be able to communicate with each other confidently, reliably and efficiently – in a way that overcomes all language barriers.

Building on the skills acquired as part of the UIC Xborder project and driven forward by the Rail Freight Forward coalition, the UIC Freight Department has therefore launched the “Translate4Rail” initiative along with RNE 2019; an initiative dedicated to developing a language tool. The research project is funded by Shift2Rail (S2R).

Standardised messages in each national language

A prototype was developed in August 2020 and has been tested out in pilot tests under laboratory conditions since October. The concept is as follows: staff receive a collection of pre-defined, standardised messages (Pre-Defined Messages, PDM) that cover practically every operational situation. The messages are transmitted via a prototype IT tool – installed on tablet computers – and then emerge in the recipient’s own language. Locomotive drivers and train dispatchers should be able to understand each other easily, even when speaking their own mother tongue.

Laboratory test phase underway

One of the first tests for this language tool is going to be rolled out in the border region Villach–Tarvisio–Pontebba. The infrastructure providers ÖBB Infra and RFI started out with the railway undertakings Mercitalia, DB Cargo and RCG as part of the lab test. Field tests will then get underway in 2021 based on the lab test results. All safety aspects will be closely observed in order to assess the language tool’s features during routine daily operations, in the event of service disruptions, and in emergency situations.

About the project

This project has received funding from Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking (JU) under grant agreement No 881779. The JU receives support from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the Shift2Rail JU members other than the Union.


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