A sustainable transport system that is viable in the long term from an economic, ecological and social point of view can only be achieved with modern, reliable and efficient rail transport. For this reason, DLR is also following a systematic research approach for this mode of transport. Under the guiding concept of the Next Generation Train, researchers are working on the technological development of rail vehicles, which also involves a variety of approaches drawn from the road vehicle and aircraft manufacturing industries, including hybrid propulsion systems, lightweight designs and improved aerodynamics.
However, in order to further develop the rail system in the most efficient way possible and to boost its competitiveness, it is necessary to observe, analyse and, if necessary, adjust the infrastructural and rail management frameworks in a targeted way. This includes new, capacity-enhancing operational concepts using the potential offered by digital technologies. Predictive maintenance should also be mentioned in this context since it can reduce maintenance costs significantly and prevent failures of the control and safety equipment. Other DLR research topics include migration strategies for automated rail transport and the future roles to be played by control centre operators and train drivers in managing vehicle routing and in monitoring train movements.