The future of rail transport

The railway was one of the most significant inventions to come out of industrialisation. It remains an abiding source of fascination, but now this world of locomotives, wagons, rails and signals is now associated with plenty of cutting-edge technology. Digitalisation, automation, new communications technologies and standards, modern materials and production engineering and the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence have the potential to make rail transport much more appealing and competitive in future. They pave the way for significantly higher capacity on the tracks and greater efficiency overall. At the same time, they promise less energy consumption and increased security, punctuality and comfort.

DLR research for future rail systems

There is a huge need for forward-looking technologies and solutions for the railways of tomorrow, and that is exactly where DLR's research into rail transport comes into play. State-of-the-art, climate-conscious and environment-friendly rail transport will play a key role in the mobility transition. Switching from private cars and short flights to trains is only possible if the available options are appealing in their own right. The same applies to shifting freight transport from the road back to the railway. With that in mind, DLR is conducting research into infrastructure and operational framework conditions, devising new, capacity-enhancing concepts for operation, infrastructure and vehicles, and devising innovative maintenance methods.

Video: The fu­ture of rails
Tjark Siefkes on the chal­lenges for rail traf­fic, the so­lu­tions that DLR is work­ing on and DLR is a lead­er in rail re­search.

Next-Generation Train – visualising and bringing together ideas and technologies

Under its flagship 'Next-Generation Train (NGT)' concept, DLR is developing a vision of future rail transport as an essential part of mobility geared towards sustainability and greater capacity. New technologies from the fields of propulsion systems, aerodynamics, lightweight construction, chassis design, crash behaviour, air conditioning, automation, control and regulation all feed into the NGT concept. All of these developments and concepts are aimed at enhancing the role of rail transport can play in the mobility transition.

A whole family of trains has been created. The NGT HST (High-Speed Train) is a double-decker, high-speed multiple-unit train that can travel at up to 400 kilometres per hour. The NGT LINK is a double-decker, interregional train that connects cities and metropolitan areas. The NGT CARGO is a fast, quiet, automatic freight train that can be assembled from individual cars and powered end cars as required. This allows goods to be transported flexibly, quickly, reliably and without expending excessive resources.

The guiding concept behind the Next Generation Train is constantly being expanded. It now includes concepts for future-forward train stations and logistics terminals. In the near future, it will incorporate ideas for autonomous and needs-based railbuses (NGT TAXI) and their role in regional mobility concepts.

Video: Dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion in rail trans­port
How dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion and rail come to­geth­er, what op­por­tu­ni­ties dig­i­tal rails can of­fer and how DLR re­search is sup­port­ing this – all this is cov­ered in the in­ter­view with DLR re­searcher Michael Mey­er zu Hörst

As a founding member of the EU-Rail Horizon Europe partnership, DLR is working with European rail operators and industry players to further develop the rail system. A total of 13 DLR institutes are contributing to the project with their teams, expertise, research facilities and enthusiasm for research, development and the transfer of innovations for rail transport.

News on the topic



Denise Nüssle

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Corporate Communications
Pfaffenwaldring 38-40, 70569 Stuttgart
Tel: +49 711 6862-8086

Tjark Siefkes

Director of the Institute
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Vehicle Concepts
Pfaffenwaldring 38-40, 70569 Stuttgart

Michael Meyer zu Hörste

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Transport Research
Rutherfordstraße 2, 12489 Berlin