Ferrocampus explores the future of the train

It is not really a railway research center or training organization for train work. This is not a showcase for the general public and not a laboratory of ideas. Ferrocampus, initiated in 2020 by the New Aquitaine Regional Council, is rather a thoughtful combination of these different components, which are considered complementary to explore aspects and developments of the railway sector. All this in a context where the train is set to win market share for both aircraft and cars in a world that must be decarbonised.

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“Understanding context, constraints and needs”

The Ferrocampus Association, established in 2020, brings together about fifty railway and training partners – small and large, regional and international – with the aim of becoming a European center of excellence in the railway sector. To kick-start this process, the Ferrocampus Days are being held in Saintes, Charente-Maritime on 8 and 9 November, where the future TGV M is assembled at the Alstom plant in La Rochelle. According to Severine Renne, CEO, who arrived in January 2022, these two The debate has several purposes:

“We want to better understand the context, constraints and needs of the rail industry in the coming years, in particular to perpetuate daily trains and excellent local services. The challenge is to define an innovation strategy that can then structure the initial and continuing education offering across the many skills that these developments will require.”

Several R&D projects in progress

And the question is not trivial. Assuming a scenario in which train usage doubles by 2030 compared to today, the sector estimates at 15,000 jobs over five years the need for new skills in all relevant occupations and at all skill levels in CAP at Bac+5. “Specifically, we are talking about all the links in the industrial supply chain, as well as new skills in equipment lifecycle analysis, in the traction system around electric batteries and hydrogen, and in the entire digital realm with challenges of cybersecurity, modeling, predictive maintenance, data analysis”Severin Renne explains.

So many essential profiles to carry out projects in which Ferrocampus is a stakeholder, including the Innovative Light Rail program. This consortium of eleven partners (1), led by SNCF, received 90 million euros to present the contours “a lighter, more autonomous, more carbon-free and more digital train” by 2030 it is to replace TER with 9,000 small-scale rail lines.

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Ferrocampus is also a member of the NS2F project piloted by Thales Innovation with Geosat, Setec and Clearcy. “simplified, digital and innovative signaling and control system”. Endowed with 28 million euros, it will be based on the geolocation of trains and on-board systems rather than infrastructure, allowing for increased frequency of service. Finally, the association also participates in the Starc (Safe Transport, Warning, Collision Risk) program, which aims to keep railroad crossings safe, and the Cockpit mobility project, a digital platform for sharing current and future rail data.

Complex of initial and continuing education

So many applied research programs that will fuel the training offerings brought together by Ferrocampus and vice versa. The Association at this stage is not a training organization, it rather plays the role of gathering and sending proposals from its partners, bringing “railway coloring”. Since the beginning of the 2022 academic year, 14 training courses related to “sustainable, carbon-free and connected rail mobility” Thus offered: twelve regional high schools from CAP to BTS, one licensed by the University of La Rochelle and one dedicated to applicants. Three bachelor’s degrees and an Eigsi-Estaca master’s degree will be added from 2023.

Image of the Ferrocampus site in Saintes (credits: Ferrocampus).

Ferrocampus hopes to enroll 900 students per year in 2030. It will be able to use dedicated facilities located at the SNCF site in Saintes and two X73500 laboratory trains provided by the Neu-Aquitaine region. By 2026, the association will have 14,000 m2 to combine research and development, initial and continuing education and public reception.

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(one) SNCF, Texelis, Caf, Wabtec, Railenium, Ferrocampus, Thales, Alstom, CapGemini, Ektacom and Cerema.