Out of the box!

Press Release - Lyon, 12.09.2019

Railway on the runway

“Aero-Ferro Benchmark” project ready for take-off!

Ermewa SA, GATX, École Centrale de Lyon and Technische Universität Berlin sign cooperation agreement. 

Out of the box!

Two leading European railcar rental companies – Ermewa SA and GATX – have joined forces to explore new horizons in partnership with the École Centrale de Lyon and Technische Universität Berlin. At today’s signing ceremony in Lyon, they put the final seal on their collaboration in the “Aero-Ferro Benchmark” project. The new research alliance addresses a key question: What can rail freight transportation learn from the aviation sector – and vice versa? In the past, the aviation industry has been very successful at adopting new strategies. Today, it is more efficient and profitable than ever. The four partners aim to stimulate similar approaches and fresh thinking in rail freight transportation. This will include the production of scientific studies that compare the process designs, business models and safety cultures of the rail freight and aviation sectors and evaluate the opportunity of taking over best practise of both sectors.

“We want to create a high-flying rail sector,” says Peter Reinshagen, Managing Director, Ermewa SA, at the signing ceremony. “The aviation industry faces many of the same issues and challenges but – in the past – they have often found better solutions than we have,” he continues, explaining his commitment to the project. Project partner Johann Feindert, CEO of GATX Rail Europe, is confident about the cooperation’s prospects. “Systematic benchmarking is the gateway for an innovative and more efficient rail freight system,” he says. Both firmly believe that the rail sector must leave its comfort zone in order to significantly increase its share of the modal split. This includes questioning received wisdom and facing up to uncomfortable truths.

“From a science perspective, the project is uncharted territory for the railway sector,” says Prof. Mohamed Ichchou from École Centrale de Lyon. Prof. Markus Hecht from Technische Universität Berlin agrees. “We want to push ourselves to look beyond the horizons of our own scientific disciplines. Working together with businesses also allows us to conduct practical research for the sector,” he adds.

Over the next three years, graduate and undergraduate students in Lyon and Berlin will investigate various aspects of process design in the aviation and rail freight transportation sectors. Their research will focus on important areas such as:

▪          Safety

How do industry players implement and develop a sustainable safety culture? The aviation industry has invested in global, cross-company data exchange and is developing a positive approach to decriminalise and analyse errors.

▪          Maintenance

How do the two modes of transport organise their maintenance procedures? In the aviation industry, condition-based and predictive maintenance have long been standard. What aspects of these approaches have proven useful and how can this experience be applied to the rail sector?

▪          Business models

How do the two industries structure their business models for the rental market? The aviation sector has switched to charging fees only for each hour the plane is used as well as maintenance time. Could this model be transferred to the railways? And, conversely, could linking rental and maintenance charges – standard practice in the rail freight transport sector – also tap hidden potential for air freight?

Research concepts and interim results will be presented and discussed next year at the first symposium near the German-French border. Additional workshops to accompany the project are planned.

“Aero-Ferro Benchmark” is a collaborative project involving German and French partners. It was initiated by Peter Reinshagen, Ermewa SA, and Prof. Markus Hecht, Technische Universität Berlin. Reinshagen’s background in the aviation sector has given him a keen eye for identifying the differences between the production processes and corporate cultures in both these industries. Together with Prof. Hecht, he developed the idea of benchmarking the two modes of transport. The project has also succeeded in attracting two renowned partners from the scientific and rail sectors respectively – École Centrale de Lyon and the railcar rental company GATX. In addition, the research initiative is supported by the German and French railcar rental associations VPI and AFWP.  Further partners from the worlds of industry and science are warmly invited to contribute their expertise and insights to the project.

Ermewa SA & GATX are leading railcar rental companies in Europe proposing to reinvent the European rail freight industry. They believe that rail freight must increase its performance to achieve growth in rail transportation, which is necessary to meet the climate change targets fixed by governments and society.

École Centrale de Lyon is one of France’s leading universities in the area of engineering. Founded in 1857, École Centrale de Lyon has a strong tradition of research and innovation, especially in the transportation sector. The Technische Universität Berlin, TU Berlin, was founded in 1879. The university’s renowned research programmes – especially in computer science, mechanical engineering, economics and management – enjoy an excellent international reputation.


From left to right:

Olivier BAREILLE – Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department, LTDS – Ecole Centrale de Lyon

Sylvie MIRA-BONARDEL – Head of the CLES Department – Ecole Centrale de Lyon

Jean-Pierre BERTOGLIO – VP Research – Ecole Centrale de Lyon

Peter REINSHAGEN – Managing Director – Ermewa SA

Prof. Markus HECHT – Professor - TU Berlin

Johann FEINDERT – Chief Executive Officer - GATX

Johann FEINDERT – Chief Executive Officer - GATX and Peter REINSHAGEN – Managing Director – Ermewa SA