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The world’s first smart 5G railyard

(December 2022) Trade between Europe and Asia has been flourishing for thousands of years. However, intercontinental traffic flowing between the East and the West quite literally requires a change of track. Located in the heart of Europe, the town of Fényeslitke in Hungary is where standard and wide gauge railways meet. All cargo travelling between the two continents needs to be switched between trains to continue its journey.

One of the giant cranes on rail at EWG

In operation since October 2022, the East-West Gate Intermodal Terminal (EWG) in Fényeslitke serves as a hub for the region's rail, road, and waterway transportation networks. With the capacity to handle up to 1.2 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) per year, it is one of the largest intermodal terminals in Europe.

However, this is no ordinary port, it is the first logistics terminal in the world utilising remote-controlled overhead cranes to move containers remotely, making EWG Europe's first smart railway logistics terminal.

“With the construction of the East-West Gate, Hungary is back on the map of international rail logistics,” said János Tálosi, CEO of East-West Intermodal Logistics, in a video made for the launch. “The railway terminal in Fényeslitke which allow track change was built in record time and currently is the most modern transfer terminal in Europe.”

The EWG Terminal has one 41-meter wide and two 28-meter wide cranes on rails, as well as a free ranging 20-meter high crane. Instead of drivers operating each crane from a cabin high above the ground, the cranes are equipped with 20 high-resolution cameras whose images are fed to remote operators. The cranes are also equipped with advanced sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, allowing them to operate with a high degree of accuracy and speed. Large bandwidths are required to upload the images from the cranes and view them in real time, and low latency is needed to accurately control the cranes. Customised, high data security private 5G network enables the wireless real-time remote control over the entire container terminal area.

A operator remote-controlling a crane from an office

The remote-controlling of these cranes significantly reduces the need for workers on the ground as containers are transferred. This boosts safety at the terminal. EWG has also deployed digital twin applications to assist with preventative maintenance, improving working conditions and operational efficiency by over 20%.

The 5G connectivity at EWG allows for real-time tracking and management of cargo. Using state-of-the-art logistics software, it provides full control of all terminal operations. This enables the efficient and timely handling of cargo, as well as the detection and prevention of potential bottlenecks or delays. As a result, shippers can accurately predict arrival times and improve the overall supply chain management process.

Sensors and cameras are fitted next to the wheels of an off-rail crane

In addition to its technological advancements, the EWG also has a number of environmental and sustainability features. The terminal is powered by renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, and boasts a rainwater harvesting system to reduce water usage. All vehicles on the site are electrically powered.

Overall, the East-West Gate Intermodal Terminal is a major step forward in the development of smart railways in Europe. Its use of 5G connectivity and fully-automated overhead cranes significantly improves efficiency and reduce costs, while its environmental and sustainability features make it a more sustainable and responsible transportation hub.

Watch our colleague Tamas Boday explain how East-West Gate works: