In the presence of NRW Transport Minister Oliver Krischer, the demonstrator of the MONOCAB OWL system was presented driving on part of the disused test track of the Extertalbahn on Monday, October 3. “Thusnelda”, as the demonstrator is called, mastered the route autonomously driving thanks to its two stabilizing gyroscopes. Thanks to the Mouse Door Opener Day organized by Landeseisenbahn Lippe, numerous guests were able to witness the test and demonstration runs. Before the first start of the tech demonstrator, the future cabin made of sustainable materials had also been unveiled.
The Minister of Transport of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Oliver Krischer, said: “The MONOCAB project idea has the potential to complement rail-based mobility and at the same time to profile East Westphalia-Lippe as an innovation location in North Rhine-Westphalia. MONOCAB OWL, with its innovative transport concept and sustainable cabin design, exemplifies a mobility policy that no longer sees the environment and transport as opposites, but as a driver for greater sustainability and quality of life.”
Earlier, the president of the Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Technology, Professor Dr. Jürgen Krahl, had praised the REGIONALE2022 mobility project: “The MONOCAB OWL combines a technology that has basically been known for one hundred years with a modern idea that rethinks rail-bound local transport, namely as a combination of public and individual passenger transport.” Namely, he said, people can wait for the next free MONOCAB, or order it via app at a specific time. “We are so convinced by this technology that we plan to have a MONOCAB driving permanently at the Innovation Campus in Lemgo.” Krahl recalled that the development of the MONOCAB was another joint success in OWL. “My thanks go to my colleague and project leader Professor Schulte and his team at TH OWL, and equally to our partners from Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences, Fraunhofer IOSB-INA Lemgo, the Lippe State Railway and the Lippe district. Our joint efforts show what universities of applied sciences are capable of in conjunction with other experts,” Krahl continued. In the future, the system will be further developed until it is ready for series production, using and expanding synergies with RailCampus OWL in Minden.
“Lippe is a real laboratory for multimodal mobility: the idea for the MONOCAB originated in Lippe, and we are all proud of that and want to implement the next steps in Lippe as well. The innovative single-rail vehicles help to ensure climate-friendly mobility in line with demand, especially in rural areas,” explained District Administrator Dr. Axel Lehmann.
Jürgen Tuscher, Managing Director of RailCampus OWL in Minden, said the MONOCAB is the perfect door opener for switching from IPNV to public transport. “Passengers can use the service as needed, and they can expect a pleasant friendly driving experience with fewer passengers than in public transport,” Tuscher said. This makes it a good complement to established services, especially in rural areas, he said.
The first successful test drives made the “father” of the idea Thorsten Försterling from the Lippe state railroad particularly proud. “The future of mobility in rural areas is individual. A solution must be good and simple. It must be intuitive and feel natural. That is exactly what we are achieving with the MONOCAB,” says Försterling.
The Vice President for Research and Transfer at TH OWL, Professor Dr. Stefan Witte, sees it similarly. With the MONOCAB OWL, he said, a vehicle is emerging that creates entirely new potential for the reactivation of rail lines. “This will newly strengthen mobility offers with automated, electric rail transport, especially in rural regions,” Witte said.
For project manager Professor Dr. Thomas Schulte, dean in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering at TH OWL, the MONOCAB is “the most extraordinary project I have ever experienced. It is technically and organizationally very complex but with an extreme enthusiasm among all participants and supporters,” Schulte said. With the MONOCAB OWB, he said, all those involved have the chance to implement a truly innovative new mobility concept in rural areas: “In perspective, MONOCABs could begin regular test operations from around 2027.”
The dean of the engineering and mathematics department at Bielefeld UAS and head of the new bachelor’s program “Digital Railway Systems” at RailCampus OWL in Minden also ranked MONOCAB OWL as a research highlight of scientific cooperation. “For FH Bielefeld, the topic of sustainability has been at the top of the agenda for many years. This concerns teaching as well as research. For this reason, a team of experts from Bielefeld UAS, in close cooperation with researchers from TH OWL, set out full of verve and with the necessary know-how to develop a dedicated chassis with a wheel with a special wheel profile for the MONOCAB system – elements that are indispensable to ensure that this forward-looking technology for the development of a rail-based and sustainable mobility service functions perfectly, especially for rural areas,” says Professor Dr. Rolf Naumann.
The MONOCAB OWL is a gyro-stabilized autonomous monorail system with electric drive and one of the REGIONALE 2022 projects in the field of mobility. The vehicles are designed in such a way that they can also encounter each other on a normal railroad track.Project funding is provided as part of the implementation of the Operational Program of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in North Rhine-Westphalia for the period 2014-2020 with co-financing from the Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Transport of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. The European Regional Development Fund alone is funding the project with 1,998,040 euros. This is supplemented by 1,598,432 euros in state funding from Düsseldorf.