ORFEUS - History

  • International Transport Committee (CIT) proposed the basic far-seeing idea in 1985 already. UIC established a project called DOCIMEL (DOCument CIM Electronique) with a broad participation of railways.
  • Good will to cover all the eventualities of the international transport and of all national specifics resulted in (rather unrealistic) more than one hundred Edifact message types and in three variants of implementation. The UIC Project was finished with System Specifications and the Final report in 1992.
  • A small group of five railways decided to continue to the realisation phase. They established new body - EURAILDATA. The basic principles were: decrease the number of message types and to implement the central concept. The project received new name ORFEUS. Its first phase does not replace the paper documents, however parallel electronic and paper consignment processing is the first step in this direction.
  • In 1995, Euraildata was replaced by RAILDATA, where the development was even accelerated and which is the managing body of the project since that moment.
  • Programming of the central application was commissioned to EDS (Netherlands). The application was installed on a DEC Alpha server in the DB Computer Centre in Frankfurt am Main. The software was extensively tested and after removing of some software problems (mainly linked with the X.400 interface) an acceptable level of stability was reached.
  • In 2002, the communication interface has been changed. The outdated X.400 system was replaced by new the FTP interface as part of the Hermes Open Systems Architecture. EDS developed special FTP modules to cover specific needs of the application.
  • The application was also moved to the new platform. The application was ported on more powerful Digital Unix server (bought originally for system HIPPS F2.1). This server was installed at EDS in Spijkenisse. Connection to the HERMES VPN network was via leased line to Brussels VPN router.
  • On 27th May 2002, the production of ORFEUS was switched from DB computer centre in Frankfurt to EDS's computer centre in Spijkenisse.
  • During the second half of 2003, the central system CDS was completely redeveloped by LUSIS, French IT supplier. Their TANGO platform was used as the basis for the new CDS software. The system was installed in the computer centre of CGE&Y in Villepinte (near Paris).
  • After a large outage of the old server in Spijkenisse, the ORFEUS production was moved to the new CDS in Villepinte on 17th February 2004. It allowed to decrease the running costs (CGE&Y runs also the ISR central application, which offers possibility to share the infrastructure). Another Villepinte's advantage is a good connection to the new Hermes VPN network.
  • Early 2005 a new XML interface was developed to allow data exchange with this new standard (using XML Schema). The CDS ensured format conversion from XML to Edifact and vice versa. This XML-CTD was designed also with the aim to reflect all the changes, required by the new COTIF.
  • On 27th November 2006, all the data exchange migrated to the new version of the XML-CTD message. Since all Orfeus members implemented this message, no format conversion was needed after the migration.
  • On 14th September 2008, the production of CDS migrated form the CGEY centre in Villepinte to the new server platforms, installed in computer centres in Aubervilliers and Paris, both managed by LUSIS. New duplicated Hermes VPN site was established for the new platform connectivity.
  • In 2009, new ECN XML message format was developed to follow the specifications defined with the e-Rail Freight project of UIC/CIT. Three different flows (ECTD, PCN and ECN) were implemented to support different options of transportation during 2010.
  • DBSDE and SNCF used the PCN and ECN flows of ORFEUS to run part of bilateral transports between France and Germany on electronic consignment note since 2013.
  • CD Cargo (Czechia) joined ORFEUS from November 2015. As the first member they implemented the new version 1.42. They support all three flows (ECTD, PCN and ECN) for receiving, and PCN and ECN flows for sending.

The original ORFEUS scenario used five message types:

  • The Forwarding railway company collects data about an international transport and then sends them to the CDS using the Create Transport Dossier (CTD) message. A copy of the CTD is sent to all other involved railways by the CDS.
  • Border Crossing Message (BCR) is sent to the CDS for distribution to other relevant railway companies, when a loaded wagon crosses a border.
  • Update Transport Dossier (UTD) message may be sent to CDS and relevant railway companies when any change in the consignment note content happens.
  • Arrival Notice (ARN) message is generated and delivered (through the CDS) to relevant railway companies, when a loaded wagon arrives to the destination station.
  • General Response Message (GRM) is used if any application or data error happens.

In November 2002, the participating railway companies decided to exchange only the message CTD. Other message types can be blocked in the CDS before sending them to the railways. In 2006, UTD message was implemented, although limited to forwarding RU only. The railways have to accept at least error GRMs to get the information from the CDS about detected problems in the messages they have sent.