ORFEUS - Overview

ORFEUS ensures the exchange of railway CIM consignment notes and CUV wagon notes data between the co-operating railway undertakings (RU) using a Central Data System (CDS).

ORFEUS Components:

  • Central part CDS (Central Data-management System). It acts as a message broker for collection and distribution of information, including specific logic and verifications. This software was designed by LUSIS, French IT supplier using their TANGO platform.
  • National Information Systems (NISes) of connected railway undertakings. NIS is the common name for the information system of a freight railway company, which covers both commercial and production functions.


Message Syntax:

The CDS exchanges data of the CIM/CUV notes with the NISes using several message formats:

  • ECN XML message (the e-Rail Freight format) is supported to enable the electronic consignment note (ECN) exchange. The ECN-xml message is capable to carry 100 % of consignment note data and matches the requirements of the ECN defined by the CIT. Actual versions in use are 1.31, 1.4. and 1.42 (to be used by any new member).  This message format is used for several functions (ECTD, INF, ECN, ACK, NACK, CANCEL, DEL...) depending on the event and message flow type. Note new ECN version 1.5 is already defined and will be implemented late 2019 too.
  • CTD (version 2) XML message is former standard message format. This message format is used for creation (CTD) and update (UTD) of the transport dossier. The CTD message is considered as obsolete and is not maintained since end of the year 2016. Anyhow it is used by few members still, who did not migrate to a newer format yet.

Since the members use different types of message formats, ORFEUS ensures conversion between these formats (where possible) in both directions. On the other hand, conversion and maintenance of too many versions is complex and costly. Therefore the members agreed to abandon the oldest version (CTD v.2). Although the deadline was end of 2016, few companies use this old version still.


  • ORFEUS uses the FTP (file transfer protocol) for transmission of messages. FTP is an Internet based standard (RFC 959).
  • For the specific needs of the distributed application, special FTP modules were developed. Each connected national system needs to install specific Lusis FTP client to communicate with the CDS. 
  • The communication infrastructure used is mostly the Hermes VPN (Virtual Private Network) provided by Hit Rail. Raildata has direct access to Hermes via fully duplicated VPN site in Aubervilliers / Paris.


The User Support Centre (USC) in Basel provides production support for ORFEUS, as well as coordination between the individual suppliers for specific parts of the service (LUSIS, Computer Centre, Hit Rail etc.).

Specific web based tool linked to the CDS allows to observe the traffic as well as to do on-line queries about specific wagon or consignment numbers. These services are open to authorized staff of the member companies only. As important improvement, new ORFEUS web site has been developed in 2017. It will be opened to ORFEUS members to enable search and analyse the consignment data, messages etc., of course respecting strict access rules.