The Munich core team responsible for the European UIC model of the CCB-3. From left: Felix Reiss, Oliver Riediger, Gwendoline Kriz, Sebastian Louca, and Michael Holz.

International teamwork in practice: a locomotive brake control for worldwide use.

Designed for a range of different markets, the modular CCB-3 locomotive brake control unit has many benefits for rail manufacturers. Teams in the USA, Europe, and China are working together on solution-oriented strategies for its development.

The task of the CCB-3 brake control unit

The CCB-3 locomotive brake control unit was a highlight at the leading trade fair InnoTrans 2018. Displayed on a 2.20-meter screen, it could be viewed from every angle and even the tiniest feature examined in detail. What does it do? “In simple terms, we put in power and 10-bar compressed air at one end, and get a range of precisely regulated pressures out at the other,” explains Sebastian Louca, Team Leader Brake Systems Family Engineering in Munich. “This ensures the locomotive always brakes reliably—and so does the whole train, throughout which the main air pipe supplies all brakes.”

Different markets with different demands

The informative high-tech presentation at the trade show opened up a vision of the future. “With the CCB-3, rail manufacturers will find it far easier to adapt their locomotives for different markets,” says Louca. “Companies like Siemens and Bombardier currently face the major task of aligning a locomotive built for, say, Europe to rail standards in force in other regions.” Many brake control units currently available are tailored for individual markets. These include:

  • CCBII (Computer Controlled Brake II) for the North American, Australian and Chinese markets
  • MBS (Modular Brake System) for Europe
  • BP Compact (compact HL steering) for markets in Europe and Russia
  • CCBII-IR (Computer Controlled Brake II – Indian Railways) for the Indian market

Although the individual systems vary in terms of functions as well as installation space requirements and interfaces to other systems, the main tasks of a locomotive brake control unit remain similar.

Standardized locomotive brake control for various norms and standards

Given this, a standardized brake control unit for locomotives that is equally suitable for different standards is a logical idea. “However, this is also a very complex task,” explains Felix Reiss, Team Leader ESE Electronic Systems Engineering Network Brakes. “We therefore came up with a modular system that allows us to meet the various market standards but also fulfil various customer-specific requirements.” The line will initially comprise models for the markets in the USA and China, where AAR norms must be adhered to, and versions for Europe, where UIC norms apply. This first major project enables Knorr-Bremse to showcase one of its special strengths: its expertise at intensive collaboration between locations in Europe, the USA and China and coordination of teams on different continents. “Around 100 employees are involved at full or part-time level,” explains Reiss. “Of course, time zones are an ever-present challenge in these kinds of international projects.”


One system for all standards – four benefits of CCB-3:

Frame remains the same:

CCB-3 eliminates the need for brake control unit redesign if a locomotive is destined for a market governed by different standards.

Standardized modules:

The individual modules are quickly installed with functions adapted to the respective markets, while the locomotive-brake interface remains the same.

High-tech design:

Sophisticated systems architecture, state-of-the-art electronic and mechatronic components, and the new Knorr-Bremse electronics platform combine the best of all worlds.


For operators, the CCB-3 will offer significantly enhanced reliability over its already well-proven predecessor systems.

All our colleagues showed incredible commitment.

Sebastian Louca – Team Leader Brake Systems Family Engineering

Challenges in development

Particularly from a technical point of view, the challenges are numerous: developing the individual modules, aligning them to state-of-the-art technologies and to the latest Knorr-Bremse electronics platform. The toughest nuts to crack, says Reiss, often involve upgrading software when new hardware comes along. “We recently faced the problem of integrating a pressure regulator algorithm into new electronics hardware. The firmware controlling the pressure regulator was continuously being updated.” The framework came from the USA, the software from Europe. “We had a string of setbacks when things kept failing to function together properly. But all of our colleagues, from the USA and UK to Germany, Hungary and China, showed incredible commitment and kept in permanent contact to fund a solution—by phone, email, Skype, and if necessary in person.” Finally, says Louca, everything was integrated with the support of the Budapest development team—“a really great job!”

Each milestone brings the international team closer together

Konstantinos Vilaetis, AAR Technical Leader at the US subsidiary New York Air Brake, is likewise impressed at how well the teams work together despite their very different cultural and technical backgrounds. “The first prototype that integrated all of the modules of the AAR market was a collaboration between the Mechatronics team and CCB-3 Designer team from Munich, the IST team from Budapest, the TCI team from India, the global CBK and IBC teams, and the CID team from Melksham. Every milestone we hit brought us closer together.” For John Laduc, the systems architect for the CCB-3, these routine hiccups are all part of the process. But in mid-2018 China sent a shockwave that turned the project planning on its head.

The team from NYAB in Watertown is working on the AAR model of the locomotive braking system.

Taskforce: new concept in just a week

The standards for locomotive braking systems on the Chinese market were suddenly changed. This was disconcerting news for the company’s plans to launch field testing of a prototype vehicle in China in 2019. But the team rallied round immediately. “We assembled a task force at very short notice,” recalls Laduc. Experts from Munich, the USA and China convened at the Suzhou plant and locked themselves in a project room for a week. The result of their self-imposed retreat was a reworked system concept for the Chinese market which complied with the new standards, yet used the new modules, technologies, and assemblies that had been designed for the AAR and UIC standards—all involving reasonable additional work and costs. Since then, the Chinese version of the CCB-3 has been top of the agenda. Work is advancing steadily, driven by Michael Urbatzka, the new project lead for the locomotive brake control unit in China, and Wolfgang Straube, Head of Systems Engineering, in close collaboration with the other locations. “We are conducting in-depth talks with the Chinese State Railway (CR), which is responsible for the standards.” If certification is successful, CR will also specify the rail manufacturers with which Knorr-Bremse will work on a prototype. John Laduc is confident that Knorr-Bremse has built a solid basis of trust in China. “We’re specialists in achieving success under even the toughest market conditions. That’s a reputation we work hard to uphold.”

The Chinese team in Suzhou is responsible for the model for the Chinese market. The system concept recently had to be updated to reflect changes to the applicable standards.
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