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:

  • CTD XML message (version 2) 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 will not be maintained after end of year 2016. Ayhow it is used by few members still, who did not migrate to a newer format yet.
  • ECN XML message (the e-Rail Freight format) is supported to enable the electronic consignment note exchange. The ECN-xml message is capable to carry 100 % of consignment note data and matches the requirements of the Electronic consignment note 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.
  • Frachtbriefe XML message (designed by RCA) version 4.13 is alternative for some RUs. Later also v.5 could be supported.

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) by the end of 2015. It was also agreed that the future closing of a message has to be announced two years in advance.


  • 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.