DB Cargo to experiment with automated freight trains in Netherlands

2021/10/11 at 9:18 AM

Germany and the Netherlands have teamed up to check the potential of the Automatic Train Operation (ATO) technology for regular traffic. Within the joint project, DB Cargo will operate unmanned freight trains on the Betuweroute line, the Dutch freight-dedicated railway that runs from the German border to the Port of Rotterdam.

The German-Dutch project ‘Testing of Automatic Train Operation Technologies for Cargo’ was officially kicked off last week. It consists of two phases. Initially, DB Cargo, Digital Rail Germany (DSD), the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Dutch infrastructure manager ProRail will jointly carry out the one-year tests of unmanned freight trains on the open route on the Dutch section of the Betuweroute line. Afterwards, the participants will check the remote control of automated freight trains. According to the timelines, the project will last by the end of 2025.

Illustrative picture. DB Cargo’s container train, source: Deutsche Bahn / Wolfgang Klee

The ATO tests on the Betuweroute line is a key part of the German-Dutch ‘Joint Declaration of Intent on the cooperation in promoting rail freight operations’ that was concluded in 2019. Therefore, the project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. It will allocate 18.9 million euros, of which DB Cargo will receive 17.5 million euros.

Other ATO tests in the Netherlands

“With an automation of the train operation, a better utilisation of the line capacities, as well as an improvement of the transport quality through the respective optimal choice of the speed, should be achieved,” DB Cargo stated. The German rail freight operator will become the fourth railway undertaking to run ATO tests in the Netherlands.

First, the ATO technology was tried by Rotterdam Rail Feeding, the Dutch rail freight operator, also on the Betuweroute line in December 2018. A few months later, in March 2019, the Dutch division of Arriva performed the pilot ride of the automated passenger train on the Groningen – Zuidhorn line. In December 2019, the Dutch national railway operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) joined this list by running the unmanned automated passenger train on the Hanzelijn between Lelystad and Zwolle.

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