ATO freight

Rail (UK) - - Feature Operations -

DB Cargo has been test­ing an un­manned freight lo­co­mo­tive at Siemens’ test track in Wilden­rath. And ac­cord­ing to As­set Strat­egy Vice Pres­i­dent Miroslav Obren­ovic, it aims to have au­to­matic hump-shunt­ing lo­co­mo­tives (Class 290s) un­der test within 12 months.

It also plans to au­to­mate the op­er­a­tion of a yard in Mu­nich, in con­junc­tion with in­fra­struc­ture owner DB Netz.

This am­bi­tion de­mands not just ATO lo­co­mo­tives, but also wag­ons that are able to mea­sure and re­port their con­di­tion, in­clud­ing load and lo­ca­tion. Whether or not wag­ons will have au­to­matic cou­plers re­mains to be seen. For true au­to­ma­tion they should have, but DB’s video of its Wilden­rath tri­als in­cluded a tra­di­tional shunter cou­pling the driver­less lo­co­mo­tive to its train.

The lo­co­mo­tive in DB’s trial was con­trolled from a tablet com­puter which, at first sight, makes it ap­pear a re­motely con­trolled lo­co­mo­tive. How­ever, sen­sors on the lo­co­mo­tive were mea­sur­ing the dis­tance be­tween it and the wag­ons it was ap­proach­ing, with brakes ap­plied ac­cord­ingly. This counts as GoA4 (see panel, page 72).

The work is part of the EU’s Shift2Rail project and looks to de­velop au­to­mated freight trains. It aims to re­duce lead time, in­crease re­li­a­bil­ity and cost-ef­fec­tive­ness.

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