Rio Tinto freight train

Rio Tinto gains accreditation for autonomous train operations

Mining company Rio Tinto has been granted accreditation for its autonomous train operation by Australia’s Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR). The autonomous train will serve the company’s Pilbara iron ore mines in Western Australia.

The project involves automating the Rio Tinto’s railway, which connects 16 iron ore mines in the Pilbara hinterland with four ports on the coast. According to Rio Tinto, it would be the world’s first heavy haul, long distance autonomous rail operation. The fully automated freight trains are part of the Mine of the Future vision that Rio Tinto launched in 2008. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.


The first autonomous trains started running in the first quarter of 2017. A driver was on-board for monitoring purposes. The first fully autonomous train ride was completed in October of 2017. The AutoHaul train completed a test ride of almost 100 kilometre from Wombat Junction to Paraburdoo. Full implementation depended on approval from the ONRSR.

According to Rio Tinto, at the end of the first quarter of 2018, approximately 65 per cent of all train kilometres were completed in autonomous mode. More than 3 million kilometres have now been completed in this mode.

Author: Carlijn Kruidhof

Carlijn Kruidhof is editor for and She also writes for the other business-to-business titles of ProMedia Group.

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