Image: Russian Railways/RZD

Russian Railways to use virtual coupling on 630 locomotives this year

Image: RZD

Russian Railways (RZD) is continuing to implement virtual coupling in freight locomotives in Eastern Russia. Currently, over 300 locomotives operating in Eastern Russia are already equipped with virtual coupling systems, and this number is scheduled to increase to 630 units by the end of the year. The innovataive train control method can greatly improve capacity on lines. 

The Scientific and Technical Council of Russian Railways, chaired by Oleg Belozerov, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Company’s Management Board, has decided to further introduce interval train control technologies in Eastern Russia.

The RZD Company head stressed that, along with the construction and modernisation of infrastructure in the Eastern part of Russia, the task of increasing the throughput of railways in the region should be solved by the introduction of innovative technologies for organising transportation – including virtual coupling.

Virtual coupling enables the synchronous movement of two passing freight trains separating trains by a relative braking distance, like cars on the road. By means of a Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication architecture, trains can move in a virtually coupled platoon which can be treated as a single convoy at junctions to improve capacity. In this case, the coordination of the locomotive driving modes takes place via a secure digital radio channel.


In trials to test the new technology, more than 1,200 experimental trips have already been carried out since October 2020 on the section between Karymskaya in Trans-Baikal Territory and Nakhodka in Primorsky Territory. The trials have confirmed the possibility of passing freight trains there at intervals of 6-8 minutes. The next step in the development of technology will be operating in a virtual coupling mode of groups of up to 5 trains.

Another solution to increase throughput is interval control technology based on automatic blocking with moving blocks. In other words, a virtual traffic light is placed on the train’s last carriage or wagon that allows the train following behind to keep a safe distance. This technology enables a reduction in the passing interval, and as a result allows more trains to pass through.

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Author: Esther Geerts


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