Czech railway test centre upgrades tracks for autonomous trains

Czech-based Railway Research Institute VUZ plans to further upgrade its test tracks with ETCS and study the testing of autonomous trains. They will also install their own sources of clean energy and production of hydrogen, investing 24 million euros in both projects.

The Czech Railway Research Institute VUZ ((Výzkumný Ústav Železniční) plans massive investments into its testing facilities in Velim, just outside Prague, over the next five years. These will be entirely new projects to reduce the centre’s carbon footprint and prepare for the testing of autonomous trains.

“We invest about 2.5 million euros into maintaining and renewing our infrastructure each year”, says Martin Bělčík, CEO of VUZ. “However, over the next five years we are preparing fundamental investments that should reach a total of 24 million. Much of this amount will go into services offered on the smaller test track, as well as into technologies that will help us further reduce our emissions.”

More ETCS

The most significant investments in the coming years will include equipping the shorter track with European Train Control System ETCS. This is currently only in place on the large test track. VUZ is also preparing a study for the testing of autonomous rail vehicles, especially for urban and suburban transport systems.

Five different entities can test at the facility at one time and use five different power systems. The large test track is 13.276 kilometres long and trains can be tested at speeds up to 200 kilometres per hour and tilting trains at up to 230 kilometres per hour. There are no plans for investments into further increasing the top speed on the track. “The current speed is sufficient for the grand majority of tests that train makers perform at our facility. Tests at higher speeds are then performed on high-speed tracks”, Martin Bělčík noted.

Future of the test track

Customers of the VUZ railway test centre are manufacturers of rolling stock, railway systems, railway transport components, railway infrastructure owners, railway transport operators, state authorities and institutions headquartered both in the Czech Republic and abroad. The Test Centre in Velim consists mainly of two test circuits and a large auxiliary yard.

“Reducing our carbon footprint is part of the philosophy for the future development of our test centre”, adds Martin Bělčík. “We already guarantee our customers that the electricity they use at our facility comes solely from renewable resources. We are currently preparing a project for our own non-fossil fuel sources of energy to cover not only our own consumption, but also the output of green hydrogen”.

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Author: Esther Geerts

Editor RailTech.com

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