German Ministry grants DB Cargo 7 million to test automatic shunting

DB Cargo will test automated shunting locomotives and automated brakes on the Munich-North marshalling yard. The German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) provides 7 million euros for the project from 2020 to 2024. Single wagon traffic, with frequent train formation and break-up as well as regular shunting, will benefit in particular.

Thousands of trains are assembled in marshalling yards every day, for which shunting locomotives are used. The aim of DB is for these locomotives to run automatically. “The Munich-North marshalling yard will be our test site for the future”, says Dr. Sigrid Nikutta, DB Board Member for Freight Transport at Deutsche Bahn.

All brakes on the trains are normally checked manually before each departure. Thanks to sensors and radio transmission, this should be possible much faster and remotely in the future, according to DB Cargo. Nikutta: “We will strengthen single wagon transport as the backbone of the economy, and digitalization and automation will help us in this. It is the right step that this innovation boost is now receiving financial start-up support.”

Federal Programme

The funding is a measure from the federal programme “Future Rail Freight Transport” of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, which was passed in May 2020. The program advances the digitisation and automation of environmentally friendly freight transport by rail. From 2020 to 2024, the federal budget has reserved 30 million euros annually for this. The average funding rate is a maximum of 50 percent.

Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer: “We want to bring more freight traffic to environmentally friendly rails. To do this, freight trains must be able to be put together efficiently, quickly and inexpensively. That is why we promote the practical test of automatic and digital technologies in shunting operations. Our goal is: strong rails. And that also means: heavy freight traffic.”


In the north of Munich, further innovative technologies are also tested with which damage to freight wagons can be automatically detected or work processes can be organized more efficiently using artificial intelligence (AI). There is also a testing project at the yard for digital automatic clutch (DAK) in shunting operations.

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Author: Esther Geerts


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