German ICE test train runs on unused track in Berlin

The DB TrainLab runs as a 'tram' along the Dahlemer Weg

The Deutsche Bahn ‘TrainLab’ ICE train drove on the short Goerzbahn track in Berlin last week to find out whether the route is permanently suitable for test drives. With the ICE, new technologies such as obstacle detection, automated braking and alternative fuels are tested. 

It is a strange sight on the 2.5 kilometre long Goerzbahn route between the Lichterfelde West and Schönow stations in Berlin: an ICE high-speed train right next to regular cars and other traffic, as if it were a tram. Since 2018, no trains have run on the Goerzbahn, and before that there was regular freight traffic. Now, the more than 100 year old route offers good conditions for testing various systems for object and obstacle detection as well as for perception of the surroundings.

The route specifically has a very large number of level crossings: there are around 40 places where car traffic can cross the rails. The distance to the traffic on the Dahlemer Weg, which runs right next to it, is also smaller than anywhere else in Germany, according to Deutsche Bahn.

The DB TrainLab runs on the Berlin Goerzbahn

Rolling laboratory

The advanced TrainLab is a diesel-powered ‘ICE TD’ of the 605 series. The ICE test train can be recognised by the gray instead of the usual red stripes. Otherwise, it looks like a regular German ICE from the outside. On the inside however, the train is a rolling laboratory for testing and improving new technologies, which should make rail operations become even more reliable and safe. DB uses it in cooperation with industrial partners to improve technical railway systems.

In addition to obstacle detection, technologies which can be used to examine the condition of the tracks while the vehicle is in motion are also tested. Thanks to the diesel drive, the train is not dependent on an overhead contact line and can travel almost anywhere. For several months now, the TrainLab has been using the ‘eco-diesel’ hydro-treated vegetable oil (HVO), which should enable CO2 reductions of up to 92 percent.

Collecting data

Tobias Fischer, Head of Technology TecLab at Deutsche Bahn: “Both vehicle fronts of the TrainLab are equipped with extensive sensors. This helps us to recognise objects, obstacles, but also the entire area around the train. We are testing to what extent this technology allows automated braking, for example. The advanced TrainLab does not run automatically, but primarily collects data. This data is important so that we can see how the technology can be improved and then actually be used in other vehicles.”

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Author: Esther Geerts


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