DB Cargo tested ATO on Switzerland’s public rail network

foto: AZD Praha

DB Cargo recently conducted a practical test with ATO on ETCS on the Swiss main rail network. In three and a half months, on-board units from four different suppliers were tested. Baseliyos Jacob from DB Cargo shared his experiences in an interview at RailTech Europe.

In addition to infrastructure manager SBB Netz, suppliers Thales, Siemens, Alstom, AZD and Hitachi were also involved in this test. For the test on the sixteen kilometer stretch between Sierre and Sion, a Bombardier Traxx AC1 locomotive was used in combination with fourteen Eanos wagons loaded with gravel. This combination weighed 1,274 tons and was 240 meters long. The test was originally planned for the summer of 2020, but was delayed by six months until the beginning of this year due to corona.

Snow and rain

“Instead of sunny summer weather, we had to deal with snow, rain and temperatures that dropped to minus 20 at night. That presented a lot of extra challenges”, said Baseliyos Jacob of DB Cargo. “But it allowed us to test the systems under all circumstances, which is also positive. Because it all turned out to work well.”

The test eventually took three and a half months, with four rides a day. A total of 1,740 kilometers was covered during the test. The on-board unit and associated system were changed four times. “It took us thirty minutes to swap the hardware and get the system into operational mode.”


Since the test took place on the Swiss main line, Jacob and his team had to take the normal timetable into account. “Especially with such a long freight train, that was sometimes very difficult.” A special feature of this project was the involvement of a large number of suppliers. For example, Hitachi, Siemens, Alstom and AZD all supplied an on-board ATO unit that was then built into a Bombardier locomotive.

In addition to DB Cargo and the parties involved themselves, the project was also supported by Shift2Rail. This test was done with the Automated Rail Cargo Consortium (ARCC) in collaboration with the X2Rail-3 consortium led by Thales.

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Author: Paul van den Bogaard

Paul van den Bogaard is editor of SpoorPro, a sister title of RailTech

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