DB Cargo and ProRail start ATO testing

A new Automatic Train Operation (ATO) test project started this month on the Dutch Betuwe route. It is a German-Dutch cooperation which will run until the end of 2025. The project includes a one-year test run on the Dutch section of the Betuwe Route, an important corridor for rail freight.

The ATO project is financed by the German Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure and costs 18.9 million euros, 17.5 million of which goes to DB Cargo AG. Besides DB Cargo, Digital Rail Germany (DSD), the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and Dutch infrastructure manager ProRail are also involved in the project.

Letter of intent

According to Deutsche Bahn, the test is an important part of the declaration of intent that the Netherlands and Germany signed in 2019 to cooperate on promoting freight transport by rail. The declaration was drawn up and signed at the time by representatives of the rail freight sector in both countries and the German and Dutch transport ministries. The automation of train operations should lead to better utilisation of capacity on the railways and an improvement in transport quality by driving at the optimum speed.

This is not the first time that self-driving trains have been tested on the Betuweroute. In 2018, Alstom, Rotterdam Rail Feeding and ProRail already carried out a test with a freight locomotive. At that time it was two test runs on GoA level 2, so there was a driver on the train and also train controllers were closely involved in the test. What exactly will be tested now and which Grade of Automation will be applied has not been announced.

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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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