“Alstom’s close collaboration with ProRail and RRF will contribute to support the progress of new technology and create a more attractive, more competitive and more sustainable rail system.”
The safety and efficiency of European rail freight could both take a step up following the announcement from Alsom of its intention to begin testing of automatic train operations (ATO) with two Dutch freight operators. Alstom has signed an agreement with the Dutch government agency that maintains the country’s network, ProRail, and shunting and feeder company, Rotterdam Rail Feeding (RRF), to develop a train that would free up drivers, allowing them to pay more attention to supervising operations thus improving safety.
Though not fully autonomous and still requiring a driver, according to Alstom the ATO-enabled freight train would “optimise the railway operation, reduce energy consumption and increase ride comfort”.
Explaining the improved operations, ATO-enabled trains are able to run at much closer intervals than traditional, manually-operated trains – thereby boosting capacity. The trains, which would be able to operate on existing ERTMS rail infrastructure without the need for further upgrades, would also lower the rolling stock’s energy consumption owing to predictable, uniformed performance. The test will take place this year on the 93-mile (150km) ERTMS-enabled line that connects The Netherlands with Germany: Betuweroute, part of the European freight Corridor A.
Gian-Luca Erbacci, Alstom’s Senior Vice President in Europe, said that making automated trains work was a priority of several countries. “Alstom’s close collaboration with ProRail and RRF will contribute to support the progress of new technology and create a more attractive, more competitive and more sustainable rail system”, said Erbacci.
RRF will be providing the rolling stock for the tests, which will run around 60 miles without driver intervention between Rotterdam Harbour and the eastern part of The Netherlands.
The drive by Alstom, ProRail and RRF to engineer its intelligently-operated freight train follows the successful introduction of a fully-autonomous unit last year that required zero human interaction. As reported by SmartRail World, the Rio Tinto mining train completed the 62-mile journey making decisions based on sensors, 3D maps and real-time data. Named AutoHaul, since running its first service in October 2017, the company now runs around 60% of its trains in autonomous mode but hopes to rely on it entirely by the end of the year.
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