Dutch infrastructure manager ProRail, freight operator Rotterdam Rail Feeding RRF and technology supplier Alstom signed an agreement to test Automatic Train Operation ATO on the Betuwe Route dedicated freight line in 2018.
These tests will be performed with a GoA level 2 of automation* on the ERTMS equipped Betuweroute – a 150-km double-track freight line connecting Rotterdam to Germany, part of the European freight Corridor A. This system has already proven its advantages on metro networks. The trains equipped with ATO operate at closer intervals, which increases the capacity of the railway network and allows for reduced energy consumption, because trains operate more uniformly. Automated operation can therefore be an added value for operators without making expensive changes to the infrastructure and is one of the next logical steps to meet the Paris Climate Agreements.
The test drive on the Betuweroute will focus on ATO application to freight transport. The purpose of the tests is to perform a live demonstration with a locomotive running in ATO from the Rotterdam Harbour district to CUP Valburg in the eastern part of the Netherlands. The locomotive, provided by RRF, will run approximately 100 km without driver intervention on rail sections equipped with two different ERTMS levels (1 and 2). The Betuweroute was successfully equipped by Alstom with the European standard signalling system ERTMS 10 years ago and ERTMS supports automatic operation better than the classic security systems. Automatic shunting movements on the yard of CUP Valburg will also be tested.
Based on its experience with metros, Alstom envisages that ATO could enable freight operations to be optimised and train performance made more consistent. This would lower energy consumption and increase line capacity without requiring expensive changes to the infrastructure.
* The Grade of Automation (GoA) ranges from level 1 (the lowest) to level 4 (full automation)