Digitalization in rail operations
Rail system should be digitalized
According to the results of a study commissioned by the BMVI, Germany’s rail network should be digitalized. This could achieve a capacity gain of up to 20% in passenger and freight transport. This would also lay the foundations for coping with Germany’s growing traffic volumes. With the Digital Rail for Germany program, the entire rail industry seeks to advance the wide-scale introduction of new command and control technology and digital interlockings throughout the approximately 33,000 km rail network.
The feasibility study for digitalizing the railway as presented in September 2018 came to the conclusion that it makes sense to equip the German rail network with the latest generation of European command and control technology ETCS no. 145, while at the same time introducing digital interlocking technology, and that this work should begin shortly.
Its effects will create positive benefits for the wider economy:
- Increasing reliability: New technology and systems for quality and punctuality.
- Increasing capacity on the rails: Accommodating growth in transport and the potential to shift traffic off the roads.
- Increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions: Energy-saving control and shifting to the rails.
- Reduced maintenance and operating costs.
- Ensuring strength in the face of demographic change: Dealing with reduced operating staff numbers due to ageing and staff turnover.
- Borderless rail transport: European system interoperability.
The Federal Government will now review and evaluate the proposals. Digitalization will play a crucial role in the future viability of the railway.
Digitalized operation of the Hamburg S-Bahn (metro)
In 2021, a highly automated S-Bahn (metro) service will be launched in Hamburg for the first time. In this connection, a cooperation agreement on the Hamburg digital S-Bahn (metro) has been signed by First Mayor of Hamburg Dr. Peter Tschentscher, Siemens Management Board member Dr. Roland Busch and DB Infrastructure Management Board member Ronald Pofalla. Hamburg is therefore a pioneer of digitalized operation in a German rail network. The agreement includes plans to prepare the 23-km section on S-Bahn (metro) line 21 between the Berliner Tor and Bergedorf/Aumühle stations for highly automated driving while in parallel equipping four vehicles with the necessary technology. The three partners have agreed to share the costs of about € 60 million. In October 2021, when Hamburg hosts the ITS (Intelligent Transport System) World Congress, digitally controlled vehicles will be in operation.
First digital interlocking begins operation
Europe’s first digital interlocking commenced operation in January in Annaberg-Buchholz on the Ore Mountain Railway (Erzgebirgsbahn). This pre-series project heralds a revolution in command and control technology that forms part of the Digital Rail for Germany project. The digital interlocking marks the start of the further development and nationwide implementation of a new and innovative generation of interlockings. The technology can be used to operate both main lines with tight schedules and major hub stations and for simpler applications in rural areas. Plans for further reference projects were driven forward during the year under review. Construction work also began on the second digital interlocking in Warnemünde, which is set to become operational in September 2019.
App-based train-path booking system in development
From 2019, TOCs will be able to book train paths at the click of a mouse, just like in an online shop. The Click&Ride app is what makes it possible. Simply enter your desired time, line and train, check the offers, make your choice and book. Thanks to automatic scheduling, it only takes a maximum of three minutes from request to offer, instead of several hours as before. This means lower costs for all involved and better utilization of rail network capacity. In 2019, a limited version of Click&Ride is set to be introduced for rail freight transport for the first time.
In the process, Click&Ride will become the first productive element of the neXt Digital Capacity Increase (neXt Digitale Kapazitätssteigerung) program, supported by the Federal Government with total funding of € 75 million.
Wayside status check
Wayside monitoring means rolling stock can be put through its paces almost while it is passing by. An example of how it works could include microphones on the track recording the sounds of passing trains and comparing them with a previous “acoustic fingerprint” recording. If the result deviates from the normal value, we will take active maintenance measures. And that’s long before any damage even appears on the train or rail. The advantages are fewer delays for passengers and optimized predictive maintenance.
Wayside monitoring is already in use at multiple locations such as in Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia. The system can be used by any TOC. In the year under review, further pilot projects were launched, such as a video gate at Nuremberg and a monitoring system for current collectors.