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Automated operation – benefits and costs in the mainline railway sector

In contrast to urban rail systems worldwide, it is still early days for the digitalisation and automation of mainline railways. Together with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), civity has analysed possible applications and scenarios.

ETCS and other control and safety systems are essential cornerstones of digitalisation in the railway sector. They form the basis for tapping additional capacities in the network, increasing reliability and reducing life cycle costs. With systems like these available, the question now is: To what extent should train operations be taken to the next level of automation? Where can higher levels of automation that enable driverless operation pave the way for viable business cases?

Obviously, there is no simple answer to this question. The railway system is complex and offers a wide range of very different services, such as commuter and suburban rail services, high-speed connections and freight transport.

In an online symposium organised by DLR on 4 November 2020, Frank Zschoche presented the applications, levels of automation and scenarios developed jointly with DLR, as well as their economic advantages. An initial evaluation is based on a comprehensive cost benefit model that depicts a large number of operational, technical and economic parameters and illustrates the effects of various automation scenarios in the urban railway segment.