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Hamburg pioneering digital railway operations

Hamburg gets Germany's first piloted, automated train route - milestone for Deutsche Bahn

A co-operation agreement signed in mid June will see four highly automated trains operate digitally controlled on a test track in Hamburg in time for the World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems in 2021. The “Digital S-Bahn Hamburg” agreement makes Hamburg a pioneer in the digitised operation of Germany’s railway network and was signed by Dr. Peter Tschentscher, Mayor of Hamburg, Member of the Management Board of Siemens, Dr. Roland Busch, and Ronald Pofalla, Director of Infrastructure at Deutsche Bahn.

Model city for modern mobility

To this end, a 23-kilometre section of the S-Bahn line 21 – between the Berliner Tor and Bergedorf/Aumühle stations will be set up for highly automated travel. Four trains will be simultaneously equipped with the technology at a cost of EUR 60 million shared by all three partners. Tschentscher stressed the advantages of the project, saying: “Hamburg is on its way to becoming a model for modern mobility. We want to make road and rail transport in our city more reliable, environmentally friendly and safer.”


Control via radio

The vehicles are controlled via radio signal by transmitting data between the train and the control centre. A driver is aboard during all journeys. In future, the driver will only intervene in the event of disruptions or irregularities. From 2021, the cutting-edge trains will roll out of and into the so-called stabling facility at Bergedorf station halfway between Berliner Tor and Aumühle. The train travels 1,000 metres in Bergedorf alone and without personnel.

Hamburg – key S-Bahn network in Germany

Commenting on Hamburg’s importance, Pofalla remarked: “We are starting the digitalisation of operations in one of our important S-Bahn networks in Germany.” Following a successful pilot phase, the entire S-Bahn network in the Hanseatic city will go digital. The aim is, on the one hand, to achieve a tighter clocking of the vehicles on the same route sections and, on the other hand, to improve punctuality. In the long term, all of Germany is to be converted to digital rail operations. The agreement has resulted from a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2017 on the Smart City Partnership between DB and the Hanseatic City.

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