Driverless freight train research (Smart Rail World)


“Transport researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have published their vision of the ‘freight train of the future’ – the NGT CARGO. This concept has a high level of automation, intelligent handling and high speeds with an aim to make freight transportation more flexible and able to offer higher capacity. And comes following a decade long research project, a response to the displacement of freight traffic from road to rail not happening at the rate hoped for in most countries. The automatically driven (driverless) NGT CARGO trains will be made up of single wagons and powerful end cars, automatically coupled together as required. “In this way, we can transport a vast range of goods flexibly, and with low use of resources, minimal deployment of personnel and short transport times,” says explains DLR researcher Joachim Winter, who is leading the Next Generation Train (NGT) project.

“Freight transport is currently dominated by block trains that are not shunted and that use a large number of wagons to carry large, standard volumes of freight from point A to point B,” summarises Winter. This is because, until now, a very elaborate process using rigid operating procedures underlies single wagon transport. Coupling and uncoupling wagons, picking them up and delivering them is very time- and resource-intensive and account for 30 to 40 percent of the overall costs. A large number of manual coupling processes leads to long idle periods for individual wagons and an average system speed of just 18 kilometres per hour for single-wagon transport. A lead time of approximately five days is required to make the personnel, material and routes available.

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Written by Long Branch Mike