Premiere in Hamburg: First digital S-Bahn started

Hamburg (dpa) – Deutsche Bahn and the technology group Siemens celebrated a world premiere on the rails on Monday: For the first time, a fully automated, digitally controlled S-Bahn started in Hamburg.

Head of Rail Richard Lutz announced that the technology will gradually be extended to the entire S-Bahn network of the Hanseatic city in the future. According to Siemens boss Roland Busch, it is a “blueprint for the digitization of the railways in Germany, Europe and around the world”. Autonomous railways have been around for a long time. What is new is the open system, which is compatible with every train that masters the technical standards.

Regular traffic from December

The S-Bahn line S 21 commutes on a specially equipped route between the Berliner Tor and Bergedorf / Aumühle stations. The trains, which have been specially converted for automatic operation, start off, accelerate, brake and stop by themselves. Bahn Hamburg »is financed with around 60 million euros in equal parts by Hamburg, Deutsche Bahn and Siemens. It is part of the “Digital Rail Germany” project, with which Deutsche Bahn intends to generally bring its infrastructure into the digital age by the next decade. This is urgently needed, said Busch, because there is “still ancient technology” in many parts of the railway digitalization on the rails as the «key to the mobility transition». It enables up to 30 percent higher capacity without additional tracks on existing lines, because the trains can run at closer intervals. Siemens boss Busch added that up to 30 percent energy could be saved and punctuality would be improved.

“The digital S-Bahn is a world first,” said Bush. “The new technology has already been approved and because it has open interfaces, all operators worldwide can use it immediately for all train types.”

Siemens confident

Siemens is currently confident to the only provider of this system, as Busch told the German press agency. In addition to the railway, there are already other interested parties who want to take a look at the technology. Throughout Germany, a large part of the trains and routes in local and long-distance traffic could be upgraded in this way by the 30 years. According to Busch, this requires investments of two billion euros per year.

The technical basis for digital rail operations is the future European standard ATO (“Automatic Train Operation”, combined with the European train control system ETCS ( “European Train Control System”).

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