DB Cargo Trials Automatic Shunting Yard Technologies

DB Cargo is trialling two shunting yard technologies – automatic shunting locomotives and automatic brake testing – with seven million euros in support from the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI).

The chosen venue for this is the DB Cargo’s shunting yard in Munich-North.

DB Cargo shunting yard Munich-North
DB Cargo shunting yard Munich-North

Shunting locomotives are used to assemble the thousands of trains that are put together every day in shunting yards. Before the trains leave the shunting yards, all of their brakes are checked manually. DB Cargo wants to automate both the shunting locomotive operations and the brake inspections. The benefits of such solutions would be that these tasks could be done remotely and much more quickly and also with much less physical exertion than is currently needed.

The rail freight sector that would see the biggest return from such technologies is wagonload freight, which is characterised by frequent train formation an dismantlement as well as regular shunting.

There are currently no ready solutions on the market for projects of this kind. DB Cargo says that in order to develop and test technologies, additional financial support is necessary.

The seven million euros will come from a pot agreed on in May 2020 under the heading ‘The Future of Rail Freight’ (Zukunft Schienengüterverkehr). The BMVI programme aims to promote the digitalisation and automation of rail freight. 30 million euros are set aside for this every year from 2020 to 2024. The support quota lies at maximally 50 percent on average.

Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer said:

“We want to move more freight on to environmentally friendly rails. To do that, we have to be able to assemble freight trains efficiently, quickly and cheaply. That's why we're supporting this practical trial of automatic and digital technologies in shunting operations. Our goal is a strong railway and that also means a strong freight railway.”

DB Cargo says it will make Munich-North the shunting yard where it will run all kinds of test technologies. Other solutions it wants to test include technologies to automatically detect damage to freight wagons, or ways in which work processes can be organised more efficiently using artificial intelligence (AI). Digital automatic coupling (DAC) will also be tested in this shunting yard.

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