Deutsche Bahn (DB) and Siemens Mobility have developed the world’s first train that operates by itself in rail traffic.
The €60m Digital S-Bahn in Hamburg is part of DB’s Digital Rail Germany project. The train is controlled by digital technology and is fully automated but the driver remains on the train to supervise the journey with passengers on board. Shunting, such as turning the train around, is done without on-board personnel.
The digital S-Bahn is shown for the first time at the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress (ITS) in Hamburg this week with four digital S-Bahn trains operating automatically along the 23-kilometer section of S-Bahn Line 21 between the Berliner Tor and Bergedorf/Aumühle stations.
The system uses the European Automatic Train Operation (ATO) standard, combined with the European Train Control System (ETCS). The trains receive their control signals via radio and the four digital S-Bahn trains in Hamburg will provide regular scheduled passenger service beginning in December. Plans to digitalize Hamburg’s S-Bahn entire system by the end of the decade are already under way with investments in trains and infrastructure prior to a nationwide rollout for regional and mainline rail systems.
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“We’re experiencing the true turn of an era as the railroad has arrived in the digital future and Digital Rail Germany has become a reality,” said Dr. Richard Lutz, CEO of DB. “With automated rail operations, we can offer our passengers a significantly expanded, more reliable and therefore improved service – without having to lay a single kilometer of new track. It is our goal to make rail transport attractive to ever-larger numbers of people, which is the only way we can achieve the mobility transition.”
"We are making rail transport more intelligent. Trains drive the perfect timetable automatically, accurate to the second and energy-optimised," said Dr. Roland Busch, CEO of