Railway traffic is becoming busier and busier. And that means that existing railway networks shall have to accommodate more and more trains over the coming years. Autonomously driven trains may well be a smart and innovative solution in this context. For railways in general are actually highly suited for autonomous transport, as trains obviously already follow fixed routes by rail.

Efficient, sustainable and punctual

Automated train driving offers both a great number as well as a wide range of benefits, including:

  • Efficient use of railway networks: autonomous railway transportation allows trains to run safely at shorter distances and more frequently. Thus increasing railway network capacity.
  • Sustainability: trains which are (partly) automatically driven run more smoothly. And that saves energy.
  • Punctuality: due to train monitoring computer systems, train rides become more predictable and reliable. Thus allowing autonomously driven trains to run more punctual.

Automatic Train Operation

Automated train driving is also called ‘Automatic Train Operation’ (ATO).  ATO covers a range of levels of automation (GoA: Grade of Automatisation). The higher the level, the higher the degree of automation, resulting in the following four ATO-levels:

  • GoA 1: The driver maintains control over most functions, supported by security and advice systems.
  • GoA 2: Semi-automatic train operation, yet the driver remains responsible.
  • GoA 3: The driver can leave the driver seat and execute other tasks.
  • GoA 4: There is no train driver or on-board attendant at all. Emergency situations are handled via external intervention.

The level of the trials conducted by ProRail is GoA 2. The driver remains fully responsible, as is currently the case.


In March 2019 the first trials were conducted with passenger trains – between Groningen and Zuidhorn. More are to follow during the rest of the year.

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