Next Wednesday 12 February 2020 about 50 rail passengers are going to experience their first autonomous train ride. This shall happen between the cities of Groningen and Zuidhorn in the Provence of Groningen – as such a first in Dutch railways. Between 13 up to and including 17 February another 250 passengers shall participate in test runs between the cities of Groningen and Buitenpost. These test runs will offer important information as to how passengers experience travelling by trains equipped with ATO (Automatic Train Operations).
ATO – applied at automation level 2 – is used by train drivers as a kind of cruise control or autopilot. The driver remains being responsible for safely operating and driving the train though. How do passengers experience travelling in such a train? And how it slows down and accelerates? These are but some of the questions in the passenger study, conducted by TNO research organisation. The passengers participating in the test runs shall be interviewed via a survey before, during as well as after the test ride.
More punctual and sustainable
ATO technology is expected to allow trains to run at steadier speeds as well as more punctual. Many sections of Groningen’s railway network are single-tracked, which means trains cannot pass each other there, thus limiting the network’s capacity. ATO technology allows trains to run closer to each other. It is therefore an innovative solution in creating more railway capacity without having to resort to building additional railway tracks.
Groningen a frontrunner
Groningen is a frontrunner in the field of self-driving (autonomous) transportation. Currently for instance, a tiny autonomous shuttle van is operational near the Ommelander Ziekenhuis in the small town of Scheemda. Autonomous public transportation can contribute to maintaining and increasing the level of accessibility and liveability in the Northern Netherlands. As regards to sustainability, automatically operated trains also prove to be very interesting, due to the fact that they run more economically. During test runs the amount of energy saves is assessed as well.
The Province of Groningen is closely collaborating with ProRail, Arriva Nederland and Stadler (the company supplying the technology) regarding the possible implementation of ATO. Lately, the collaboration partners have already conducted successful test runs without passengers on the railway stretch between Groningen and Zuidhorn.