OFFICIAL demonstrations of a Lastochka EMU operating at Grade of Automation (GoA) 3 have taken place on the Moscow Central Circle (MCC) network, a key step towards the start of commercial operation of the train at GoA 3 on the MCC later this year.

The train covered two circuits of the 54km route on January 13, commencing the journey from Andronovka station and running to the depot at Podmoskovnoye following stops at 62 stations. Another one-and-a-half circuits and 46 station stops were completed at GoA 3 on January 14. The train operated without passengers and with a driver acting in a supervisory capacity with passengers warned at stations not to board the train after it had stopped.

According to Russian news agency Gudok, Mr Pavel Popov, deputy director general of the Institute for Information Technology, Signalling and Telecommunications in Railway Transport of the Ministry of Railways of the Russian Federation (NIIAS), says the Latstochka EMU has completed more than 7000km of trials on the MCC “both during the day and at night.” Extensive trials with two of the trains at GoA 3 have also taken place at the Shcherbinka test circuit on the outskirts of Moscow.

The system is estimated to reduce headways between trains operating on the MCC from four minutes to three.

Each cab of the train is equipped with eight optical cameras, a thermal imaging device, two lidars and ultrasonic sensors. Cameras are also fitted to the pantograph on the second and fourth cars of the train to monitor contact with the overhead line. An artificial intelligence (AI) system has been trained to recognise and respond to potential obstacles on the track, including by using the thermal imaging system to detect whether the object is a person. The system is operational up to 600-800m during the day and at night if illumination around the infrastructure is more than 5lux. The automated system is able to stop the train before a collision takes place, responding in less than a second, much faster than an equivalent human reaction.

Russian Railways (RZD) has cooperated with NIIAS on the project. NIIAS secured certification from the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in December for the automatic train operation system, including the obstacle detection system and corresponding software as well as software for remote control of the train. These certificates are valid until 2026.

Work is also underway to certify operation of the trains at GoA 4, meaning that no driver is onboard the train. Under this scenario driver operators will monitor the movement of trains on the MCC from Andronovka station. They will have the capability to control the train remotely in the event of an emergency. Initial tests of these trains are expected to commence this summer. A decision to approve operation at GoA 4 on the Russian network is expected in 2023 based on the results of these tests.

Popov says approval has been secured for the duties of the remote operator with work underway to develop a simulator and corresponding training programmes.