A German-funded project to test Automatic Train Operation (ATO) on the Dutch section of the Betuweroute, a dedicated freight line which connects the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands with Germany’s Ruhr region, began on October 1.

The section, which opened in 2007, is currently equipped with ETCS level 2. The project aims to test ATO on the line by 2025, with a goal to progress past Grade of Automation (GoA) 2 to GoA 3 and GoA 4, and includes plans for a year-long trial of automated trains.

DB Cargo Netherlands, Digital Rail Germany (DSD), the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Dutch infrastructure operator ProRail are collaborating on the project. German’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) is providing €18.9m in funding, of which German Rail (DB) will receive €17.5m.

BMVI says automating operation on the line will improve capacity utilisation and improve service quality by optimising train speeds, making rail freight more competitive.

The project is being implemented under the joint declaration of intent on the cooperation in promoting rail freight operations signed by Germany and the Netherlands in 2019.

Alstom previously installed ATO at GoA 2 on trains using the Betuweroute in the Netherlands in partnership with ProRail and Rotterdam Rail Feeding during a trial in 2018.