Das Magazin der S-Bahn Hamburg

Digital S-Bahn Hamburg

ATO over ETCS: upgrading the fleet

As part of Hamburg's digital S-Bahn project, Deutsche Bahn and Siemens Mobility are working on a forward-looking pilot project, which will upgrade a total of four vehicles from Hamburg's S-Bahn fleet to run ATO over ETCS – an innovative technology that enables highly automated train operation.

The technology underpinning the project's implementation is based on the European Train Control System (ETCS) and automatic train operation (ATO) system. Four existing S-Bahn trains (class 474) have been fitted with onboard ATO and ETCS Level 2 units. The new equipment is stowed on the underside of the train, meaning no passenger seats are sacrificed.

The automatic train operation (ATO) system allows trains to drive themselves automatically. During automatic operations, trains are controlled fully or partially by their onboard ATO unit. This includes the trains' acceleration and braking, as well as the opening and closing of their doors. Dynamic driving information for each vehicle (e.g. braking and acceleration data) and infrastructure and timetable information sent wirelessly by the ATO radio block centre is compiled to create optimised profiles for automatic driving. This system optimises energy consumption during operations, though it is still able to use trains' maximum energy reserves if a service is running behind schedule.

A radio signal is used to control the four trains. During ETCS operations, the train's onboard units communicate with trackside equipment via the GSM-R train radio standard, while a 4G network is used for communications during ATO operations.

The trains also feature doors which open and close automatically at station platforms. This meant installing new sensors and components for door operation.

To enable trains to carry out fully automated shunting movements, which will be demonstrated during the ITS World Congress in Bergedorf in October 2021, a specially configured computer has been installed in each vehicle. This system uses a newly built 5G network for communications.

The trains were upgraded at depots in Neumünster (DB Heavy Maintenance) and Ohlsdorf (Hamburg S-Bahn). At Hamburg's S-Bahn depots, Deutsche Bahn partnered with Siemens Mobility to perform static and dynamic testing on system components as part of their commissioning, prior to beginning test runs during nightly non-operating periods.