Alstom will test the performance of automatic train operation (ATO) on shunting locomotives next year.

It signed an agreement with Dutch railway infrastructure operator ProRail to carry out the tests, which will focus on the highest grade of automation (GoA), GoA4, without direct on-train staff involvement.

Alstom aims to showcase how fully automated trains can optimise rail operation for cost-effective and sustainable mobility amid the increasing demand for shunting operations.

The company will install automatic control technology, intelligent obstacle detection and environment recognition on a Lineas-owned diesel-hydraulic shunting locomotive.

Tasks such as starting and stopping, pushing wagons, controlling traction and brakes and the handling of emergencies will be automated while train staff will remain onboard to ensure safety protocol.

Alstom Benelux MD Bernard Belvaux said: “This project is paving the way for a fully digitalised railway. These tests will help the European rail system benefit from an increase in capacity, reduced energy consumption and cost while offering higher operational flexibility and improved punctuality.

“This test is fully in line with Alstom’s strategy to bring added value to our customers for smart and green mobility.”

Alstom has showcased the advantages of ATO mainly on metro systems. Tests have shown that automation leads to increased capacity, cost reductions, energy savings and flexible operations.

In May, Alstom won the ‘Innovation Prize for Regulatory Sandboxes’ from the German Federal Ministry of Economics to test ATO on regional trains.

The test project will implement ATO in regional trains for daily passenger services.