Next stop: Future

The world is watching as the S-Bahn leaves Dammtor station. Thanks to the innovative achievement of the development partnership between Siemens Mobility and Deutsche Bahn, the S21 in Hamburg is now going digital and running highly automated. At the ITS World Congress in the Hanseatic city, the forward-looking pilot project was presented worldwide for the first time – and with it our solution "ATO over ETCS".

Journalists, politicians, S-Bahn employees and high-ranking management: An international audience is waiting at platform 2 of Dammtor station in Hamburg. They all want to be part of the world premiere of the highly automated S21. Siemens Mobility, Deutsche Bahn and the City of Hamburg will be presenting the "Digital S-Bahn Hamburg" project not only at the exhibition stand, but also live on the tracks. The occasion for the test drive is the ITS World Congress, which is taking place in Hamburg this year.


This is not the first time for the S21 to be driving in highly automated operation. Long time before that, the system was tested day and night under rolling wheels. Of course, such a public ride is still exciting. Also for professionals such as Siemens Mobility project lead Boris Dickgießer, who moderates the tour together with his project lead colleague Jan Schröder from Deutsche Bahn. Dickgießer emphasizes: "This project was only possible thanks to the unprecedented innovation partnership with Deutsche Bahn. Together, we have managed to complete the digital S-Bahn Hamburg in a record time of only three years."

Blueprint for Germany and Europe

For the first time, a railway in German mainline and regional traffic operates highly automated. This groundbreaking project was even awarded the German Mobility Award at the beginning of the year. The customer is also impressed. Jan Schröder, project lead Deutsche Bahn says: "With the application of ATO over ETCS in Hamburg, we have developed a blueprint for the digital railway in Germany. It is the basis for rolling out this new technology in all other projects in Germany and Europe."


Boris Dickgießer adds: „Our technology is based on the newest European standards; it has been homologated and can now be rolled out in further systems. -For increased capacity and improved punctuality in the rail network.“

Up to 30 percent more capacity on the railways

The innovative technology is called "ATO over ETCS". Highly automated driving based on the European Train Control System (ETCS) is a world’s first for passenger and freight traffic with enormous potential worldwide. Automatic operation is particularly useful in densely built-up conurbations such as Hamburg. Building new railway lines there would take a long time and be very costly. With ATO, rail operators can expand transport safely and efficiently without building new infrastructure. The solution is also ready for immediate use. Thanks to the technology, operators can transport around 30 percent more passengers, improve punctuality by 15 percent and save up to 37 percent energy. Travelers also benefit from a smooth, quiet and consistent ride. -An important milestone in meeting the growing demand for mobility in a climate-friendly way and bringing more passengers onto the rails.

One push of a button and the highly automated journey begins

As soon as the S21 train driver presses the ATO button, ATO over ETCS (see info box) takes over. The intelligent system automatically controls the acceleration, driving, coasting, braking and stopping of the train. This makes the train driver's job easier, as he knows that the train will arrive at its destination as quickly as possible while being safely monitored. Intervention is only necessary in case of disturbances.

After 25 minutes, the demonstration tour ends at Bergedorf station. Another highlight is already waiting: After all passengers, including the train driver, have deboarded, the S-Bahn moves fully automatically and without passengers into the siding - completely without a train driver!


The VIPs sit at the front of the S-Bahn during the press trip. Among them: Deutsche Bahn AG CEO Dr. Richard Lutz, Siemens CEO Roland Busch, Siemens Mobility CEO Michael Peter and Hamburg's First Mayor Dr. Peter Tschentscher. Michael Peter emphasizes: "We are proud of today's world debut of the digital S-Bahn in Germany and proud that we as a technology company - together with Deutsche Bahn and the City of Hamburg - were able to work on this groundbreaking project. Today, the world’s gaze is on Hamburg."

Automatic Train Operation (ATO) and the European Train Control System (ETCS) are important basic technologies for further increasing the efficiency of rail transport systems as well as standardized and cross-border automation. We call this ATO over ETCS.


Here's how it works: The trackside ATO component collects route and schedule data provided by the traffic management systems. The system transmits this data to the vehicle. The on-board component uses this data to calculate the optimal driving profile at all times - matched to the infrastructure, route and timetable information - and controls the vehicle's traction and braking devices for automated driving. The driver remains informed of all processes via a display. The result: energy consumption is reduced and traffic flow as well as capacity are significantly improved.

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