Impact Analysis of automated rail operations

The increasing digitalisation and automation of rail transport hold great technological potential and will change rail transport fundamentally in the coming years. This involves the following foreseeable goals:

  • Greater efficiency (trains per time unit) and higher operational quality (timetable reliability)
  • More attractiveness through increased train services
  • Reduced energy requirements for trains
  • Lower life-cycle costs for the control and signalling systems deployed, as well as for railway com-panies and infrastructure


The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) analyses technologies and operating scenarios of highly automated rail-transport systems in order to determine and evaluate the ensuing impact on affected stakeholders. Microscopic rail operational simulations and various DLR tools designed for simulation and data analysis are used for this purpose (including SUMO, Railonomics®). In addition to considering purely operational issues, the analysis also covers legal aspects and action plans in the event of failure. At the same time, migration scenarios for the gradual introduction of new technologies are examined to assess their potential as well as the costs and effort involved.
Based on the technical description of the transport system, methods are used to evaluate and represent the benefit-cost ratio – for example, life-cycle cost calculations, net present value (NPV) methods, or utility analysis methods. This makes it possible to directly compare scenarios and make an overall assessment of the required technology, the investment outlays, as well as the operational and maintenance costs.
With the help of this exhibit, various scenarios in the course of automation can be illustrated, evaluated and directly compared on the basis of four key performance indicators (KPI):

  • Efficiency (number of train journeys)
  • Timetable reliability
  • Life cycle cost (LCC)
  • Energy requirements

Three sample scenarios are illustrated, each covering regular operation and the event of failure:

  • Scenario 1: conventional rail operation (signals, PZB or LZB, etc.)
  • Scenario 2: highly automated rail operation (mixed operation / GoA 2)
  • Scenario 3: automated rail operation (without a driver’s cab in the train / starting from GoA 3)

Infrastrukturausrüstung für die Beispielszenarien