The digital train should increase the S2/S1 capacity by around 30%, Source: S-Bahn Hamburg

The first digital train in Germany debuts in Hamburg

The first digital train in Germany debuts in Hamburg

The train should increase the track’s capacity by around 30% without any major works

Today, Germany's first semi-autonomous digital train rolled into service on the S-Bahn in Hamburg. The train was developed through a joint project by city authorities, Deutsche Bahn and Siemens Mobility. What makes this train unique and 'digital', as transport authorities put it, is that it can perform a range of functions through software that does not require human input.

Furthermore, the innovative train concept brings with it promises of increasing capacity by around 30% without upgrading the rail infrastructure itself. Instead, because of the innovations in the control section, S-Bahn Hamburg can run more trains safely.

Driving almost by itself

The digital train in Hamburg will run on the S1/S2 line, which is a track of around 23 kilometres between the stations Berliner Tor and Bergedorf/Aumühle. Importantly, although the digital train represents the next step for trains, it does not require major redevelopment of the lines, meaning that it can be launched everywhere.

Also, the train is not completely autonomous. Although it can accelerate, stop, open and close doors by itself, a trained driver will be monitoring the situation on board and also assist with turning.

Nevertheless, according to a statement by S-Bahn Hamburg, this should still be enough to increase the line’s capacity. Because the trains operate much of their functions like clockwork and are much more energy efficient, the rail operator can run more of them on the same infrastructure. 

As NDR reports, Kay Arnecke, a spokesman for S-Bahn Hamburg, explained that they can increase capacity by about 30%.

Costs and future roll-out

The agreement between the three parties was signed in 2017 and the digital train’s development has cost around 60 million euros. The model made its debut during the Intelligent Transport Systems Congress in October of 2021. There, local and national companies presented their prototypes of mobility options for the future.

Now, developers are looking to the future of digital rail in Germany. S-Bahn Hamburg, for instance, states that the next step would involve fully automated trains that do not need human drivers. At the same time, a core idea behind their planned expansion is to keep the existing rail infrastructure and digitalise the network through minimal intervention.



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