German premiere – Hamburg has first digitally controlled commuter trains

It caused quite a stir at the ITS Mobility Congress. Now it is going into operation: a commuter train that starts, accelerates, brakes and stops virtually by itself.

A German premiere in local public transport: Since Thursday, fully automated, digitally controlled S-Bahn trains have been in regular passenger service in Hamburg for the first time. Initially, four Class 474 trains converted for this purpose will be in service on Line S2. There, they run virtually fully automatically on the section of track between Berliner Tor and Bergedorf that has been specially equipped for digital operation. Since only part of the line is equipped accordingly, there is always a locomotive driver on board. By around 2030, the entire S-Bahn operation in the Hanseatic city is to be digitized.

The head of Hamburg’s S-Bahn, Kay Arnecke, spoke of a “change of era”. The new technology could allow up to 30 percent more trains to operate without rebuilding a meter of track. In addition, the trains are to be more punctual and consume less energy. The “Digital S-Bahn Hamburg” project is part of the “Digital Rail Germany” project, with which Deutsche Bahn intends to bring its infrastructure, which is outdated in many places, into the digital age by the next decade.

“The Digital S-Bahn is an important building block for the mobility turnaround,” said Transport Senator Anjes Tjarks. “Hamburg is the first German state to use the new technology in regular operation – a major step toward Hamburg-Takt as well as climate-friendly mobility.” The “Hamburg-Takt” is a promise of the Senate for the year 2030. Then people should be able to take the bus, subway, commuter rail or other mobility services within five minutes.

The costs for the complete digitization of the S-Bahn in the Hanseatic city had been put at around 800 million euros in a study. The modernization and construction of new signal boxes alone will require investments of 620 million euros. 175 million is estimated for the conversion of the current fleet.

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