Germany develops an innovative freight train

German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR) developed an innovative holistic locomotive concept – the NGT CARGO, aims to make European rail freight more appealing and hence increase its market share.
The automatically driven NGT CARGO trains will be made up of single wagons and powerful end cars, automatically coupled together as required. “In this way, we can transport a vast range of goods flexibly, and with low use of resources, minimal deployment of personnel and short transport times,” said DLR researcher Joachim Winter, who is leading the Next Generation Train (NGT) project.
To make single-wagon transport fit for the future, intelligent freight wagons in the NGT CARGO concept have a separate drive based on electric motors and a battery that stores energy recovered during braking. This makes it possible for the single wagons to shunt autonomously, without the need for shunting staff and shunting locomotives or overhead lines. Furthermore, the individual wagons can travel the final kilometres to the respective customer automatically and autonomously. Each single wagon is equipped with the appropriate sensors to do so. So, for example, it can be located at all times and customers can have precise details about the current status and expected arrival time of their freight. The wagons can also be driven directly into ports, transshipment stations or logistics terminals, right up to the high level racks, where they are also then loaded or unloaded automatically.
For operation in the high speed range, the NGT CARGO single wagons form a unit and are combined with one or two end cars to form a complete locomotive. The end cars provide the necessary drive. With the appropriate infrastructure, up to 400 km per hour is conceivable; on existing lines, speeds of up to 160 or 200 km per hour. “One interesting application scenario for the NGT CARGO would be intercontinental freight traffic between Europe and Asia, as an alternative to transport using container ships that have long sea routes and little flexibility in terms of freight volume, as they carry very large containers.”
Multiple locomotives can be combined virtually during travel (dynamic coupling). By doing so they form a block train, although they are not physically coupled to one another. Combination with the NGT HST high-speed passenger train is also possible. In this way, the DLR researchers aim to combine passenger and goods transportation to enable existing line capacities to be used optimally.

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