Rail transport is getting more and more at the heart of future mobility. New braking technology from Knorr-Bremse, which works by smart interaction of multiple braking components, is set to help make rail transport in metropolitan areas more available and punctual. The RBD brake architecture includes a new kind of wheel slide protection – a form of ABS for trains – as well as smart sanding systems and a deceleration control system. A study by Knorr-Bremse, Nextrail, and Via-Con, based on operational simulations on Hamburg’s commuter rail (S-Bahn) network, highlighted the technology’s considerable potential.
The primary focus of the study is on simulating the effects of improved braking technology on train operations. The simulations were based on a study on the introduction of the European Train Control System (ETCS) and ATO in Hamburg.
The simulation monitored the situation in dry track conditions and then in unfavorable conditions when the braking track is compromised by autumn leaves and rain. The simulation results showed that on dry rails, RBD can further reduce train headway times and increase transport capacity by another 10 percent, and - in theory - it would be possible to run 1.5 more trains per hour on the same route. When combined with ETCS and ATO, the overall potential for improvement adds up to around 40 percent of additional capacity compared with the eight train-line timetables without ETCS, ATO, or RBD.
In adverse weather conditions, simulations showed that operators could reduce uncompensated delays by more than half. Trains fitted with RBD systems could therefore run almost as efficiently in adverse weather conditions as if the tracks were dry.
“The technology enables trains to brake more precisely, even in bad weather. This means that RBD-equipped trains could run just as safely at more frequent intervals, while at the same time reducing delays and regularizing timetables – that is, achieving the punctuality which passengers rely on. Overall, this technology represents an important building block in the automation of train operations, offering operators an attractive alternative to building new tracks,” commented results of the simulations Matthäus Englbrecht, Vice President Global Brake Systems at Knorr-Bremse Rail Vehicle Systems. Further studies are now needed to investigate the extent to which different levels of equipment on trains fitted with RBD will increase capacity on both suburban and main lines.
Modernizing trains with RBD systems should help operators increase network capacity without having to build new lines. At the same time, RBD represents an important step on the way to automated train operation. It is already being piloted in Hamburg and is increasingly supported by various ATO systems used to assist drivers. The combined deceleration control system and adaptive wheel slip protection that represents RBD technology should be ready for series production in 2023. However, it must be taken into account that RBD is a complex development, so the transition to RBD will continue to require close coordination between system suppliers such as Knorr-Bremse, train manufacturers, regulatory agencies, and railway operators.