Russian railways

Five-train platoons to operate with virtual coupling

Russian Railways is planning to use platooning technology to operate flights of up to five freight trains next year using radio data exchange between locomotives to create a virtual coupling. The aims to reduce headways from 12 to 6 to 8 min, increasing capacity on congested sections of the Trans-Siberian main line.

The system was developed by AVP Tekhnologiya and is currently fitted to around 360 locomotives operating on the eastern section of the Trans-Siberian corridor between Karymskaya near Irkutsk and Smolyaninovo near Vladivostok. A further 270 locos are to be equipped by the end of 2021.

The technology constantly monitors the operating mode, speed, location, length and weight of the trains, with direct loco-to-loco communication enabling the fully co-ordinated movement of pairs of trains up to 2 km apart, a reduction from the 4 to 5 km which is more typical in Russia.

The system was demonstrated at the PRO//Motion.Expo exhibition in Shcherbinka, with a 3ES5K Yermak locomotive being driven conventionally being followed by another locomotive of the same type operating without a driver.

Deputy General Director of RZD and Head of the Traction Directorate Oleg Valinsky said expanding the system from pairs of trains to five trains would help to increase the capacity of the most congested sections of the Trans-Siberian route, and the use of the system on the Sverdlovsk and Zapadno-Sibirskaya (western Siberia) railway divisions is also being considered.