Berlin set to introduce self-driving S-Bahn trains

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Berlin set to introduce self-driving S-Bahn trains
Two new S-Bahn trains being tested in September. Photo: DPA

Berlin's new tender bid for 1,300 S-Bahn trains will take self-driving technology into account. When will the trains be on track?


The new trains will still be operated by drivers when they are introduced.

However, they must be designed in such a way that the technology for autonomous driving can be retrofitted later, according to Berlin Transport Senator Regine Günther (Green party).

The trains are expected to be fully in service in Berlin and its neighbouring eastern state of Brandenburg by the end of 2026. 

Self-driving public transport is not a new phenomenon in Germany. In September 2018, Brandenburg's capital of Potsdam launched the world's first self-driving tram, developed by German engineering company Siemens. 

Berlin public transport operator BVG already began testing six-seater, self-driving busses this August, which are running free of use until the end of the year. 

The capital was following the lead Bavarian town Bad Birnbach, which pushed forward Germany’s first self-driving bus in 2017. 

S-Bahn parent company Deutsche Bahn has previously said that it wants to have a portion of its network drive automatically by 2023.

READ ALSO: German Rail aims for driver-less trains in five years

When will the new trains be introduced?

On Tuesday, the Berlin Senate launched the tender for the S-Bahn. For the first time, the state will finance the purchase of the new S-Bahn wagons itself and set up a corresponding car pool.

The package has a volume of almost €8 billion, and concerns the inner city S-Bahn trains and the north-south lines running through Brandenburg, which the Berlin Senate wants to improve in speed, punctuality and comfort.

READ ALSO: Berlin S-Bahn set to introduce new 'express trains' for commuters 

The tender is aimed at companies that also procure, maintain and operate the trains.

Several variants are possible: Deutsche Bahn's subsidiary S-Bahn could continue to offer everything from a single source. But operation and maintenance could also be outsourced to different providers. 

Various unions and the Social Democrats (SPD) had recently warned against too many different companies getting involved in the bidding process. 

They think that a complex tender procedure could result in major delays - similar to the bidding for Berlin's electricity grid, which has been dragging on for years.


tender/bid- (die) Ausschreibung

Later/afterwards/belatedly - nachträglich

changeover/switch - (die) Umstellung 

Subsidiary - (die) Tochter 

Union - (die) Gewerkschaft

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