To reduce delays, SBB to trial remote-controlled trains

To reduce delays, SBB to trial remote-controlled trains

To reduce the number of rail delays in Switzerland, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), the main public transport provider, will be trialling remote-controlled trains from November 2023. Despite not actually being responsible for the most delayed services, SBB says the technology will be useful for handling their broken-down trains in record time.

Swiss railways to feature remote-controlled train in 2023 and 2024

From November 2023 to February 2024, remote-controlled trains will be taking to the tracks of the alpine nation, SBB has confirmed. In their wishlist given to the Swiss government, revealed by Watson, the company said that they wanted a train that can be controlled remotely, with “perception sensors” and a “control unit with at least one camera for remote monitoring.”

During the test period, "trials with remote-controlled manoeuvring” will be carried out, the firm told the newspaper. SBB train drivers and other workers will control the vehicles from a screen on the platform or from within the station, instead of inside the driver’s cab. This is in order to “check whether, in the event of a breakdown, the train could be moved remotely.” 

Remote-controlled trains designed to reduce delays

If all goes well, SBB explained that they will be able to use the tech to shunt broken-down trains out of the way without having to spend hours getting locomotive engineers on the scene - one of the main causes of delays in Switzerland. SBB added that the technology could be used in station yards to make the storing and deploying of trains even more efficient.

However, unlike the pilot project announced by the Südostbahn in St. Gallen, the remote-controlled units will not be carrying trains that still have passengers on board. In fact, the Federal Office of Transport told Watson that Switzerland is a long way off seeing autonomous trains, as the technology is too temperamental to work in the real world - especially when "perceiving hazards" - and that a successful system would see hundreds of train drivers lose their jobs.

Thumb image: / Michael Derrer Fuchs

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

Read more



Leave a comment