The coupling and decoupling of trains while they are in motion is one of the research fields of the DLR project, Next Generation Train. The coupling will be non-mechanical, but virtual and will be maintained by means of distance control technology. A special challenge of the virtual coupling in railway operation is the peril point of the switch in case of failure during the passage of two trains which are coming from different tracks, running in close succession at high speed. Therefore some concepts are unrealizable with the current switch technology. Nevertheless there are situations where virtual coupling seems promising. One scenario is the virtual coupling at low speed, for example in the proximity of a station, where a safe brake is possible in case of a switch failure. The ‘Shinkansen’ scenario aims to increase line capacity on the Tokaido high-speed line in Japan between Tokio and Osaka. The fastest ‘Nozomi’ trains are stopping only at major stations. These stations have two tracks per direction with a 400-metre platform. The idea is to double the number of Nozomi trains. So in every stopping station, there are two trains arriving and departing in a short interval. The distance on the open line is not that close, so it is more a ride within relative braking distance than a virtual coupling.
To evaluate that scenario a special railway operation simulation has been developed, which is able to handle virtual coupling. The simulation shows the possibility to increase seating capacity from 15,000 to 23,000 seats per hour and direction. One bottleneck is occurring in Nagoya, where an additional platform is needed. Also the return time in Tokio has to be shortened to no more than 15 min.
capacity increase, next generation train, Shinkansen, virtual coupling
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