GERMANY: The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs & Energy has approved funding for development of the Aachener Rail Shuttle concept, which envisages a 100 km/h autonomous battery-powered railbus to reduce the cost of providing rail services on secondary lines in rural areas.

The FlexSbus-LR project is being promoted by RWTH Aachen’s Institut für Schienenfahrzeuge & Transportsysteme and funded from the ministry’s new vehicle and systems technologies research programme, which is co-ordinated by TÜV-Rheinland Consulting.

The proposed lightweight railbus would be about the same length as a standard bus but 20% wider, offering space for about 90 passengers. Driverless operation would allow several small units to be used instead of one larger train, improving frequencies to make rail more attractive, while services could be run on demand at quiet times.


The promoters envisage that the railbus would be built on a modular self-powered platform which could also be used as the basis for a self-propelled container wagon. The traction package and air-conditioning would be mounted below the floor and crashworthy ends fitted to protect the passenger saloon.

IFS will be working to develop the concept with a consortium of German manufacturers, led by laser specialist LBBZ of Geilenkirchen. Other partners include Knorr-Bremse and Schaeffler Technologies, along with Aachen-based SME Isatec, MV-Engineering of Krefeld and RWTH’s Institute for Power Electronics & Electrical Drives, ISEA.

‘I am very happy and proud to announce that we got the funding approval’, said IFS Director Prof Christian Schindler on May 30. ‘IFS as the inventor of ARS is very proud to work with leading railway equipment suppliers.’