Freight Rail, Signalling & Communications, Technology and IT

Rio runs first AutoHaul train

Rio Tinto has reported the first official delivery of iron ore by an autonomous train in the Pilbara region, with the landmark operation taking place midway through last week.

An autonomous train, comprising three locomotives hauling roughly 28,000 tonnes of iron ore, travelled more than 280 kilometres from Rio’s Tom Price hub to export facilities at Cape Lambert on July 10, 2018, the company said on Friday.

The train was monitored remotely by operators in Rio’s Operations Centre more than 1,500 kilometres away in Perth.

This follows the AutoHaul program’s approval from regulatory authorities, including the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator, in May this year.

“This programme symbolises both the pioneering spirit and innovative talents of many people across Rio Tinto and shows our absolute commitment to improving safety and productivity,” Rio Tinto Iron Ore’s managing director for Rail, Port & Core Services Ivan Vella said.

“We will continue to ensure our autonomous trains operate safely under the wide range of conditions we experience in the Pilbara, where we record more than eight million kilometres of train travel each year.”

Vella said Rio would continue to “work closely” with drivers, who will be prepared “for new ways of working as a result of automation”.

AutoHaul is a $940 million program directed by Rio, with the final goal of fully automating its train services to and from port facilities on WA’s north-west coastline. Rio currently operates roughly 200 locomotives on more than 1,700 kilometres of track.

The average round trip for Rio’s trains covers about 800 kilometres, including loading and dumping, and takes around 40 hours.

Under the new program, locomotives carry the AutoHaul software and are fitted with on-board cameras for constant monitoring. All public crossings on the network are fitted with CCTV cameras and have been upgraded “to the highest safety standards,” Rio said.