Rio Tinto will run the world’s first automated long-distance heavy-haul rail network, with a 518 million USD investment (Rio Tinto share US$478 million) in driverless trains. The first driverless train will be launched in 2014, with the AutoHaulTM automated train programme scheduled for completion a year later.
AutoHaulTM is being pioneered as part of the automation component of Rio Tinto’s Mine of the FutureTM initiative that also includes driverless trucks and autonomous drills. On its 1,500-kilometre rail network, Rio Tinto currently runs 41 trains from mines to ports, comprising 148 locomotives and 9,400 iron ore cars.
Automating train operations allows Rio Tinto to expand Pilbara production capacity without needing to make a substantial investment in additional trains. It will also drive productivity improvements, with greater flexibility in train scheduling and the removal of driver changeover times creating extra capacity in the rail network. Other benefits include more efficient fuel use, resulting in lower energy costs and a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions for each tonne of iron ore produced.
(Source: Rio Tinto)