ATO - Automatic Train Operation

Csm research ato logo 0a6d03686f

This project is funded under the Newton Fund scheme with the Royal Academy of Engineering and in collaboration with Beijing Jiaotong University and Beijing Metro.

The widespread development of urban railway systems in China and the rapid rise in train mileages has led to a huge increase in energy consumption and carbon emissions. Beijing Metro is the city’s biggest consumer of electricity. Most of the energy usage is due to train traction forces. To tackle this problem the project will develop and test energy-efficient Automatic Train Operation (ATO) systems.

Combining the complimentary skills of researchers from China and the UK together with industry enablers, the project aims to develop energy-efficient train control methods and software. The objective is to embed the software in the train-borne ATO systems in order to automatically generate individual train speed profiles in real time, according to the practical train operating situation and track conditions. 

Aims and objectives 

The overall aim of the project is to develop energy-efficient real-time operational ATO system based on sound optimal control theory, software verification and real-life test results.

The research will exploit relative recent advances in the application of optimal control theory in railway controls to develop practical systems that can bring significant economic and environmental benefits to the society.

The main objectives of this project are:

  1. To develop speed profile generation algorithms for individual trains based on the train-specific characteristics and track conditions, and in real-time
  2. To combine train speed control with timetable adjustment to achieve further energy savings without sacrificing passenger travel times and line capacity
  3. To implement the above control algorithms in a real ATO system in Beijing Metro and conduct field trials to evaluate their effects.

Each development will be implemented into software interfacing with train-borne ATO systems and be tested on a selected metro line in Beijing. The ultimate goal of the project is to produce an operational energy-efficient ATO system.  


Reducing train traction energy will bring significant economic and environmental benefits. These benefits could be scaled up to other metro systems in China and we will also explore their applications in the UK and other parts of the world.

Project facts 

Budget (Intitute for Transport Studies portion): £40,293

Coordinator: Beijing Jiaotong University