Equipment & Technology, Logistics, Ports & Terminals, Mining and Heavy Industries

Rio’s autonomous trains nearing the station?

Train carrying iron ore through the Pilbara in Western Australia, run by Rio Tintos Pilbara Iron. Photo: Rio Tinto

A delayed bid by Rio Tinto to have around 40 autonomous trains operating on its Pilbara railway could finally be nearing fruition, with comments from the miner’s rail technology contractor suggesting a potential resolution to challenges facing the project.

Spain-based railway signalling firm Ansaldo STS, which is part of Hitachi, is a key part of Rio’s half-billion-dollar AutoHaul program.

Rio planned to have AutoHaul installed by late 2015, but has been bugged by software issues.

On a conference call this week, Ansaldo’s chief executive Andy Barr, reportedly said a major Australian contract was nearing its close.

Without naming Rio Tinto, Barr reportedly told reporters, “We are now in the end phase with a couple of important contracts in Australia that delivered a lot of revenues in the previous year”.

In its most recent interim financial report, Ansaldo said AutoHaul was one of its main focuses in Australia.

“In Australia, production activities mainly focused on projects covered by the framework agreements with Rio Tinto … and the Roy Hill project,” the company said in an August statement.

“With respect to the [Rio] projects and especially the AutoHaul project, the final installation upgrade of on-board devices on direct current locomotives has been completed and is nearing completion on alternating current locomotives.”

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