UK launches its first "driverless" mainline train

  • August 28, 2018

UK launches its first "driverless" mainline train

The UK’s first automated mainline train made its debut on a London track last week, marking a new era for London transport.

ATO transportation network

The “driverless” train uses “automatic train operation” (ATO) technology that has never been used before on the mainline rail network, though automated trains are in use on the Victoria, Northern, and Jubilee Tube lines. The new automated trains will use a computer to control acceleration and braking to ensure efficiency, enabling them to run every two to three minutes during rush hour.

Gerry McFadden, engineering director at Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “This is a world-first in terms of the technology being used, and a UK-first for self-drive trains. The Thameslink “driverless” train switched from manual to computer control between St Pancras and Blackfriars stations on the journey from Peterborough to Horsham.

Anticipated completion

Martin Chatfield, Network Rail project director, said it was “a truly momentous day” as the advanced technology will boost rush-hour capacity by 60,000 people. Set to be fully operational by the end of next year, the Class 700 Siemens trains will run as close as 100 metres apart at speeds of about 30mph. By December 2019, twenty-four 12-carriage trains will carry 1,700 passengers per hour in each direction in central London.

The introduction of “driverless” trains to the mainline rail network is another major step towards the advancement of London transport and the city as a whole. Set to fully launch in May 2019, the Thameslink network is being expanded by 80 stations across the UK to provide greater connectivity to all Londoners and visitors. The new services will create direct links with Brighton, Horsham, and Gatwick airport enhancing journey times for everyone