Glasgow Driverless Trains
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First Ever Driverless Trains in the UK – Everything you Need to Know

What Are Driverless Trains?

We’ve come a long way since the first automated systems were introduced to city subways and metros all the way back in 1967.  Back then it was the Victoria line in London, UK that was the front-runner in automated technology. These were not driverless trains, simply trains assisted by technology in order to keep to the strict schedules of a busy commuter hub. So, what are driverless trains, and how have they come about?
Amazingly there is actually a tiered system of automation for trains called GOA (Grade of Automation). The tier runs from 2 to 4. A driverless train is considered to be so in grades 3 and 4. The main difference between the two upper grades is: Grade 3 (GOA3) are trains that do not need a driver to operate but require a staff member on the train for safe operation. Compare that to Grade 4 (GOA4), where trains in this level are considered safe to operate without staff members on board. Scary or what?

Where Can You Find Driverless Trains in the UK?

In the UK you will be able to find Grade 2 automated trains all over London on the Central Line, the Jubilee Line, and the Northern Line. There are also grade 2 driverless trains in Glasgow. In fact, Glasgow Subway is to become the UK’s very first fully automated city train system (GOA4). This will mean there will be trains running with no staff, or drivers on board by the target year of 2020. In a huge £288 million investment Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) have put this vision into motion.

The goal is to have these trains running 3-minute intervals in the Scottish city by 2020 alongside a ticketless system. Naturally, current staff in the city have raised concerns about safety. However, there are already several countries in the World that safely and efficiently operate train systems in this way. It seems the UK is lagging behind some of the leading players like Denmark, Italy and France.

Where Can you Hop on a Fully Driverless Metro System During your Travels in the World?

As mentioned, there are already several countries in the World that have adopted this technology. Let’s take a look at Europe

CountryMetro SystemTrain Line
🇫🇷 France The Paris, Rennes, Toulouse, Lille & Lyon Metro Systems Lines 1 & 14 (further lines planned Paris), Line D (Lille)
🇨🇭 Suisse Lausanne Metro Line M2
🇩🇪 Germany The Nuremberg U-Bahn Line U2 and Line U3
🇭🇺 Hungary The Budapest Metro Line 4
🇪🇸 Spain The Barcelona Metro Lines 9 & 10
🇮🇹 Italy The Rome, Turin, Milan & Brescia Metro Systems Line C (Rome), Line M1 (Turin), Line 5 (Milan)
🇩🇰 Denmark The Copenhagen Metro Lines 1 & 2

As you can see, some countries in Europe are much more developed technologically than the UK when it comes to automated trains. It is through the introduction of them can increase passenger capacity on the lines. This is because automation allows them to run to time better, and more often than when staffed.

In contrast, some countries in the rest of the World are even further ahead. For example, the United States has 15 completely driverless train systems, and little Japan and Singapore even both have 7 each. Here are some further countries of note from around the globe that lead the way in train automation.

CountryMetro SystemLines
Japan 🇯🇵 Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima Yurikamome & Nippori-Toneri Liner (Tokyo), Kanazawa Seaside Line (Yokohama), Linimo (Nagoya), Nanko Port Town Line (Osaka), Kobe New Transit (Kobe), Skyrail Midorizaka Line (Hiroshima)
Singapore 🇸🇬 Singapore Metro Bukit Panjang LRT Line, Downtown MRT Line, North East MRT Line, Circle MRT Line, Changi Airport Skytrain, Punggol LRT Line, Sengkang LRT Line
USA 🇺🇲 O'Hare International Airport, Airtrain, Detroit People Mover, JTA, TPA Monorail and Shuttle, ExpressTram, AirTrain JFK, AeroTrain, ATL Skytrain, The Plane Train, Miami, Florida, Morgantown, West Virginia, Las Vegas, Denver International Airport, Seattle–Tacoma International Airport Various
South Korea 🇰🇷 Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Seoul, Yongin & Uijeongbu Line 4 & Light Rail Transit (Busan), Subway Line 2 & Airport Maglev (Incheon), Ui LRT & Shinbundang Line (Seoul), Everline (Yongin) & U Line (Uijeongbu)

As you can see there are countries in the World that are far more experienced and ahead of the UK. There were over 1.7 billion passengers on UK trains last year. With some of the highest ticket prices to pay in Europe, and some of the least efficient trains, change has to come, doesn’t it? But, will the country choose to adopt more automation to improve the state of public transport? And what will the train workers unions have to say about it?

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