Driverless trains won’t blow away Tube strikes

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NY Yankee

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This week has seen the Mayor once again pushing one of his big ideas for re-election: driverless Tubes, bringing with them not just a more high-tech Underground but an almighty confrontation with the Tube unions.

In the midst of endless wrangles with the unions over Olympic bonuses, Boris Johnson might imagine that’s a popular gesture with voters. Yet he is both dead right and completely wrong about “driverless” trains.

Driverless is a misnomer. Such trains would be operated by a central computer, overseen by human controllers. There are already dozens of metro systems around the world that use such trains. In Copenhagen, for example, the computer controls everything centrally from the running of the trains to the opening of the doors, with just a handful of operators in the control centre — but nevertheless with stewards on every train.

In London we already have two versions of “driverless” trains. On the Victoria, Jubilee and Central lines, under the Automatic Train Operation system (ATO), the driver operates only the doors at stations — and can also drive the train or stop it in an emergency. Meanwhile, on the Docklands Light Railway there is no “driver” but a “train captain” able to take over the operation if there is a problem. The DLR can work like that because it operates at lower speed than the Underground and its one major tunnel section has a walkway alongside for easy evacuation.

Such centrally controlled trains have several advantages. Computers are normally better in terms of fuel efficiency. And the gap between trains can be shorter, using a more sophisticated system of signalling.

That’s why Johnson is right to want to have modern trains, controlled centrally. Yet he has also strenuously sought to portray driverless trains as a solution to the Underground’s perennial industrial relations problems. And that’s where he’s got it quite wrong.

For a start, given risks ranging from terrorism to derailments, many Londoners would baulk at the idea of completely unstaffed trains. It might be acceptable in, say, Hong Kong, where the tunnels have walkways and there is far easier access to the surface, but not in London’s century-old deep-level Tube tunnels, where stations are often a mile apart.

Mike Brown, managing director of London Underground, has said new trains for the Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines, due to be ordered during the next mayoral term, might not have conventional cabs at the front. But that does not mean they could be run without any staff on board.

In any case, changing the technology will take a long time and cost a lot: we will be seeing “drivers” at the front of Tubes for at least the next 30 years. The rolling stock on the sub-surface lines — the Metropolitan, District and Circle — is currently being replaced with fabulous new air-conditioned trains and the signalling is being upgraded. However, until ATO is installed on those lines in 2018, there will still be a person in the cab at the front able to take over control if need be. If these people go on strike, the trains would not run.

Driverless trains work – but they won’t work as a solution to Tube strikes. No end of Boris bluster will blow away London’s Tube drivers just yet.

Christian Wolmar is the author of The Subterranean Railway, a History of the Tube

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/comment/comment/driverless-trains-wont-blow-away-tube-strikes-7603112.html

I think ATO is a good idea. If trains can run closer together, more trains can run and overcrowding will be reduced. However, train drivers have to feed their families. You can't just kick them out. In addition, many people feel safer with a human being operating the train. There has to be a balance between new technology and the need for a human presence. Does the S Stock have ATO technology?
 
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DavyCrocket

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It hasn't failed, it's in use now.

In use in the loosest term!
The Jubilee line is probably the line that is least resilient too.

On the Central the trains are more often than not driven in coded manual as the ATO doesnt work properly.
 

Zoe

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On the Central the trains are more often than not driven in coded manual as the ATO doesnt work properly.
Coded manual is used at times but I'd be very surprised if it's used more than ATO.
 

Mutant Lemming

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Most driverless systems are built from scratch and designed as such. Every line would need to be drastically redesigned and tens of billions spent on making it as safe as say, the Lille Metro.

Unless they want to cut corners minimum requirements should be -

Platform Edge doors at every station within the Circle and busier stations outside of it.

Adequate means of evacuation when the system fails - such as with power supply problems. Ideally walkways in the tunnels at platform door height allowing passengers to exit without detraining on to the track.

Those two criteria alone would cost countless billions.

The other alternative would be to actually build a new system from scratch.
 

Clip

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Good to see Christian Wolmar using outdated terminology with the phrase 'Train Captains' for the DLR. They have been called Passenger service assistants for quite some time now.

Most driverless systems are built from scratch and designed as such. Every line would need to be drastically redesigned and tens of billions spent on making it as safe as say, the Lille Metro.

Most driverless systems are built from scratch and designed as such. Every line would need to be drastically redesigned and tens of billions spent on making it as safe as say, the Lille Metro.

Unless they want to cut corners minimum requirements should be -

Platform Edge doors at every station within the Circle and busier stations outside of it.

Adequate means of evacuation when the system fails - such as with power supply problems. Ideally walkways in the tunnels at platform door height allowing passengers to exit without detraining on to the track.

Those two criteria alone would cost countless billions.

The other alternative would be to actually build a new system from scratch.

Those two criteria alone would cost countless billions.

.


Hmm hasnt one of the busiest routes on the Paris metro just been converted to automatic train operation? Without a person in the cab? I remember a thread on ehre about it but dont remember it costing billions nor being too much of a problem for them to do so either.

And why would you need platform edge doors? Do you not trust the public that much? I find them a complete waste of time and really cant see that they justify the cost of their installation.
 

SS4

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And why would you need platform edge doors? Do you not trust the public that much? I find them a complete waste of time and really cant see that they justify the cost of their installation.

Not in these days of ambulance chasers it is prudent not to trust the public unfortunately :(
 

jopsuk

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The Paris Metro Line 1 conversion involved all new stock and platform edge doors at all stations. Line 14, which was built as fully automated, also has PEDs throughout.
 

tripleseis

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The tunnel on Line 1 in Paris is double bored wide enough for two metro trains and there's enough room on tunnel sides for people to walk down if they ever need to evacuate a train. I'm not confident in running driveless trains down single bore tube tunnels unless they're widened to the size of the Jubilee extension or the DLR.
 

notadriver

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The problem for staff is - what will happen when all lines are eventually ATO I'm the style of the Docklands Light Railway? The new role of an on board passenger assistant is unlikely to have the same salary and conditions present train drivers now enjoy.
 

Zoe

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The tunnel on Line 1 in Paris is double bored wide enough for two metro trains and there's enough room on tunnel sides for people to walk down if they ever need to evacuate a train. I'm not confident in running driveless trains down single bore tube tunnels unless they're widened to the size of the Jubilee extension or the DLR.
I believe the plan is that there would still be a member of staff on board that could assit in an emergency. It's just they wouldn't be driving the train.
 

jopsuk

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Indeed- which is Wolmer's point. if the safety systems still require a staff presence on board (which in the tight running and platform tunnels of the tube is highly likely to remain the case), then Johnson's argument in favour of "driverless" trains- that they'd be immune to union action- falls apart.
 

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The problem for staff is - what will happen when all lines are eventually ATO I'm the style of the Docklands Light Railway? The new role of an on board passenger assistant is unlikely to have the same salary and conditions present train drivers now enjoy.

To be fair they do earn a decent wage - £37,000 plus the free oyster and 75% season ticket discount - for the role they play which is acceptable isnt it?
 

notadriver

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To be fair they do earn a decent wage - £37,000 plus the free oyster and 75% season ticket discount - for the role they play which is acceptable isnt it?

Agreed it is a decent wage (excuse my spelling) - but I'm sure current tube operators won't be happy about losing 10k a year and the privacy and protection of their drivers cabs.
 

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Agreed it is a decent wage (excuse my spelling) - but I'm sure current tube operators won't be happy about losing 10k a year and the privacy and protection of their drivers cabs.

Probably not - but if it can be phased out through normal routes - i.e retirement and normal amounts ofpeople leaving then im sure a balance can be met.
 

SS4

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Agreed it is a decent wage (excuse my spelling) - but I'm sure current tube operators won't be happy about losing 10k a year and the privacy and protection of their drivers cabs.

Probably not but I too reckon they'll use natural wastage to phase in the changeover.

It's got a while to go before it'll be safe enough to get customer confidence. I wonder what the psychological impact of seeing a driver at least appear to pull into the station is worth?
 

Greenback

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Probably not but I too reckon they'll use natural wastage to phase in the changeover.

Definitely. I would guess there would probably be some element of pay protection for anyone who was transferred to a different role too.

It's got a while to go before it'll be safe enough to get customer confidence. I wonder what the psychological impact of seeing a driver at least appear to pull into the station is worth?

I'm not so sure that will be a big problem. Quite a lot of people already seem to be aware of ATO and driverless trains on the DLR.

There are still an awful lot of things that need to be done, however, before driverless tube trains will be a reality.
 

Mutant Lemming

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And why would you need platform edge doors? Do you not trust the public that much? I find them a complete waste of time and really cant see that they justify the cost of their installation.

Those criteria are the French model for driverless trains.

Besides which the Paris Metro is a fairly small inner urban cut and cover railway with short distances between stops. The couple of minutes it takes for a Piccadilly line train to get from Manor House to Finsbury Park is a fair walk for your average punter to make over ballast, rails, porcelain pots and associated debris.
A closer comparison would be the Moscow system were platform crowding is more common - they have platform doors even with crewed trains.
 

NY Yankee

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There are certain intangibles that make a human being more preferable than a machine. Humans can control the crowds and comfort lost or drunk passengers. A 100% automated system can't do that. I think the trains should be automated, but there should still be a human being on board at all times.
 

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There are certain intangibles that make a human being more preferable than a machine. Humans can control the crowds and comfort lost or drunk passengers. A 100% automated system can't do that. I think the trains should be automated, but there should still be a human being on board at all times.

Additionally, I suspect that a member of staff who isn't locked away in a cab is going to be more reassuring from a personal safety point of view to many passengers. Plus, this member of staff can drive manually if the circumstances so dictate. This is certainly the case on the likes of the DLR and the Copenhagen Metro, where there isn't a visible driver but a "guard" who opens and closes the doors.
 

Class377/5

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Yes, to be implemented once the first section of SSR is resignalled towards the end of 2015.

Funny that the soon to be withdrawn C stock was built with ATO to be installed later!

Most driverless systems are built from scratch and designed as such. Every line would need to be drastically redesigned and tens of billions spent on making it as safe as say, the Lille Metro.

Unless they want to cut corners minimum requirements should be -

Platform Edge doors at every station within the Circle and busier stations outside of it.

Adequate means of evacuation when the system fails - such as with power supply problems. Ideally walkways in the tunnels at platform door height allowing passengers to exit without detraining on to the track.

Those two criteria alone would cost countless billions.

The other alternative would be to actually build a new system from scratch.

Currently PED cost about £2m a platform. Not cheap and that's based on normal building time and not rushing to get a line done in one big go. Also to use them you are required to use one type of stock only and you have to shut down a line to install and then test before running in public service.

So for say the Victoria line it would cost £30m plus about a week long closure of the line.

Good to see Christian Wolmar using outdated terminology with the phrase 'Train Captains' for the DLR. They have been called Passenger service assistants for quite some time now

Hmm hasnt one of the busiest routes on the Paris metro just been converted to automatic train operation? Without a person in the cab? I remembr. a thread on ehre about it but dont remember it costing billions nor being too much of a problem for them to do so either.

And why would you need platform edge doors? Do you not trust the public that much? I find them a complete waste of time and really cant see that they justify the cost of their installation.

Platform edge doors are now expected safety gear. Crossrail is getting them.

As for justifying the cost, how many times have lines been part suspended due to person under train? PED will pretty much remove this issue. That alone may be worth the cost of installing them in the long term.

Might sound a bit conflicted, but PED are going to come at some point but it won't be cheap or easy.
 

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And why would you need platform edge doors? Do you not trust the public that much? I find them a complete waste of time and really cant see that they justify the cost of their installation.

According to an Evening Standard article, there were 80 suicides on the Tube in 2010, excluding attempts. The Jubilee Line, which has PEDs installed Westminster - North Greenwich, saw the fewest suicides with 27 incidents over the decade of 2000 - 2010. These PEDs were installed on the JLE more for reasons of draught prevention IIRC.

I am undecided, but people falling off platforms causes delays, and they cost money through disruption, and more importantly lives. The Tube is far more overcrowded than most NR stations, leading to the greater potential for accidents. Especially when people are drunk or disorderly. There have been horrible incidents, including one I heard where a member of the public was grabbed and killed by accident by a group who were messing around. There's a compensation culture as well, which could cost TfL millions of pounds in the future.

Also, if the train is opening/closing the doors without a human as seen on the Paris Metro Line 14, Lille Metro, NYC JFK AirTrain, Heathrow+Gatwick+Stansted Airport Transit systems e.t.c, then PEDs are an essential feature IMO.
 
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PED's are just a silly idea. Full stop. If people want to kill themselves and they can t do it on the tube they move elsewhere.

How many one unders on the most open of light rail services in this country(DLR) that run ATO?

Or what about tram systems around the country? better or worse than the tube?

you lot have the time so you get the figures. I dont care that the tube handles more people - you just push the problem elsewhere and if you cant see that then you really are a bit silly.
 

HSTEd

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PED's are just a silly idea. Full stop. If people want to kill themselves and they can t do it on the tube they move elsewhere.

How many one unders on the most open of light rail services in this country(DLR) that run ATO?

Or what about tram systems around the country? better or worse than the tube?

you lot have the time so you get the figures. I dont care that the tube handles more people - you just push the problem elsewhere and if you cant see that then you really are a bit silly.

I don't see how PEDs really affect flow on the platform, unless someone is wasting vast amounts of money the train will be exactly the same length as the platform and thus all the doors will always be in exactly the same place anyway.
This is especially true on ATO operated trains.

Draught reduction also permits practical air conditioning of stations, reducing some of the heat stress issues that plague the tube every summer.

As to the safety argument, arguing that safety is irrelevent as suicides will always find a way to kill themselves anyway disregards accidents due to platform overcrowding or deaths due to malicious shoving of whatever.

And as for the DLR, it is far less crowded than any underground station and moves considerably slower, making accidental casualties far less likely, especially as it does not use top contact third rail and is thus less dangerous in that sense.

You might as well argue that we should not put handrails on bridges to stop people falling off as people only fall off if they are commiting suicide.
 

tunster

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I really don't understand the negativity and reluctance to implement an efficient automatically operated train system. And please don't get me started with the PED system.

Why would you not want them installed across all stations? Some of the people here saying they wouldn't be any good, have you been at Liverpool Street station on the Central Line at peak? Christ, if some evil bugger wanted to, they could easily push a group of people onto the line as the train came in (especially at the tunnel entrance to the station). 1 death/suicide on the line should be enough to justify PED system. People killing themselves shouldn't be waived as a reason for excusable delays. If LU want to improve reliability, unfortunately it has to be done.

I personally love the PED system on the Jubilee line. It takes the heat out of crowded platforms and offers that sense of safety. Won't PED's cause less dirt/grime in the tunnels as dead skin/hairs/general rubbish stop getting onto the tracks?

Once stock mimics what's being replaced on the Circle/Metropolitan lines (S Stock IIRC) with no boundaries between carriages, this could allow a train assistant (trained to drive the train manually in an emergency) to check tickets and assist customers.
 
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