France to run driverless mainline trains within five years

Soon there won't be a driver to wave out the window
Soon there won't be a driver to wave out the window

French railway operator SNCF said Wednesday it was planning to introduce prototypes of driverless mainline trains for passengers and freight by 2023, and include them in scheduled services in subsequent years.

"With autonomous trains, all the trains will run in a harmonized way and at the same speed," SNCF chairman Guillaume Pepy said in a statement. "The train system will become more fluid."

The operator hopes that the switch will allow it to run more trains on France's busiest mainlines, and cut energy consumption.

Many cities, including Paris, already run driverless metro trains but driverless long-distance travel presents a new set of challenges, Pepy said.

"Railways are an open system, and the unexpected is the rule," Pepy said.

SNCF will be partnering up with rolling stock specialists Alstom and Bombardier who will each be heading up consortia for freight and traffic, respectively.

The shift to driverless trains is to happen in stages, Pierre Izard, who runs SNCF's rail technologies division, told AFP, "up to the most extreme of automatisation, when there is no human presence onboard".

Pepy said that autonomous trains "are clearly the future", but he also said it may take time before passengers accept boarding driverless trains.

Although Australia, China and Japan are already experimenting with driverless trains, France is not coming too late to the game, said Carole Desnost, head of innovation at SNCF.

SNCF said it was talking to German operator Deutsche Bahn about promoting a European standard for driverless trains.


Explore further

Hydrogen-powered trains to run on German rails from 2021

© 2018 AFP

Citation: France to run driverless mainline trains within five years (2018, September 12) retrieved 19 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-09-france-driverless-mainline-years.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
3 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more