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Wednesday 25 January 2012

Crikey Readers, No Driver!

The attempts by occasional London mayor and regular collector of “chicken feed” from the Maily Telegraph Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson to unsettle those who have caused discomfort to him during his time at City Hall have been stepped up following recent news that completely driverless Tube trains could be on the way, but not for at least four years.

With Bob “Scare” Crow at the RMT, as well as the ASLEF, not always smoothing Bozza’s tenure, this must seem veritable manna from heaven. But Johnson would have to remain as mayor for many more years to even begin to see any significant reduction in the number of drivers – or train operatives. And total automation would mean more disruption, and much more expense.

This can be seen by considering operations that have already been automated – or which have been built for automatic running from the start. One such is Lines 9 and 10 of the Barcelona Metro, which will connect the north east of the city, a new AVE station at Sagrera, run around the north of the central area, then serve the Airport. The first stage is open and you can see some information on the project HERE.

What should be clear from the outset is that genuine driverless operation – rather than the Tube’s current Automatic Train Operation (ATO) which is used in different forms on the Victoria, Central and Jubilee lines – will require all stations to have platform doors. At present, only the Jubilee has these, and then only between North Greenwich and Westminster.

Some read what they want to see ...

Moreover, for London, going driverless would mean overlaying any new system on infrastructure that is – Jubilee and Victoria Lines excepted – very old indeed. That is why the first candidate for this technology is the Waterloo and City Line, which has no intermediate stations and has only recently been substantially refurbished. And the “four years” timescale only brings first testing.

It should also be borne in mind that only the Victoria Line had ATO from the start: introduction on the Central took time, and that on the Jubilee is still not bedded in. Full automation is a major step beyond this. Looking at Barcelona once more, the first conventionally worked line to be converted will be Line 11, which was only built recently and is the shortest on the system.

... while others are easily persuaded

All of which means that the joy shared by Boris Backer and echoed by the all too easily persuaded Chris Mounsey at Devil’s Kitchen is a little premature. Bozza will be long gone from London politics before any major Tube line becomes fully automated. And so, for the purposes of balance, will Bob Crow.

1 comment:

John Ruddy said...

Its interesting to note that full driverless operation has usually been resisted - not by the unions, but by management.

One of the many reasons for this has been that the public wont accept it. Well, most of the public, anyways.