In which countries are there driverless trains?

The elite of international transport met for an international conference on the main topic of the automation of underground systems. The International Association for Public Transport (UITP) in Brussels, which has 2,500 members in 80 countries, was invited. 270 participants from over 31 countries attended the conference at the Arabella Sheraton Hotel. Speakers from eight countries and 18 companies gave an overview of the status of the automation of underground train systems worldwide. This made Nuremberg the Mecca for this future-oriented traffic technology.

According to the Nuremberg VAG, tight public coffers and high competitive pressure in the local public transport market, which is partially open to private companies, make the use of driverless subways indispensable. It is important to win new customers to switch from cars to local transport. Automation offers good opportunities here, according to a speaker at the conference. This is because the changeover to automatic subway operations will make local public transport more effective, safer, more productive and more reliable. There are now a total of 115 so-called automatic people movers worldwide, 19 of which are driverless subways. The cities of Vancouver, Detroit and Osaka were the pioneers for the fully automatically controlled, driverless local transport lines. Automatic subways with high transport capacity have been running on new lines, for example in Lyon, Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur, since the 1990s.

In Nuremberg, VAG has been working on automating two underground lines since 2001. In 2006 the new line U 3 will start fully automatic operation. The entire U 2 underground line is expected to be switched to automatic operation at the end of 2007. "An absolute advantage for customers," says VAG CEO Herbert Dombrowsky. The trains could be used flexibly via the central control center. Instead of the three-minute intervals as before, the subways can run every 100 seconds. The system is also safe, as shown by international studies and positive experiences from other cities. Maintenance times are also shorter, said Dmitry Gaev, chairman of the UITP metro assembly and head of the Moscow metro. A positive example was given from Copenhagen. Here the traffic runs on one rail while work is carried out on the other. The future of drivers, for example in Nuremberg, was a big topic when switching to fully automated systems. According to Dombrowsky, they would not be fired, but instead used as service personnel on the trains or on the platforms. But automation would still save considerable personnel costs.

During the UITP conference, the Nuremberg VAG signed the UITP Charter for Sustainable Development. In doing so, it is committed to the goals of social justice, ecological balance and economic success. But these have been important corporate goals since the early 1990s. Around 260 low-floor buses with environmentally friendly diesel and gas engines are on the road in Nuremberg, and sulfur dioxide emissions have been reduced to almost zero on diesel buses. The VAG was recognized in 2003 by the Conference of European Transport Ministers for its efforts to help the elderly, the disabled and women with prams.

WiM - Economy in Middle Franconia, issue 01 | 2005, page 24


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