In the spirit of open-minded enquiry, the BBC’s Tom Edwards has ventured to Paris to see a driverless Metro line in action, and in doing so, has shown very clearly why it isn’t going to happen in London within the next decade, and most likely the decade after that. RATP, who operate the system, have automated Line 1, and this seems to work well. But the detail should be carefully examined.
Back to the press release drawing board, chaps! Yikes!!
The trains are built for automatic operation and have no cabs, unlike all those in service or on order for London. “Barriers similar to those on the Jubilee line protect all of the platforms” Edwards tells, meaning that part of the Jubilee Line between Westminster and North Greenwich, which has platform doors – and, moreover, was designed from the start to work with them, unlike older Tube lines.
“Ligne 1 is not a deep line, the tunnels are well lit and they are very wide” Edwards continues. Stations are also very close together, and all of that will make ventilation easier. And the idea of full-size trains and platform doors has also been utilised on Lines 9 and 10 in Barcelona, new build routes with full automation. Paris’ Line 1 was an existing route, but had to be adapted with platform doors before automation.
So the lesson is that there have to be platform doors. Moreover, Line 1 in Paris is almost totally below ground, and 9 and 10 in Barcelona completely so. Apart from the Waterloo and City and Victoria Lines, no London route shares this attribute, and that is why, even with Automatic Train Operation (ATO), manual intervention is so often required – surface running means weather and potentially trespass.
And no London Underground route suitable for automatic operation will have new trains for many years: the Victoria has just bedded in a new fleet, so the Waterloo and City would be first. Platform doors should not be a problem, as there is little potential problem ventilating tunnels (trains approach Bank slowly, so there is little air circulation effect, and Waterloo is not in tunnel).
As for other Tube lines, the passage of the trains keeps the system ventilated. With platform doors, this could be seriously disrupted. So that would have to be proved. And those routes that currently have those “wide” tunnels are in the midst of receiving a fleet of new trains – with cabs – that will be expected to remain in service for another 35 years or so.
The Paris example, as Edwards points out, has been ten years in gestation. And it has required an investment of €1 billion to get to where they are today: London does not, at present, have any funds for new fleets of any kind. All of this means that there will not be any driverless trains on the London Underground while Bozza is around, and more than likely for many years after that.
Not that the usual suspects will stop and think before churning over his propaganda.