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Potential Benefits and Obstacles of Implementing Driverless Train Operation on the Tyne and Wear Metro: A Simulation Exercise

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jonathan PowellORCiD, Dr Anna Fraszczyk, Ho Ki Yeung



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Metro systems around the world have many differences in their design and operation, one aspect of which is the level of automation. The most advanced technology available allows for unattended train operation with no staff on-board, which can bring a number of benefits. As a result, this is becoming increasingly common for new-build metro systems (such as the Dubai Metro), as well as for upgrades of traditional driver-led systems (such as Paris Métro Line 1). This paper uses the Tyne and Wear Metro as a case study to highlight the potential benefits and obstacles of implementing driverless trains on an existing metro system. This investigation has two parts: a review of the challenges of implementing increasing levels of automation for the existing Metro infrastructure and a simulation exercise to compare automatic train operation with manual driving on the core section of the Metro network. The results of the simulation exercise show that significant increases in the capacity of the Tyne and Wear Metro system are possible when automatic train operation is implemented in conjunction with resignalling. However, low adhesion conditions represent a significant risk to achieving this capacity increase reliably, and additional measures to mitigate low adhesion conditions would be required. The study also discusses the infrastructure upgrades required to convert an existing system to unattended train operation. The most significant obstacle for the Metro is that it mostly runs at ground level, with some sections shared with main line services. The costs associated with securing the tracks and ensuring compatibility with main line trains mean that the Metro is not a particularly promising application for driverless train operation at this time. Nonetheless, the issues discussed in the paper are very much relevant for other metro systems, and the methodology of this study is easily transferrable.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Powell JP, Fraszczyk A, Cheong CN, Yeung HK

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Urban Rail Transit

Year: 2016

Volume: 2

Issue: 3

Pages: 114-127

Print publication date: 01/12/2016

Online publication date: 02/12/2016

Acceptance date: 20/11/2016

Date deposited: 14/12/2016

ISSN (print): 2199-6687

ISSN (electronic): 2199-6679

Publisher: SpringerOpen


DOI: 10.1007/s40864-016-0046-9


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