Passengers ride first self-driving train ahead of Thameslink growth


Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) passengers this week became the first in the UK to ride a self-driving mainline train.

The train between Peterborough and Horsham was run under automatic train operation (ATO) between St Pancras International and London Blackfriars.

The new technology will be introduced next year and extended to London Bridge in December 2019.


When new Thameslink services are introduced between this May and December 2019, through what has been a historic bottleneck, trains will use the technology to run at a rate of a train every two to three minutes.

GTR engineering director Gerry McFadden said: ‘We’ll always need a driver in the cab but this technology allows us to run more trains, more frequently than we could by driving the trains manually.

‘The driver remains in the cab to check the platforms at stations, close the doors, and manage the overall safe operation of the train.

‘Drivers and their union representatives have been fully consulted.’

The ATO technology, developed by Siemens, works with Network Rail’s new digital signalling system, which means trains can safely travel closer together through the central section of London, increasing capacity at peak times.

The project is delivered by the government-sponsored £7bn Thameslink Programme, which also includes Britain’s biggest new train fleet and the £1bn upgrade of London Bridge station.

Mr McFadden added: ‘Trains can run more frequently, which allows us to add 80 more stations to the Thameslink network across the south and east of England, speeding journeys for hundreds of thousands of passengers.

‘Self-drive technology also has great potential for the rest of the country’s rail network, particularly on congested routes, and could in future reduce the need for costly infrastructure projects.’

The train between Peterborough and Horsham is 'a preview' of a service that will be introduced in May.

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