In the media

Driverless trains are on the way – but taking the first step will be difficult

By Steve Carden, Harry de Quetteville

The Telegraph

21 June 2022


PA’s Steve Carden, transport innovation lead, comments on the steps, and some of the key challenges, around delivering widescale rail automation across the UK in an article in the Telegraph.

The article highlights the hurdles in implementing rail automation technology, the safety concerns and also the opportunities that it presents.

Discussing whether it is possible to update old diesel trains at the end of their lives to allow for automation, Steve says it is “theoretically possible, but the business case for spending billions is less strong”, meaning there is a long list of challenges to climb before trains will be fully driverless.

Pointing out the biggest safety issue, Steve says: “unless you can deliver a ‘Big Bang’ in which the whole network is switched overnight from manned to automated, you have to have a hybrid period, and prove that is safe, which involves lots and lots of trials. Any single safety failure and the whole thing gets taken back several steps”.

Commenting on the future feasibility of rail automation, Steve goes on to say: “overall, the default position of the whole industry is that complete automation will happen, but taking the first step is hard.”

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