08 Oct 2018
France’s national railway operator SNCF is planning to introduce prototypes of driverless mainline trains for passengers and freight by 2023.
This initiative will hopefully allow more trains to run on France’s busiest main lines, as well as reduce energy consumption.
“With autonomous trains, all the trains will run in a harmonized way and at the same speed,” SNCF chairman Guillaume Pepy said. “The train system will become more fluid.”
Even though driverless metro trains are not uncommon around the country, driverless long-distance trains bring about a new set of challenges, according to Pepy.
“Railways are an open system, and the unexpected is the rule,” he said, adding that autonomous trains are “clearly the future”, but acknowledged that passengers adapting to the change might not happen quickly.
The Guardian reports that SNCF will be partnering up with rolling stock specialists Alstom and Bombardier, who will be heading up consortia for freight and passenger traffic respectively.
Pierre Izard, who runs SNCF’s rail technologies division, said that the adoption of driverless trains would happen gradually, eventually leading “to the most extreme of automatisation, when there is no human presence onboard.”
France choosing to implement driverless trains is rather innovative, seeing as so far, only Australia, China and Japan have experimented with the concept.