Passengers travel on first self-driving mainline train in the UK

Passengers travel on first self-driving mainline train in the UK

The Thameslink programme is attempting to transform journeys (Stock image)

Monday, March 26, 2018

Passengers have travelled on the first self-driving mainline train in the UK today (March 26).

The train, run by Thameslink, has an automated system which accelerates and brakes. It is part of a £7 billion Thameslink programme to transform journeys on what was one of the country's most congested sections of railway.

The 9.46am train travelled from Peterborough to Horsham this morning, with a driver who carried out safety checks and operated the doors when at stations.

The technology means trains could be run at a higher frequency than those which are manually controlled as the speed can be optimised.

The number of services between London St Pancras and London Blackfriars will gradually increase to 24 trains per hour in each direction by December next year.

This means a train should arrive every two to three minutes - a frequency never previously achieved on Britain's railways.

Gerry McFadden, engineering director at Thameslink's parent company Govia Thameslink Railway, said: "We are embracing digital technology to boost capacity through the heart of London, a historical bottleneck that has held back rail expansion across the south of the country.

"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."

But he added that the trains will "always need a driver".

The technology was developed by Siemens and operates on Network Rail's digital signalling system, which enables trains to travel closer together.

Its use on the Class 700 Thameslink trains will help create capacity for up to 60,000 more passengers at peak times.