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Europe’s longest driverless subway opens in Barcelona

A quarter of the total metro network in the Spanish city is now driverless thanks to automated train technology

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A quarter of Barcelona's metro is driverless
A quarter of Barcelona's metro is driverless

A 20km extension of Barcelona’s driverless metro Line 9 has gone into operation, increasing both headway and passenger capacity. It connects the university in the city centre with Terminal 1 of the El Prat de Llobregat Airport. The line runs through the whole city and at more than 30km long with 23 stations, it becomes the longest driverless metro line in Europe.


One quarter of the total network is now driverless. The extension has also helped to expand the overall metro length by a fifth with several of the stations on the line connecting with other metro and rail transportation in the municipalities of El Prat de Llobregat and l’Hospitalet.


Siemens equipped the line with an automatic train control system for driverless operation which provides real-time data on train location and speed. The Trainguard MT automatic train protection system uses wireless communications-based train control (CBTC) technology to automate operation. Additional safety measures include platform screen doors that separate the platform from the train and which won’t open until the train has stopped at the platform.


The line is designed to carry around 330,000 passengers daily and has a maximum transport capacity of some 165 million passengers a year. A further 18km of the line is being built and, once complete, will take the total length to 50km with only 4km of track above ground. The first 11km of the line was opened five years ago.


To date Siemens has equipped more than 300 track kilometres around the world with signalling systems for driverless operation including Line 4 in São Paulo, Brazil, and Lines 1, 14 and 4 of the Paris metro system. In addition, it has begun equipping the first section of Copenhagen S-Bane network with its communications-based train control system which will increase headways by one quarter. The S-Bane is the backbone of the capital’s public mass transit network and carries around 350,000 passengers a day. Over the next six years the company will equip the entire commuter rail network with the Trainguard MT system. Initially, the system will operate in semi-automated mode and there will still be driver involvement.


“Replacing the existing signalling system -- parts of which are more than 60 years old – will significantly increase capacity and reliability,” said Jochen Eickholt, CEO of the Siemens Mobility Division. “The S-Bane will become a more attractive option for commuters and private transport will be reduced. At the same time, the state-of-the-art systems will cut energy consumption.”

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