Thursday saw the latest meeting of the London Assembly Transport Committee take place at City Hall. As usual, it provided some interesting context and updates on things at TfL with this month’s guests being Mike Brown, MD of London Underground, Gareth Powell, Director of Strategy and Service at London Underground and David James, Chair of IIPAG. IIPAG are the Independent Investment Programmes Advisory Group, who are currently working to both benchmark and assess TfL’s performance with regards to maintenance in the post-PPP world and general project management best practice.

As is often the case the entire Committee meeting is well worth watching, and you can find an archive of the webcast here. A number of key topics came up, and thus we’ve decided to break our coverage of this month’s session into two parts.

Below is a summary of some of the key points that were raised with regards to reliability, and with regards to Deep Tube and driverless trains. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is Brown’s comments on the subject of Deep Tube and future Underground trains that have garnered attention in the press, and thus rather than summarise these, we have decided to transcribe his comments below, in order to provide readers with the full sweep of his comments.

Reliability on the Underground

Firstly, however, discussions at the meeting turned to the subject of current Underground reliability. Here, Brown provided a brief roundup of the current state of affairs. He admitted that the Jubilee Line had seen various issues in the run up to the Olympics, but indicated that he was happy both with the line’s actual performance during the Games themselves and since.

Elsewhere, he admitted that the Metropolitan Line’s performance over the last 12 months has been disappointing, but pointed out that to a certain extent this was to be expected as the A-Stock came to the end of its life and the new S-Stock rolled out. Brown’s assertion that the last four weeks had seen the Metropolitan Line achieve its best ever performance metrics was interesting, but it is perhaps too short a period on which to base too many conclusions yet.

Brown also commented on Victoria Line performance, indicating that he felt that too had improved since before the Olympics. He confirmed that the solution rolled out to address the sensitive-edge door issues has been both a software modification (to make the doors less prone to reporting a problem with the pressure is in-to-out) and clearer guidelines on when the Driver can override what are clearly spurious reports.

Finally, Brown commented on where Underground reliability now sits both in relation to other networks, and what the future challenges now are.

“It is true to say,” Brown commented, “actually, that really for the first time in the history – the modern history at least – of London Underground for the Victoria and Jubilee Lines we are now pushing at the reliability levels of the very best in the world. Now that’s not true across the whole system, but we should be in that position for those lines.

“We’ve had a lot of money invested, we’ve had a lot of energy expended in getting us to this point and indeed passengers have put up with some disruption along the way. So my challenge now is how not just do I sit complacent with the level of performance that we’ve now got, but how do we increase it still further.

“For example of the Victoria Line how do we increase it still further, in the New Year, when we increase services to 33 trains an hour in the peak, which is way in the way the most trains we’ve ever run on any line, on the Underground, in our history.”

The Future Of London Underground Rolling Stock

Most, if not all, of the comment that has circulated in the press since Thursday on the subject of “driverless trains” can be traced back to Brown’s comments on this topic during the meeting. Brown was being asked to elaborate on the topic following the Mayor’s recent comments about driverless trains. There had also been the suggestion in the press that London Underground were planning to test “driverless” trains on the network, leading to both a statement of protest from several Unions and a rebuttal from LU itself.

Brown’s comments during the meeting, however, confirmed that there are effectively no new developments on the topic. LU’s current thinking remains that already understood to be part of the Deep Tube project, and that which was outlined in the Operational Strategy Discussion Paper that caused a similar flurry of media activity this time last year.

In essence, this can be boiled down to a relatively simple, and not exactly surprising, statement:- LU plan to explore greater levels of automatic operation as part of the Deep Tube project, the objective of which is currently to establish the future upgrade path of the Piccadilly, Bakerloo and Central Lines. As Brown pointed out, discussion of what level of automation might be possible let alone when it might take place, skips past a far more critical point – that TfL have yet to negotiate a funding settlement with the Government that will enable them to upgrade those lines at all. Indeed there was a hint of frustration lurking within his comments on the subject.

“First of all,” Brown commented, “if I could just be clear, we have no money, there is no order, and there is no design.”

After running briefly through the basic (and different) types of automatic train control again, the discussion continued.

“When the Mayor talks about driverless trains,” Val Shawcross asked, “because he has expressed enthusiasm for this concept in public, which category of these trains [ATC, DLR style Train Captains, or unstaffed] is he talking about?”

“Well I can’t possibly put myself into the mind of what the Mayor might be referring to in that.” Said Brown. “But let me be clear about what I’d be talking about, and I’ve been very consistent in saying this. What I’ve always said is that when and if – and I hope it’s a when – we get the opportunity to procure another fleet of trains, beyond the orders that we’ve currently got in place, we have to of course explore all the technology that’s available.

“Technology is available around the world that includes trains without driver’s cabs, and therefore I think it would be foolish of me to rule out at least exploring that as a possibility.

“Now there are some unique characteristics in London that present some challenges to this So the other metros to which I referred to [Paris and Sao Paulo] as having fully automated trains don’t have single bore, deep level tube tunnels – like the Piccadilly Line has for example.

“Therefore there are some huge issues that we would need to address before we even got to the design stage and the thinking process about what we were going to procure at that point.

“But the prize for me, if I may say it, is actually around ensuring reliability of the system. The reason that we can run 30 trains an hour on the Jubilee, on the Central line and on the Victoria line and not anywhere else is because they are being driven, these trains are being driven, by the system. They are being driven optimally, the acceleration curves are optimal, the braking curves are optimal.

“You will never, even with the best driver – and we’ve got many great train drivers out there – even with the best driver you’ll never get that with manual operation.”

Val Shawcross pushed the point – was Brown ruling out the highest level of automation (full remote operation) on the Underground?

“I think there would be many challenges for us to get to that point. So I’m not… well you can never rule anything out because technology moves along.”

The discussion then turned to timing.

“Do you have a timetable,” Shawcross asked, “for introducing driverless trains at all?”

“The only timetable I’ve got,” Brown replied, “Is dependent entirely on the funding envelope. I don’t have funding and therefore it’s impossible for me to have a clear timeline as to what I can do.

“I need… I’m going to need… we’re going to need to replace the Piccadilly Line trains, which were built in 1973 and the Bakerloo line trains built in 1972 quite soon – and at the moment I cannot let a contract with which to let it.”

If the money suddenly turned up, Shawcross asked, when would you be aiming to introduce the first “driverless” trains of whatever specification?

“Well I think that’s the point.” Replied Brown. “I think that’s when we’d have to work through and look at all the technical issues, the safety issues, and other concerns.

“I’m not trying to be elusive here!” He stressed, “it’s just that this is… this is… really dependent very specifically on what’s being done and…”

“Are you still committed to having ATC on 48% of the network by 2014?” Asked Shawcross, interrupting.

“Yes.” Replied Brown. “Because the Northern Line will be complete by that date.”

The discussion then turned to the safety impact.

“The Unions,” Shawcross asked, “are very concerned about public safety on driverless trains and there’s clearly some worries there. What are you doing to actually discuss and have dialogue with the unions about this issue?”

“Well as I just said,” replied Brown, “I’ve already talked to the General Secretaries some time ago about the concept of this. I’ve been very open with all of my staff, all of my employees, directly about this and the reality as new technology continues to emerge, and I have further meeting – am intending to have further meetings this side of Christmas with the General Secretaries to continue with that dialogue.

“So clearly I understand their concerns. I mean frankly safety is absolutely at the top of my concerns because ultimately I’m accountable for the safety and operation of the system. So there is no question of me ever putting in a system of operation that doesn’t meet the highest level of safety criteria.”

Richard Tracey then took up the questioning, beginning by clarifying the Mayor’s opinion.

“Mike” Tracey asked, “you say that you don’t know what’s on the Mayor’s mind…”

“I don’t think the Mayor does” murmured a committee member, interrupting.

“…but just yesterday the Mayor said very publicly in Mayor’s Question Time that what he foresees as driverless trains are trains which don’t have a driver in the cab but which most certainly do have staff on the trains.

“As you mentioned,” he continued, “the DLR has staff on the trains and that is the Mayor’s idea and it’s certainly the view of the Conservative group – my colleagues – that there should be staff on the trains. So we need to be clear with you on what we’re considering from our end of the political perspective here.”

“Are you aware of the amount of public support,” he then asked, “for driverless trains?”

“Clearly the public support,” Brown responded, “and the views of Londoners, the views of our staff, the views of anyone who uses the Tube are very important to me in this context. So absolutely I’m aware of what people’s minds are on this.

“But I do go back to the point that actually the overarching imperative for introducing new technology is to improve the reliability and the capacity of the system.

“That’s where I come from – it may be a bit of a naïve place to come from – but I think that fundamentally Londoners care about. How do you ensure that, instead of a train arriving every two and half minutes, you have one arriving every two minutes or even less if that’s possible?

“And as I say, some of that is only possible by exploiting some of the new technology that we need to – as indeed we’ve done throughout our entire history as an organisation and indeed as any organisation should do.”

Tracey then mentioned that another concern of the public was avoiding disruption due to strikes, and that he believed that surely the amount of automation on lines like the Jubilee already meant they were surely just one step away from being able to remove the cab completely.

“Well yes,” Brown replied, “like I mentioned there are metros around the world that have taken that further leap forward. As I said – and I’m in danger of repeating myself – I just want to be absolutely clear that as we exploit, as we should do, new technology as it emerges and as it’s proven to operate in other cities and in other contexts, that we are absolutely clear that there are some unique operating circumstances within London. One of them I alluded to earlier – with the depth and the size of the single bore tunnels – but also that we are cogniscient about the overall impact on the reliability of the service.

“One of the other things I should just say is that a third of our issues of delays, when you look at our overall statistics are around so called ‘passenger action’ and occasionally people do – although not so much on the Jubilee line clearly where there’s platform doors on some parts of the network – people do occasionally find themselves on the track. Either unfortunately because of a deliberate suicide attempt, or to retrieve an object or some other foolish thing that people occasionally do because human beings are like that of course, we all are.

“So I just want to make sure that all of those things are properly reconciled, properly dealt with, properly thought through. Therefore I think this needs calm reflection, as and when we get some funding and we’re about then to consider a design, and consider the type of issues that we’ll need to talk about before the procurement of a new fleet of trains.

Tracey then pointed out that there are in order of 30 cities in the world using driverless trains, and wanted to know what evidence there was that it was less safe.

“Well clearly each city has its own unique circumstances,” Brown explained. “What I’m interested in is obviously exploring the data from other cities – and there is mixed evidence, it has to be said, across the world on this subject. Some countries culturally, and for other reasons, look at these issues slightly differently than we might here and I’m quite proud of the way that we look at safety in this country actually in terms of our operating systems.

“So I think it’s important that we look at that [the experience of other cities] in terms of the overall context, but it shouldn’t be the sole driver to decisions we make in London.”

Tracey pushed again – surely there was no evidence that they were less safe?

“Well there are some different circumstances.” Brown replied. “London’s Tube network is constructed entirely differently from any other one in the world. It’s a hodgepodge of joining together old railway companies into one holistic system and that creates its own unique challenges. It creates its own unique challenges day to do in the operation of the place, but also as we introduce new technology including new trains.

“So we just have to be very mindful of that going forward. I never rule anything out, but I have to say that we have to look at this in a proper, considered, calm way. Of course involving people in London, of course involving a trade union and our employees – all of which I’m committed to do.

Tracey then asked as to whether the Jubilee, Victoria and Northern, having received ATC, would thus be the most likely for any conversion.

“No.” Said Brown. “I think it’s much more likely that we will see any introduction of further technological developments when we procure a new train. Because I think these trains are as they are, they’re part of an overall system, there… for example there aren’t platform edge doors – apart from one section of the Jubilee line – on the rest of those lines and that creates some major difficulties, I know, for our regulator and for other people who are interested in looking at us.

“So we do have to work this through in time. So I do think it’s more likely that further technological developments will emerge with the procurement of the new fleet of trains.”

Tracey then asked for clarification about the testing of driverless trains on the Jubilee line, a subject that had appeared in the media.

“You made an announcement through TfL,” he said, “that there would be testing of the driverless concept on the Jubilee line I think and then there were some reports that – you were quoted apparently – that this was not now going to take place. What is the truth there?”

“Well I never made an announcement they were going to be tested and they’re not.” Said Brown “There’s no plan to test them at the moment.”

“Well certainly I recollect press releases…” Said Tracey, looking slightly confused.

“I have never said it. There are no plans to test them, and there is no… I have no plans to test this technology on the railway at this moment in time.”

“So, it was purely press speculation?”

“So it would seem.”

Moving away from talk of testing, Tracey then pushed Brown again as to when he believed we would see driverless trains rolled out.

“Well I refer back to my question earlier on.” Brown said. “That really depends on a comprehensive spending review giving us the ability to procure, to let a contract to procure, to go to competitive tender for the development of these trains which we then have a very clear specification around their reliability, around service levels and what would be required of them, and that is when the detailed work would need to be thought through as to when – and whether – we could introduce a level of automation that takes us to that point.”

“So when would the earliest be,” asked Caroline Pidgeon, “if you did decide to go ahead?”

“Well I think the earliest would be in the early 2020s.” Brown replied. “In terms of an introduction of a new fleet, I would say, so that means obviously there is some, there would be a lot of work to do. But if there was a spending review early next year then that would be the time I was looking at.”

Tom Copley then asked whether a Train Captain model would make the Underground more resistant to strikes.

“Presumably with a Train Captain model,” he asked, “you’re in the same situation as you are if the drivers go on strike?”

“Yes.” Replied Brown.

After a brief discussion about industrial action votes and staff training, talked returned briefly to driverless trains and the relationship with the Unions one last time.

“I’ve read the submissions,” said Tony Arbour, “which have been submitted by ASLEF and the RMT. Both of them have as their principle objection to driverless trains a fear that safety would be compromised.

“Isn’t the only way that one can test whether or not that foreboding of the unions is correct, would be to test driverless trains?”

“Ultimately I suppose yes,” Brown replied, “though I have to say that I think there’s an awful lot of work, as I’ve alluded to already, before we get to that point.

“And again, just to make it absolutely clear there is no prospect of me leading this organisation into any situation where we do compromise safety. It’s just not conceivable for me to be doing this job in that situation.

“What we do have to ensure is that, where there is new technology, it is properly applied, that it is properly scrutinised, properly assessed as to whether we can provide a service given new technology and what the implications of that new technology will be on the delivery of that service. And then follow it through in a proper way with proper consultation with our employees and with the trade unions and with other interested parties.”

“I don’t doubt your good intentions on that,” Arbour said, “and I’m absolutely certain that there is no-one who believes that TfL would behave irresponsibly on this. But clearly the only way that one can test this principle limb of opposition to driverless trains would be to test them.

“Is it therefore completely inconsistent,” Arbour continued, “indeed irresponsible and irreconcilable for the trade unions to prevent that testing which could prove the hypothesis one way or the other?”

“I suppose there is an element of irony if the trade unions are saying that they don’t want to get involved in the testing of driverless trains.” Answered Brown. “Well, that would be the logical conclusion to that discussion.

“But I have to say this is all hypothetical at the moment, because there isn’t a plan to test them on the railway at this moment in time. There maybe at some point in the future, in which case if there is there will be a proper discussion, consultation and involvement of our employees and I have no doubt their trade union representatives. But there isn’t a plan at the moment, there simply isn’t. And when and if there is we will, of course, cross that bridge.”

“But the tenor of their statement,” Arbour said, “is that you’re never going to reach that point because they’re not going to allow you to test them.”

“Well… well I’m afraid I can’t comment for the…” Said Brown.

“But it’s worse than ‘irony'” interrupted Arbour, “it’s Luddism, isn’t it?”

“…Well I… those are your words!” Continued Brown. “What I think I would say is that there has been new technology introduced throughout the hundred and fifty years history of the Underground. Frankly if there wasn’t we’d still see steam trains running round the Circle line!”

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There are 68 comments on this article
  1. ASLEF shrugged says:

    Richard Tracey and Tony Arbour – anti Union and without the slightest idea of how the Tube works. Pathetic.

  2. Jeremy says:

    It appears to me that the quality of questioning is generally questionable. Driverless trains would certainly be a huge amount of work. Paris’ solution involves half-height platform-edge doors. Is there even space on LU platforms?

    I find it surprising that the Conservatives are able to find public support for automation given the number of circumstances in easy memory where a driver being away from the passengers and located at the front end of the train has been invaluable from a safety perspective.

  3. Malcolm says:

    I guess ASLEFshrugged is right. But what strikes me much more forcefully, reading the above, is the amazing way Mike Brown cooly responds to the most inflammatory of questions by batting them straight back down the middle of the pitch. Says absolutely nothing which will make his discussions with the unions any harder, but also says nothing which Tracey/Arbour can get any purchase on to stir up any more trouble, and nonetheless gives every impression of properly answering their stupid questions. If he’s as astute as this in his daily dealings, then it strikes me that the underground is in pretty good hands. And thanks to John Bull for giving it to us verbatim.

  4. ChrisMitch says:

    TfL at least have a duty to investigate additional automation of their trains, and the unions should have no stop the evaluation of potential improvements to the efficiency or service that is provided.
    Brown’s position seems eminently sensible to me – ruling nothing in or out.

    But ultimately, if driverless trains do prove to be cheaper and/or more efficient, then it make sense to move towards that goal. TfL does not exist to give jobs to train drivers, it exists to move Londoners around the city.

  5. ChrisMitch says:

    Apologies for the bad grammar.
    And I’m not usually rapidly right-wing either.

  6. Eric says:

    Mike Brown has a tough job to do. He has to keep the ageing tube working and increase capacity which is a challenge by itself but has to also change the culture of the organisation. I think is slowly changing from an adversarial to a more collaborative nature. I believe the new trains in part have led to many of the old guard leaving as they struggle with the changes that they bring. By being apolitical and being focused on arriving at the right decision the right way he will be a real asset to London.

    I’d like to see driverless trains but accept that the Tube is quite different to other systems so present additional challenges that need to be addressed.

    I think in my lifetime I’ll see driverless cars, taxis buses, trains, lorries, and tubes in this country as these can largely be designed to fail safe and stop. One area I doubt we will see driverless transport is passenger airlines though I expect its on Ryanair’s radar to charge you more if you want a flight with a pilot.

  7. ricolas says:

    Really fascinating.

    One thing that IS obvious is that there is no discussion to be had on driverless trains unless there is a massive injection of cash at some point. Cash that would always have a higher priority elsewhere.

  8. Anonymous says:

    If Ryanair thought they could get away with it they’d charge for the use of the wings. And strap seats to them…..

  9. Andrew Bowden says:

    Very worrying that Brown has to re-iterate time and time and time again that LU has a unique set of challenges. It’s one thing to build a new line from scratch as a driverless system – after all, it was done with the DLR. It’s entirely another to retrofit an existing and challenging system with such technology.

    Just shows that some members of the committe are more interested in their own rhetoric than actually someone who knows what they’re talking about.

    But then far too many politicians think they’re experts on everything when in reality they know naff all.

  10. ASLEF shrugged says:

    Eric – I’m afraid I had to smile at the idea of LUL becoming less adversarial and more collaborative under Mike Brown, the same LUL that not long ago refused to discuss the closure of ticket offices with the unions which led to TSSA going out on strike for the first time since 1926. From the outside it may look that way but from the inside it all feels pretty much the same as it ever has, the staff distrust management and feel that they are ignored.

    Driverless trains are on the way, they will not be cheap and it will be a long job, by the mid-2020s 70% of the trains will still have a driver in the cab. It is highly unlikely the new trains will be unmanned, they will all have a “train attendant” who no doubt will sign up with the RMT just as the PSAs on the DLR have. The Tories on the GLA see automation as a way of limiting the influence of the unions but all it will do is move people from ASLEF and into the clutches of Unkle Bob or his successor.

    And don’t airliners already fly in “auto” apart from at take off and landing, much like the Central Line runs in “Auto” apart from going in and out of the depot/sidings (or when it rains and they stop halfway into the platform)?

    Jeremy – the current idea is for one train stock, tentatively called the Evo, to replace the 1972s on the Bakerloo, 1973s on the Piccadilly and the 1992s on the Central and W&C. As this will be done gradually over a period of time you will have two different stocks running on a line, just as you did recently on the Met and the Victoria. As the doors on all these stocks won’t match up with each other and the old stock would not have the neccessary equipemt needed to oerpate the PEDS they would have to be installed after the last of the old stock has been replaced.

  11. Sheldon Cooper says:

    A point about your habitual use of the phrase “with regards to” – much as I enjoy your column, I must point out that the phrase you mean to use is either “with regard to” (“regard” is an abstract noun with no “s”) or “as regards” (“regards” is a verb). “With regards to” is the equivalent of saying “with hatreds of”. It has seeped into common parlance alongside numerous other malapropisms but despite widespread repetition it is still plain wrong. To your credit, at least you haven’t succumbed to the burgeoning “irregardless” malaise – that drives me nuts.

  12. Paul says:

    I think the way the Conservative [led] administration will operate is that they want to see a business plan for any investment in new stock and signalling that shows a “cost plus” return in terms of reduced operating costs over the lifetime of the assets purchased. Thus Brown will be under intense political pressure to consider all options for reducing operating costs. Reduced maintenance requirements – both parts and labour – for newer assets will be one element, but I imagine some will see a reduction in staffing as a holy grail.

    Whether driverless trains can realise a true reduction in costs is another matter, but in my experience the current received wisdom in management (and thus Tory) circles is that reducing “head count” is all that matters, to the point of obsession. I’ve seen a business spend £300k on technology just so they can make two people earning £20k redundant. The technology will need replacing after 5 years and probably takes a full time engineer earning £40k to maintain it, so the business case – if it adds up at all – is fantasy. But they’re obsessed with “head count” and they saved “a head” so they don’t care. It’s bonkers.

  13. ASLEF shrugged says:

    Paul – As the intention seems to be to have the driverless trains staffed the “head count” will possibly go up. Every driver displaced to other lines or leaving LUL would be replaced by a “train attendant” who will be paid less but at the same time more automated equipment on the trains and more complex signalling/control systems would mean more maintenance/repair work with a rise in engineering staff to handle the increased workload. Whether there would be any savings on the wage bill is debatable.

    To be fair this will go through regardless of whether the Mayor is Conservative, Labour or whatever, LUL management have been heading in this direction for years and once they set their minds on something they seem to plough on regardless.

  14. Greg Tingey says:

    Will a “train attendant” be paid less than a “driver” ??
    Since said person will have to manage the train, AND be able to drive it, if the systems go on the blink, as happens on DLR?

    It is very obvious that Bob Crowe is a deluded religious bleiever (Marxism is a religion) BUT that he is supported within LUL much more than anywhere else on the railways.
    Why should this be so?
    What’s different about LUL?
    The management, of course.
    The arrogant hectoring and loudmouthed bullying of the paying passengers is the give-away.
    So LUL management treat their staff like that, as well do they?
    And wonder why their employees get behind Crowe.
    Or TSSA, who are the “no-strike union” go on strike … errr … wait a minute there?

    The levels of stupid, as mentioned by Paul, are really amazing.

  15. Fandroid says:

    Airliners apparently do land on auto! There was recently a telly programme featuring a full-scale unmanned test crash of a 727. In the pre-publicity for that, an ex-inspector for the AAIB explained that Heathrow could not manage its current intensity of landings without auto-landing. The worry the CAA had was that young pilots would not have enough regular hands-on experience of landing to be able to do what that older American pilot did in getting his plane safely down onto the Hudson River after a bird-strike. I’m not sure what the answer was, but I hope for my own sake that they have resolved the training issue that presents!

    I don’t think I foresee the removal of Tube-train cabs on existing lines, ever. How would new trains be introduced onto those lines without a driver up front at least initially ? I suspect the gains for complete ATO will be in moving empty trains into and out of sidings and depots, where fewer drivers would be needed overalland passenger safety would not be compromised. I predict a compromise where the overall number of drivers on a line stays roughly the same while a more intensive service is introduced.

    It would be a passenger safety positive if drivers moved out of their cabs and walked up and down lightly loaded trains in the early and late off-peak hours (well at least in the outer reaches of the system).

  16. Kit Green says:

    The Helsinki Metro is introducing new stock with temporary cabs that are designed to be removed to increase passenger capacity when planned driverless operation starts in a few years time.

  17. ASLEF shrugged says:

    GT – Last year PSAs on the DLR were on £37582, LUL TOps on £44545. On what evidence do you base your claim that Bob Crow (no e) enjoys greater support at LUL than elsewhere? Since becoming Gen Sec he’s increased the membership from around 50k to over 80k, those 30k extra members certainly aren’t all at LUL. And while RMT is the biggest union at LUL it still only represents a third of TOps, ASLEF is still the biggest train driver union down here.

    Fandroid – I think you made the statement about trains moving in and out of sidings and depots before and I repeat that currently on the Central Line (and I believe on the Victoria, the Jubilee and the DLR) ATO is not available in depots and sidings, trains have to be driven manually.

    Please remember that a Central Line 92 stock is 130m long and on the open sections can reach speeds of up to 85kph (100kph before Chancery Lane). There’s a lot of uneven track up the Epping branch, I certainly wouldn’t like to try be strolling up and down the train while it was mobile. If the train attendant was responsible for opening and closing the doors you’d need door control panels in every car rather than just at either end otherwise there’d be a few delays getting the doors open when they arrived at stations. And what about making PAs, are they going to have PA equipment in every car?

    Currently it’s a safety requirement to sound the whistle when approaching staff working trackside; I wonder if the new trains will have sensors that detect people in hi-vis and will it stop if they don’t move to a place of safety? And will they be able to tell the difference between a hi-vi and a discarded Sainsbury’s carrier bag, it is quite difficult at times.

  18. Littlejohn says:

    @ASLEF shrugged 04:54PM, 20th October 2012.

    Why is an ‘anti Union stance by Richard Tracey and Tony Arbour, without the slightest idea of how the Tube works’ any more pathetic or uninformed than the positions taken by Val Shawcross and others on the left-hand side of the argument? Any debate needs informed criticism, not half-baked ideology, whatever direction it comes from. In any case, as the report makes clear, we already have driverless trains – indeed arguably the Victoria Line has always been so. What the debate should really be about is unmanned trains and I really can’t see that happening given the existing infrastructure. ASLEF shrugged and Greg are both right, however, in their comments about the effects of improved technology. The head count will certainly go up and if greater (or broader) skill levels are needed I can’t see why the unions would not be able to negotiate higher wage levels.

    @Fandroid 09:28AM, 21st October 2012

    There are no really automatic landings these days. Autoland was developed in the 1960s/70s to allow landing in zero/zero conditions (no horizontal or vertical visibility). It eventually worked fine, but after the expenditure of many millions of pounds it was realised that this was an expensive dead end as no one would be able to get to or from the airport in blanket fog. What does happen is that the aeroplane locks onto the glidepath which removes the human element from getting the approach right but the pilot still controls the flare, does the landing, allows for cross wind etc. But this needs the correct infrastructure at the airport and by no means all of them have it, for both technical and financial reasons. When I was stationed at Northolt in the 1990s it was only possible to fit it on one approach. It is also true that over-reliance on automated systems is a major headache for flight safety; there is increasing evidence that basic flying skills are being lost such as with the loss of Air France AF 447 over the south Atlantic in June 2009 (aircraft got into a stall, pilots put nose up and increased power when the correct way to get out of a stall is to put the nose down to increase speed and airflow over the wings). Are there lessons here for the Underground about over-reliance on technology ? No doubt.

  19. Possibly a bit off topic but following from Kit Green’s comments:

    The Helsinki metro could not be more different from London in the way it is run. Admittedly it is much smaller and probably as a result has a bit of a more convivial atmosphere and a flexibility to staffing that many would say could not happen in London. If I recall correctly there are full-time rostered drivers but a typical train driver would a female. Many would be working-mums. They put their names down for shifts they want to do to fit in with their family life and apparently they do not have a problem filling all the shifts. The staff like it that way. If they are due to switch to driverless trains I am sure that company loyalty, the flexible approach to working practices making redployment easy, natural wastage and railway expansion will mean it will be carried out relatively smoothly.

    Also some of the system is above ground and they get serious problems with snow. Will be interesting.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Regardless of the plaque on Bob Crow’s desk, he is of course the archetypal capitalist, with the trump card being the sheer cost of disruption of industrial action. That is the real salt in the wound for the Tory politicians – beating them at their own game. That doesn’t negate the need for more equitable wage structures – proportionate to risk, stress, skills, training, unsociable hours etc. – but its far bigger than the rail industry. If the health and education services were so heavily unionised (or capitalised) as the rail industry, RMT and ASLEF members would soon see their relative wages plummet. For example, nurses in the US can easily earn well in excess of them. Such scenarios are however more ethereal than driverless trains, so we have this situation of silly political posturing.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Methinks that any design of cabless train is still going to require end doors for emergency egress. Further these will need to be easy to open in such an event. No doubt Health and Safety will require some sort of mechanism to cut the track current and of course there will be the problem of intentional misuse by passengers. Video identification of the errant passenger is going to be scant return compared to cost of a disrupted service. Perhaps a door guard at each end as per the old gated stock? I really cannot see this is going to happen.

  22. Fandroid says:

    ASLEF Shrugged

    You are right, I did previously mention using ATO for moving trains into and out of sidings and depots. Even though it’s not currently in use on the existing automated lines, it is used elsewhere in the world for those purposes and is seen there as one of the big advantages of ATO. As it has just about zero safety implications for passengers (platform edge doors would need to be fitted only at the likes of Seven Sisters), it must be one of the things LUL would look at for the future. If the outer reaches of the Central are a bit rocky, isn’t it time for some serious track renewal? I only mentioned a wandering driver as out here beyond the outer suburbs, we appreciate visible train staff late at night (although we do appreciate an alert driver in the cab too!)

    I suspect the popularity of the RMT is at least partly due to them being a outstanding beacon of stability in the constantly unsettling world of the bananas national rail franchise system. The latest fiasco with WCML (and those others which have been ‘paused’) would drive any sensible employee to seek union protection. Before the DfT bean-counters failed to understand how to read their spreadsheets, they previously did RMT another favour when they let Greater Anglia for a measly 18 month franchise.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I watched part of the session on the live webcast. I do find the level of questioning from Assembly Members to be rather poor given they are supposed to be knowledgeable about the transport brief. The Tory members are, of course, desperate to reduce the risk of strikes and also to get costs down. Mr Tracey posed several questions to the Mayor on TfL costs for October’s MQs. It will be interesting to see the eventual answers but I doubt the questioner will really be able to do much with the answers. The Mayor’s repeated statements about “driverless” trains when he really means “trains with ATO and ATC” do not help one jot.

    Work has, of course, been going on for years and years on increased automation and getting more towards the fully automatic railway as evidenced in places like Singapore and Lille where trains are fully automatic and completely unmanned. London is handicapped by its history with small tube stock and very tight and confined single bore tunnels with minimal ventilation / escape shafts between stations. Modern systems have properly designed side walkways and evacuation points which make evacuation from unmanned stock much easier. The safety aspects and public concerns about unstaffed trains are the real problems that will probably prevent London ever being able to emulate something like the Singapore Circle or North East lines. Paris can get away with driverless trains as they can pull up a train alongside and do a side train to train transfer if needs be. The Assembly members seem incapable of understanding these basic issues – the Tory members in particular but not exclusively so.

    The Deep Tube programme and EVO train are certainly premised on getting towards “cabless” trains and the “DLR Train Captain” concept. I do completely believe that tests were going to be done on the Jubilee Line with a modified version of Seltrac but I wonder if some insurmountable (in the short run) safety or software control issue has cropped up alongside the inevitable IR issues. I doubt Mike Brown wants any strike action on the tube for the foreseeable future so there may well have been a tactical retreat on the IR front – not that that would ever be mentioned in front of the Assembly. He’d be “toast” for admitting that.

    Getting EVO trains and ATO on the DLR model on to the Bakerloo Line is a huge task given the interworking onto NR tracks north of Queens Park and shared operation with Class 378s. Compromise height platforms also don’t fit with platform edge gates or doors! The Picc Line may not have the “shared with NR” issue but it does have shared infrastructure with the District and I suspect brains are melting just trying to get the SSR signalling kit to work on 73 stock never mind what it would mean for EVO trains. Mike Brown is right to dampen down the apparent enthusiasm for or concern (depending on your politics) about “driverless” trains. There are huge issues to resolve just trying to devise a basic engineering and operational concept that would work generically across the Bakerloo, Piccadilly and Central Lines given the unique features that apply on each line. Funding is, of course, the medium term problem but money is there to develop the Deep Tube concept and deliver the prototype train which is also a defined deliverable as part of the last TfL funding agreement with the DfT and Treasury.

  24. ASLEF shrugged says:

    Littlejohn – until trains on the Victoria, Central, Jubilee and come 2014 Northern can move out of depots and sidings on their own, can fix their own defects, don’t stop halfway into a platform when it rains or just stop in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason then none of them are driverless.

    Anonymous 11:37 – I would like to see nurses and teachers, both of which I think you will find are heavily unionised, better paid but when it comes to comparative wages the only standard I go by is other train drivers, at LUL we are paid pretty much the same as those on the mainline TOCs and we get to do the guard’s job as well.

    Fandroid – “zero safety implications for passengers” but what about depot staff? As I said earlier the problem with PEDs is that they can only be fitted where the doors on the new stock being introduced and the old stock being replaced match up, otherwise PEDs can only be fitted after all the old trains are gone.

    Anonymous 8:41 – I believe I heard or read that the idea is for the section north of Queen’s Park to be given over to Bakerloo and London Overground, who share the track at present, will withdraw their service.

  25. Daniel says:

    As someone outside of TfL, LUL, and London transport in general (although a regular user), it is frustrating to see these two “sides” (LUL and unions) battling it out on every front.

    Surely, an open-minded view would be to see whether or not driverless trains can be safer, to see whether or not they can be cheaper to operate, or even to see whether or not the customer service can be improved.

    If any of these questions prove to be true by operating without a driver in the cab, but potentially having a DLR-like train captain, then I wonder whether the unions can justify being against the experiment.

    It’s about time that someone knocked the LUL management and unions’ heads together and tried to create a co-operative, where they work together to create a better service all round, which costs less to run.

  26. LU Mole says:

    ASLEF shrugged is more correct than most on here! “Driverless” is a political contruct, Mike Brown knows the subtle differences and the range of operating methods for a train set. From the pre vic line 1968 upgrade to the entirely staff free service of the future, it’s an incremental change. How many people realise that the jub/vic line now are in a real sense “driverless” but can’t operate safely or with acceptable reliability without a trained person on board? My guess is that at best we will have a train attendant on board who, as is obvious, may well be unionised – not that that’s a bad thing. Even if “driverless” the system as a whole will need trained station staff to accept operational procedures to allow that to work. The cultural and important symbolic change will be if there is no drivers cab, MB stated at staff presentations that the next gen will not have them, I suspect that may be an aspiration. There is a certain inevitability about this. Remember, you can’t really have 30+ tph without a good deal of automation.

  27. Greg Tingey says:

    ASLEF shrugged:
    “I believe I heard or read that the idea is for the section north of Queen’s Park to be given over to Bakerloo and London Overground, who share the track at present, will withdraw their service.”

    And what happens between Harrow & Wealdstone & Watford Junction, then?
    Or is the 4th rail proposed for re-laying along there?
    And what about possible Overground services coming down to Willesden Jn LL – see dicussion of GOBLIN, for instance.
    Um, err …..

    “Knocking heads together”
    Well, maybe, but much as I dislike Bob Crowe, politically, the unfortunate reality remains that LUL bosses are arrogant bullies, and this guarantees solid Union membership, and point-blank resistance by the staff.
    When the station departure screens at my local station are consistently lying to the passengers (“next train 7 / 15 minutes”, when the off-peak service interval is 4 or 3…) are you suprised that LUL management are distrusted?

  28. LU Mole says:

    when you say ‘lying’ do you mean inaccurate or misleading? I doubt MB personally tampers with the VEID system or SMS

  29. Greg Tingey says:

    As with the time-to indicators where a train passes a sensor, the time shows, and then counts-down, the minutes certainly used to be 80 (or 90) seconds long.
    So, at my station the offpeak service interval is either 3 or 4 minutes Mon-Fri, yet the next train indicatiors are (as far as I can see, always) showing a 7 / 14 minute interval.

    It certainly does not inspire trust, shall we say?

  30. Anonymous says:

    What we need is a test line for driverless trains underground. It could be built from scratch with ATO, full escape walkways, platform edge doors, the lot. In fact the tunnels could be built to main line standard, and go somewhere useful like, say, Paddington to Stratford / Canary Wharf…

  31. Timmy! says:

    Mike Brown appears to be carefully meeting the requirements of the public and his staff… He can’t refuse to look at driverless trains and more importantly, technological advancement. The problem is that crystal balls are often not crystal clear – what might the future one year is very easily taken over by the actual future (the Minidisc!). And, as LU Mole says, you need more automation to improve service.

    With my crystal ball, I can’t see driverless trains on any current lines without massive station investment or, at worst, door operators as appeared on the Northern line in the 1990s. I just don’t think the tunnels would provide enough room for staff to stand easily in a doorway or move along the train. The DLR works well but is primarily overground and taller vehicles (plus most people enjoy the opportunity to pretend to drive them!).

    On a different note, I was under the impression from articles here and elsewhere that the Bakerloo would be linked to Watford Junction again. The old fourth rail is still visible around Hatch End. Although I did think that there would be dual running with Overground diverted away from Euston onto the NLL. The Bakerloo line would be very long if it went to Hayes from Watford Junction.

  32. Ian J says:

    @Anonymous 22 October 2012: A test line for driverless trains underground has already been built, in the 1980s. It goes from near Tower Gateway to Bank.

    The Bakerloo to Watford idea was kicking around a few years ago but seems to have gone very quiet. I think it has been abandoned.

  33. Greg Tingey says:

    BUT, but. but …
    The DLR tunnels are over-size with walkways along their entire length.
    As are the “new Jubbly” line tunnels.

  34. Greg Tingey says:

    Oh pox – the HTML reader eat the rest of the message, which was a mock program ,,,,,

  35. Taz says:

    It seems to me that any savings from a lower paid train attendant will be offset by the additional costs of extra automation and maintenance. Savings may be less than 20% of the drivers’ pays, but staff will remain unionised and trains will be cancelled through lack of staff from time to time. Why go to the trouble? LU must be aware of this. How can an attendant wander through a packed train, and what use would that be anyway? The ride on trains may be rough, but ticket inspectors seemed to get their “sea legs” to enable them to work through trains.

    Comparisons with the DLR are looking at 25 year old technology. I can now get an App for my IPhone to allow me to check my home security and adjust the settings whilst away from home. Likely a similar app will allow an attendant to make announcements, check and control train settings from anywhere in the train. But to justify a lower pay rate they must be divorced from the complications of driving, which might be done in emergency from central control using video monitoring to allow remote control.

    The Central Line already has conventional auto-trains. Where is the advantage of removing the driver from the cab and replacing them with a wandering train attendant when a small wage saving is offset by additional costs. Driverless trains may work around the world, but most people see a problem with the small tube tunnels of London. What if the train attendant went for a meal break at White City and the train continued unattended to West Ruislip and back. An attendant would have to board again when the train returned to White City and see the train through to Leyton. It could then run unattended to Epping and back. Now we are seeing real savings whilst retaining a staff member through the tube tunnels. The Piccadilly Line would need an attendant from Arnos Grove to Baron’s Court, and also in the tube tunnels west of Hatton Cross (Southgate tunnel being only short). The Bakerloo could operate unstaffed north of Queen’s Park with (in-house) Overground agreement . This offers real economies and is already done around the world. And what of the sub-surface lines that don’t have the restriction of confined tube tunnels? Swift assistance could always be provided from the adjoining line as in open sections!

    But having a train attendant still requires monitoring of these staff to ensure that they receive reasonable meal breaks and finish back at their starting point on time, with a relieving member of staff available. This can all be scheduled but we know that when the service is interrupted for a while, repercussions can roll on for the rest of the day with staff in the wrong places. An attraction of unstaffed trains is that once an incident is over the full service can quickly resume without these complications. Additional trains can also be quickly called up to meet unexpected demands. So improved service, a big wages saving, reduced supervision and also reduced strike risk. This must be the ultimate aim of all train operators.

  36. Ian J says:

    @Greg – Anonymous was cheekily pointing out that the full length walkways in the tunnels would make driverless trains possible on Crossrail. I was just pointing out it had been done before. The DLR signalling system is Seltrac, developed for Skytrain in Vancouver, which has completely unstaffed trains. I agree that that’s not going to work on tunnels without walkways any time soon. But as you say, the Jubile Line extension does have walkways – and guess what signalling system it uses?

    Someone mentioned snow as a problem – as I understand it, in Vancouver, when snow is forecast, they run trains constantly overnight to stop the snow building up on the rails. The point is that with unstaffed trains, the incremental cost of running more trains is much smaller than if you have to pay staff costs. So you get more frequency for a given running cost. It might not happen on the existing underground lines any time soon, but if Crossrail 2 is built as a metro, then does anyone believe it would have staffed trains?

  37. Greg Tingey says:

    Ian J
    My “eaten” entry was along just those lines (oops!) …
    if you have tunnels over-size+walkways -> driverless is possible, but only if ALL the tunnels are oversize+walks, which rules out the Jubbly.
    If you really want truly driverless, then you are going to have to re-construct every single tunnel on the existing UndergrounD, which is going to be a tad expensive.
    I don’t doubt that all new construction will be over-size+ walkways, but ……

  38. Taz says:

    So the Jubilee Line would only need a train attendant between Finchley Road and Westminster! Of course there are various grades of Seltrac, so the signalling and trains will need modification and perhaps the current upgrades should be given time to settle in. Current LU work appears to be on the next generation of upgrades, but the recent ones could be revisited when the budget permits.

  39. answer=42 says:

    There is a smoking gun in this report, which I am surprised that neither posters nor Labour members of the committee have picked up on.

    There is no budget plan for replacement of Piccadilly and Bakerloo 1972 /1973 trains. (As well as the newer Central /Drain trains).

    Not only is there no budget plan to replace the 40 year old trains, TfL are so far away from drawing one up that they cannot identify the technologies that will be used in the replacements.

    At some point, the maintenance costs of the 72/73 trains will start to increase. At some other point, the reliability of the service on these two lines will start to decrease. When do TfL estimate that these points will be reached?

    For political reasons, it is unlikely that Johnson will make any major spending decisions after the middle of his term of office: May 2014. That leaves a very small window of opportunity. Otherwise, we are looking at end-2016 at the earliest before a decision can be taken. Will the replacements be the 2019 Tube stock?

  40. Kit Green says:


    “Well I think the earliest would be in the early 2020s.” Brown replied. “
    I think that is the answer. I’ll put my money on 2022 tube stock.

  41. answer=42 says:

    Thanks Kit, I missed that.

    If a comprehensive spending review is to happen, it must take place, as Brown says, in early 2013 for his timetable to be effective.

    The comprehensive spending review should be the focus of attention: will Johnson agree to it? My two questions on cost and reliability still stand.

    Incidentallly, Modern Railways September edition had a signed article about train automation. The conclusion was that, if possible, zero staffing had the best results, as this permitted instant service adjustment to demand. The next best option was a train captain in the driving position. The worst result was a train captain within the train controlling doors, as this increased response time and hence required more trains for the same service level.

  42. Pedantic of Purley says:

    There is a smoking gun in this report, which I am surprised that neither posters …

    It certainly struck me. I prepared a very long post on it but then thought it might be an article on its own and there is now a potential piece in rudimentary draft form. So depending on editorial decision-making we may cover this in a separate article.

    The September MR article on driverless drains and a significant letter about it in the October edition come from Mike Horne who was a very experienced LU manager and was once in the thick of this. Those obsessed interested in ATO, FACT, driverless trains and all that might like his blog which contains a number of knowledgeable and thought provoking articles on the subject and are written from a slightly different angle from his MR article.

  43. Fandroid says:

    It’s very interesting to see what’s going on in Paris. The newest line (Line 14) has been completely driverless (no staff on board) since opening in 1998. At the other extreme end of the spectrum, the oldest line (line 1) has also been converted to this system (RATP call it GoA4), and driverless trains are being phased in currently. However, the current modernisation plans are for four other lines to go to RATP’s GoA2 standard (ATO with a driver in the cab). Operating savings on line 14 are 30% compared with conventional lines. That is such a serious saving, that it’s impossible for any urban train operator to ignore, and RATP will look at conversion of existing lines to that GoA4 standard once line 1 is running fully driverless. The interesting feature is that what RATP call GoA3, ie with staff on the train but not in the cab, does not feature in RATP’s plans. If you want more detail, I cribbed all this from the November edition of Tramways and Urban Transit.

  44. Kit Green says:

    Operating savings on line 14 are 30% compared with conventional lines.

    Whilst I am happy to accept these figures more or less at face value when they are reported by an operator, I am always mindful that the figure is presented in a typical accountants’ view of the world where all costs seem to exist in their own silo.
    Operating cost saving may or may not be the right benchmark when the capital costs involved, including funding costs, are taken into consideration. On the other hand the operating efficiencies gained from smaller headways may have delayed the need to build another line (as someone mentioned earlier) so the cost / benefit is a very complex thing to get to the bottom of and therefore open to too much political manipulation.

  45. Whiff says:

    Answer=42 – not sure if I would call it a ‘smoking gun’ as to me the fact that there is no plan in place to replace the aging rolling stock was the key point Mike Brown was trying to make. It’s a shame that so many people have become sidetracked by the admittedly interesting subject of driverless trains which is irrelevant until there is money to spend on them.

    Pedantic – thanks to the link to Mike Horne’s blog

  46. John Bull says:

    Yes, I’d agree with that – ultimately the need to find funding is the big question hanging over any upgrade. As Mike makes abundantly and repeatedly clear, there is no point getting side tracked into debating what form new trains would take until you’ve got money to actually buy some.

  47. answer=42 says:


    The funding issue is a partly red herring. An item for depreciation on the 1972/73 trains is no doubt reflected in TfL’s accounts. Their replacement could undoubtedly be funded by a bond, a lease agreement, a government loan (cheapest) or, horror of horrors, a PFI contract. The only blockage could occur because capital funding would (or should) appear as part of the general government deficit and central government might have an effective veto.

    But the herring is only partly red. TfL’s existing financial commitments certainly include some chunky contingent liabilities for the Northern and SSL upgrades and (perhaps) Crossrail construction. And the SSL upgrade, I note, will be complete in 2018, suggesting that the contingencies will be planned to come off TfL’s books around then.

    This does suggest that a big-money mayoral signature for the Piccaloo upgrade would need to await the 2016 election. But the planning, budegtary and technical, needs to be done before then. And this is why Brown used the committee as a forum to put pressure on his boss to do just that.

  48. answer=42 says:

    I missed a key clause:
    Their (1972/73 trains) replacement could undoubtedly be funded by a bond etc, secured against future fare receipts.

  49. Anonymous says:

    I am puzzled by all the references to there being no plan for replacement trains nor a view about budgets. There is a team of people beavering away on the Deep Tube programme to develop the operational and engineering concepts. That work is funded. There is a DfT / Treasury / Mayor milestone for the prototype train to be delivered in 2015/6. You have to have a spec and a view of the likely procurement strategy before going to the market for the prototype. TfL’s business planning process will have a view of the numbers involved and the financial phasing. Clearly there will be a fairly high risk around the numbers but suggesting there is no plan or budget is just wrong. How can the case be put to government in a spending review without such data existing??

    I appreciate Mike Brown is trying to garner as much pressure and support from the Assembly as possible but he must realise that the Tories will only “support” if the upgrade is going to deliver a much cheaper, more efficient railway (i.e. no nasty unionised drivers or expensive management overhead). The other parties will want issues relating to loss of staff and “risks” to safety banished. In other words he’s between a rock and a hard place if he wants to introduce new technology and not upset his workforce and key stakeholders. Government must be aware of TfL’s broad plans for fleet replacement and will be expecting a concerted campaign for additional funding to follow on (or overlap) with that provided for Crossrail (as already mentioned in other posts).

    There are undoubted issues around keeping the 72 and 73 stocks working and those will be making themselves known in budget bids for maintenance and capital spend. The SSR resignalling work is going to mean physical mods to 73 stock which may well affect reliability because cables / wiring will be disturbed – not something you really want to be doing at this point in their life. There are other reliability issues for 73 stock as previous maintenance regimes were predicated on the previous assumptions about new trains being well on the way by now. The maintenance regimes have been changed but keeping motors and bogies going for another 8-10 years may mean more substantive spend than was envisaged.

  50. Fandroid says:

    @Kit Green

    I realise that project appraisal life is more complicated than just plain operating costs (or plain capital costs). We presumably have to take the RATP guy’s numbers at face value. If there are few staff dedicated to actually driving trains, then even with more maintenance and control staff a 30% op cost saving (compared with conventional trains) is very easy to imagine. Manned trains on ATO are going to show only fairly subtle cost savings compared with manually driven ones. The main advantage being greater capacity due to shorter headways. Staffless trains would deliver exactly the same capacity improvements and are going to show big savings, even with the capital and running costs of platform-edge doors. Remember the figures from Paris are for a new line designed that way from the start. It will be very interesting to see what the total figures (including conversion costs) are for line 1 when it’s fully converted.

  51. Taz says:

    I wonder why it might be acceptable to have an unstaffed train in new Jubilee Line tunnels east of Westminster with a walkway, but unacceptable in the smaller, older tunnels north of there. Surely passengers would not be allowed out from a stalled train between stations until sufficient assisting staff had arrived in either situation, even with a driver present today. In which case, why do the smaller tunnels prevent unstaffed train operation at some time in the future?

  52. Taz says:

    TfL had an Investment Programme for 2009-2018 until the 2010 Government would not commit beyond 2015. A TfL Business Plan beyond then is currently in development, to be finalised by this December.

  53. Greg Tingey says:

    Paris can usually go to driverless, because the tunnels are usually double-track. So, as said elsewhere, you can evacuate by a “parallel” train – you can’t do that in the old deep tubes.
    As discussed to death previously, the technology of a completely driverless train is already well-established & works.
    PROVIDED that …
    The train is in a situation that fulfills at least one of these conditions …..
    1] Above ground
    2] In a double-track tunnel
    3] In a single-track tunnel with evacuation walkway
    It also helps if you have P/f-edge doors in your UndergrounD stations – again, preferably, all of them in the U/G sections – not absolutely necessary, but really nice to have.

    This makes the introduction of truly driverless in London, a problematic issue, to say the least.
    As for having driverless in some sections, with the drivers “picking up” @ intermediate point, yes it could work in theory, but your roatering problems would be considerably larger than simply picking up a train at a depot or fixed near-depot changeover point (like 7 Sisters) – which might promptly screw your supposed reliabilty gain.

  54. Anonymous says:

    @ Taz- I believe the Business Plan is having to be redone now because it must reflect the revised priorities set by the Mayor following his re-election in May. Therefore TfL have to find £200m for NB4L or £450m for road improvements (manifesto commitment) plus I assume planning monies for DLR to Bromley and trams to Crystal Palace / Bromley.

    The plan will probably have to be redone again when / if we get to the next Comprehensive Spending Review. At that point we might get a “commitment” to future tube upgrades but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  55. Ig says:

    The main issue with increasing automation is as much about squeezing out more capacity as savings on replacing drivers. The extra capacity gained is expensive, but still far cheaper than the cost of digging new lines. The companies involved are aware of this, and are trying to develop the best automation technology to sell to metro systems all around the world.

    The immediate future of such technology involves among other things optimising the train control systems so that no only do they take into account the position of other trains, but also the real-time speed of those trains.

  56. N B J C says:

    “BUT, but. but …
    The DLR tunnels are over-size with walkways along their entire length.
    As are the “new Jubbly” line tunnels.”

    And this is why it is very difficult for driverless trains to ever run over deep tube track. EU legislation sets out what is needed and ‘oversized tunnels with walkways’ form part of the criteria.
    Given the age of the system and Londons crowded underground tunnel network, reboring tunnels is highly unlikely, which would suggest why MB has climbed down on the issue

  57. N B J C says:

    ………And that should go some length to explain why the extension between NOG and Green pk was the proposed section for testing.

    Lots of talk about whys, wherefores, employee/passenger safety etc. but read between the lines and the real reasons for MB faultering easily reveal themselves

  58. Greg Tingey says:

    Please read ALL of the posts, especially mine, if you are referring to something I have said (I make this mistake, too!)
    In this case, my post of 07.36 / 26/10/2012 where I set out the conditions needed, so that we all understand, for future reference.

  59. N B J C says:

    My apologies if I missed anything, this thread is quite arduous to keep up with…..

  60. N B J C says:

    Ok, just read it.
    yes I agree. Having dealt with the ‘hydra’ that is ‘driverless trains’ (even the phrase is open to interpretation), on several occassions since 2002 (post-chancery lane derailment), in a few of its guises, and with past masters like O’Toole, Kiley etc. my personal opinion, is that the latest head of the hydra appeared through a complete lack of knowledge of safety legislation, both by the mayors office and TFLs senior management.

    BoJos office see it as an anti-TU campaign to get the travelling masses behind them against staff that would oppose it.
    TfL have had a major overhaul of experienced senior management in past 3-4yrs, many who have not looked at past FIRs and recommendations from serious incidents whereby ‘driverless trains’ were looked at as an ‘increased risk… the event of (insert here)’.

    It has only been in recent months that these less experienced managers – and I include Mike Brown here – have been brought up to speed on the whys & wherefores of budgets/safety implications of bringing in a fully automated system.

    Lets be honest, what MD/mayor is going to spend in excess of £3B to save a couple of million in wage bills, but still have to employ staff, so not really save anything anyway?
    its political suicide on behalf of both Boris & Mike

  61. Ig says:

    Does anyone know a Paris/RATP equivalent to LR??? (En français, bien sûr)!

  62. Long Branch Michel says:


    There’s, but it seems to be all en anglais. Peut-être demandez là.

  63. Anonymous says:

    @ NBJC – err Mike Brown a “less experienced manager”? He has been a Line General Manager and then Chief Operating Officer before his brief sojourn with Heathrow Airport. I might call Mike a few things but “less experienced manager” is not one of them. Further the LU Head of Safety has been there for years and how covers all of TfL post the Horizon changes. I do know both of them! I am sure there is plenty of retained operational safety knowledge within LU but there does need to be a willingness to acknowledge and understand the past while *also* making sure that LU is not hide bound and unwilling to look at what technology and process changes offer. I have no doubt at all that those opportunities are being looked at.

    I agree with your analysis about how the Mayor’s office views this issue and it suits Boris to portray the issue that way even though he is too afraid to engage the unions head on over any issue. He wants primary legislation so he has a “shield” to hide behind rather than risk being portrayed as reckless, weak or both if a strike occurred and he eventually had to back down because London ground to a virtual halt and people just got p*ssed off with the arguments.

  64. Ian J says:


    The best that I’ve found is

  65. Nathanael says:

    I’m very fond of the DLR “train captain” system, personally. The job of train driver on a metro system has become quite menial, and yet also unable to assist customers. The train captain job is, well, *better*.

    Regarding the deep tunnel evacuation issues, I don’t see how drivers are any better than train captains for that.

  66. Nathanael says:

    “The next best option was a train captain in the driving position. The worst result was a train captain within the train controlling doors, as this increased response time and hence required more trains for the same service level.”

    I’m a little confused by the distinction”
    What was the result for a “train captain” who has no routine duties and basically only acts in emergency situations?

  67. Nathanael says:

    “I find it surprising that the Conservatives are able to find public support for automation given the number of circumstances in easy memory where a driver being away from the passengers and located at the front end of the train has been invaluable from a safety perspective.”

    Please do tell. I have never heard of such a circumstance.

  68. Pedantic of Purley says:

    What was the result for a “train captain” who has no routine duties and basically only acts in emergency situations?

    The argument put forward was that this was actually the best option if you had to have a person on board. The reasoning given was that staff on the platform are in a far better position to determine that it is safe to close the doors and would be able to do it more promptly. Of course in some places they too may need to be supplied with monitors. A train captain is, arguably, better than a driver sitting in a cab as cabs are expensive and take up space that could be used for passengers. And by being in the train he/she would be better able to deal with emergency situations e.g. person ill or violent behaviour (not necessarily getting directly involved but alerting the appropriate authorities so swift action can be taken).

    Personally though, having travelled on line 1 on the Paris metro which has been recently converted to staff-less operation, I think there is a good case for investigating why you can’t just close the doors after a preset time.

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