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Unattended Train Operation for Automated Metros


Over the last 30 years the global transit industry has made remarkable progress with development and operation of fully automated passenger rail systems. These systems operate with no onboard staff to provide economically attractive, safe, frequent and efficient urban transport services. In the US, such systems are commonly deployed to support large airport terminal complexes. Elsewhere in the world they are rapidly growing as a mechanism for general purpose urban transportation. Today, there are at least 48 lines in 32 cities that provide Unattended Train Operation (UTO) for general public transport using trains that carry more than 100 passengers. Until recently, all of the UTO systems were new, designed and constructed from the ground up for driverless operations. But, in the last five years transport agencies have started to convert some of their oldest lines to driverless operation. Nuremberg’s U-Bahn was converted in 2008 and more impressively Paris RATP converted its oldest and busiest metro line to fully automated operation in 2012. Metros that have deployed UTO systems report a myriad of operational and economic benefits including: Shorter headways and lower passenger waiting times due to more precise train operation and the freedom from the expense of staffing each train; more reliable operation; greater effective capacity due to shorter and more regular headways; lower staffing; greater flexibility to meet demand fluctuations in real-time.


This synthesis will provide a review of UTO operations in North American and world-wide to enable a comparative analysis with existing attended operations across critical safety, efficiency and customer satisfaction metrics.


The tasks to be performed include:

  • Conduct literature review of past topic area research and information.

  • Document established UTO metro operations in North America, Europe and Asia for new and retrofit operations.

  • Establish a peer list of UTO and attended-operations agencies to provide a base for comparison. The peer list would be based on daily ridership, route-miles, peak-hour load levels, headways, vehicle-hours, vehicle-miles, grade of automation, and other operating characteristics as appropriate.

  • Identify and collect safety metrics available for peer agencies in published sources which would be relevant for comparison, such as vehicle crashes, train-person incidents, platform-train interface, and employee safety measures.

  • Identify and collect peer agency operating metrics relevant for comparison, such as operating employees per vehicle-hour, peak and off-peak headways, costs per passenger-mile and –hour, ridership, etc.

  • For operations which have converted to UTO (Nuremburg, Paris) identify and collect relevant metrics for a “before” and “after” comparison.

  • Evaluate capital costs for incremental elements needed for UTO, such as advanced signal and control systems, surveillance, intrusion detection, etc.

  • Conduct interviews and surveys of selected peer agencies to fill in gaps of knowledge from published sources and would include information such as station dwell times, reliability indicators, incident management practices, special considerations for evacuation for subway segments, customer satisfaction information, special event service delivery, labor issues and practices and other operating, security and safety considerations.

  • Synthesize results and findings to identify major issues, costs, benefits and areas of future research needs.


User Communities: * Rapid rail transit operating and planning agencies * National, regional and local DOTs * Municipal and regional land use planning entities * Public transportation researchers

Sponsoring Committee:AP065, Rail Transit Systems
Research Period:12 - 24 months
Research Priority:Medium
RNS Developer:Peter Fahrenwald, Regional Transportation Authority Chicago
Source Info:Information Sources:
Observatory of Automated Metros, World Atlas Report, 2013

Peter Fahrenwald, Regional Transportation Authority Chicago
Gregory Newmark, Center for Neighborhood Technologies

This synthesis proposal has been peer-reviewed by members and friends of TRB Rail Rapid Transit Committee (AP065) and is being submitted on behalf of the Committee.
Date Posted:03/15/2014
Date Modified:03/17/2014
Index Terms:Automatic train control, Headways, Waiting time, Real time control, Economic benefits, Passenger transportation, Metropolitan areas, United States,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Public Transportation
Administration and Management
Planning and Forecasting

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