Wednesday 19 December 2018

Metro North may be Ireland's first self-driving trains

An artist’s impression of a Metro North stop
An artist’s impression of a Metro North stop

Transport chiefs are considering using self-drive technology on the long-awaited Metro North, the Herald has learned.

The high-speed rail link, which will run between Swords and the city centre, was first proposed in 2000 and was shelved in 2011. A scaled-back version was unveiled last year, with a budget of €10bn.

Construction is not due to begin on the network until 2021 and is not expected to be finished until 2026/2027.

Documents seen by the Herald show that Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) and the National Transport Authority (NTA) are considering technology which would remove the need for drivers.

Peter Walsh, director of TII's capital programme management, said: "TII is currently working in partnership with the NTA in the development of the planning and design of the new Metro North project. As part of that work, the possibilities of using a driverless system are being considered."

His comments were included in a letter to councillors who sit on Dublin City Council's transport Strategic Policy Committee (SPC). The letter also addressed a query raised by councillors previously about ensuring that new Luas stock was fitted with automated driving technology.

TII have ruled out making the Luas automatic. Fine Gael councillor Paddy Smyth tabled the suggestion at the height of the Luas strikes during the summer months.

"The recent Luas and Dublin Bus strikes highlight how vulnerable the city is to industrial action," he said. "A relatively small number of people were able to put the city's businesses and countless jobs at risk by grinding its transport infrastructure to a halt.

"The irresponsible action of the transport unions in recent months has only served to hasten the inevitable automation of transport in Dublin."


However, TII have ruled out automating Luas services as the technology does not exist to allow trams to self-drive through the city centre.

Examples of automated systems, such as ones that can be seen in Hong Kong and other major cities, are used on systems where the tram does not mix with general traffic, the letter says.

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