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Robot trains will soon be used to take Cambridge passengers across London

Rail passengers in the Cambridge area will soon be zipping across London on trains piloted by comput..

By admin , in Cambridge , at March 28, 2018

Rail passengers in the Cambridge area will soon be zipping across London on trains piloted by computers.

Govia (GTR) is pioneering the technology on the Thameslink route, and says it means people can look forward to 'Tube-like frequency' train services.

A spokesman described it as "a major milestone" for the transport industry and said it would benefit people travelling from the Cambridge and Peterborough areas.

A driver will remain in the cab even when the train is being driven automatically

The spokesman said: "Passengers have ridden the UKs first self-drive mainline train in a major milestone for the industry.

"The Thameslink trains will in future use the technology, developed by Siemens and operating on Network Rails new digital signalling system, to run between London St Pancras and London Blackfriars at a rate of a train every two-three minutes – a frequency never before achieved on Britains railways.

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"Automation will make this core north-south connection across the capital the new heart of the regions railway network.

"It will serve 80 more stations than today on 12 separate routes, helping create capacity for up to 60,000 more people in each peak and speeding journeys for hundreds of thousands of passengers."

Will it be safe using computer technology to drive the trains?

GTR engineering director Gerry McFadden said that even when a train was switched to automatic driving, there would still be a driver in the cab.

He said: "Govia Thameslink Railway is blazing a trail with self-drive trains which can run at higher frequency than manual operations. We are embracing digital technology to boost capacity through the heart of London, an historical bottleneck that has held back rail expansion across the south of the country.

GTR's new trains feature screens with Underground information

"Self-drive technology also has great potential for the rest of the countrys rail network, particularly on congested routes, and could in future reduce the need for costly infrastructure projects.

"This is a world-first in terms of the technology being used and a UK-first for self-drive trains. Its a fantastic achievement and a vital part of our RailPlan 20/20 plans to modernise Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and Gatwick Express on the busiest part of the UK rail network.

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"Well always need a driver in the cab but this technology allows us to run more trains, more frequently than we could by driving the trains manually and for passengers, the trip will be as smooth as ever.

"Trains can run more frequently, which allows us to add 80 more stations to the Thameslink network across the south and east of England, speeding journeys for hundreds of thousands of passengers. Drivers and their union representatives have been fully consulted."

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New Thameslink trains from Cambridge

How does it work?

The Siemens in-cab system uses technology to achieve the "best acceleration and braking while maintaining a smooth ride for passengers."

The driver presses a button and the system takes over, braking and accelerating automatically before bringing the train to a halt in the next station and opening the doors. The driver then checks the platform is clear, closes the doors and selects ATO again.

The rail operator says it will mean more trains can be run

The driver remains in the cab to check the platforms at stations, close the doors, and manage the overall safe operation of the train, GTR says.

The automated trains link in with Network Rails new digital signalling system, which means trains can safely travel closer together through the central section of London.

When is it going to happen?

A pilot trip has taken place between Peterborough and Horsham, and the plan is to increase that in 2019 to 24 trains per hour in each direction – the equivalent of a train every two to three minutes.

Twelve different routes will pass through the central section from Cambridge, Peterborough and a number of other locations, including Brighton and Maidstone.

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The new system is part of a move by GTR to expand the cross-London Thameslink network and simplify timetables throughout the South East starting in May. The company says: "New trains, new rail routes and updated working practices will future-proof Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern where passenger numbers, in some places, have doubled in just 12 years."

This inludes speeding up the service between Cambridge and Gatwick, and bringing in new trains with more seats.