To err is human. But when it comes to railway operations, to err can be dangerous and costly. The need to improve railway efficiency and safety was part of why the Paris Transport Authority (RATP), the world’s fifth largest public transport company which operates services in Paris and its suburbs, became one of the first metro networks in the world to fully transition from a conventional line to one that is fully automatic.
The fully automated line, Paris Metro Line 1 (also its oldest), came online right before Christmas in 2012, taking lessons from RATP’s automatic train operating system in use on Line 14 since the 1990s.
Everything from train operation and passenger announcements to opening and closing train and platform screen doors is now automated and centrally controlled on Line 1, improving both the line’s capacity and capability to serve its passengers as they pass underneath the heart of Paris, according to a TrackTalk article on the rollout by Emmanuel Janand, director of systems and mobility in RATP’s Department of Engineering entitled, Paris Metro: How to successfully implement automation on existing line.
Source (News - Alert): Alcatel-Lucent, TrackTalk
As the article, explains leveraging the capabilities of next generation communications enabled the unattended train operation (UTO) and has delivered definite advantages.
“With precision acceleration and braking profiles, trains can safely and regularly operate at 85-second headways, significantly increasing the passenger-carrying capacity of the infrastructure,” noted in an associated TrackTalk posting, Developing effective strategies for metro automation, by Olivier Fafa, Director of Transport Systems – SYSTRA. “Enhanced acceleration and braking patterns make a noticeable difference to energy consumption, with adjustable braking profiles making it possible to maximize energy recovery through a regenerative braking system, which feeds braking energy back to the power grid for re-use. In addition removing drivers’ cabs from trains also increases the passenger area and provides a further increase in capacity.”
Making UTO happen on Line 1 of the Paris metro required a robust rail communications infrastructure that encompassed an integrated video and audio system that took the place of many services traditionally performed by a driver.
The new rail communications infrastructure leveraging the capabilities enabled by an enhanced metro core included an onboard Intercom system to passengers, train monitoring equipment, public address and public information equipment, video surveillance of trains and platforms, communications network between staff and the central control room, central control room telephone services, archive data storage of video from the trains, and maintenance information sharing.
Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) was responsible for developing the highly reliable ground-to-train communication network required for voice and video transmissions on Line 1, according to the company. Alcatel-Lucent began testing the solution and its compatibility with Wi-Fi in 2008, and the system uses LTE (News - Alert) in the 5.1GHz spectrum.
Setting up the rail communications infrastructure was only half the battle, however: There also was the need to persuade the public that a driverless train was a good idea, and get staff on board with the railway solution.
“You have to change the mindset of people to help them understand the benefits of something that has never been applied to a railway environment before,” noted Philippe Mancone, RATP head of Line 1, in his posting on the rollout.
Mancone said that for staff, buy-in came from transparency and assuring staff and the union that the 250 drivers who had previously worked on Line 1 would be reassigned elsewhere in rail network or moved to one of the 40 supervisor positions that now monitor the train remotely from a central location.
Getting the public to support the project required a big marketing push and engaging the media through tours, added Mancone. At first the public was dismayed to see trains without drivers, but now they have grown used to the concept.
“Now that passengers are used to it, in instances when there is a newspaper on the floor that might jam the screen door, it is natural for them to remove it because they know there is no driver to observe that kind of thing,” he noted. “We have also seen children running on the platforms where they had not before because there is no longer direct access to the tracks. This is very reassuring, especially when you have a family with children.”
Unattended does not mean not attentive. In fact, by using next generation communications it has meant the opposite.
Edited by Peter Bernstein