It's been a while since Transport for London talked about automating trains on the Underground, probably because the mere mention of it is likely to send the unions into a frenzy. Still the prospect of driverless trains isn't dead, and Glasgow's taking things to the next level with subway trains that don't actually require any staff.
Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) had already confirmed that the new trains would be driverless, but now it's confirmed that the new trains will be free of any staff.
The new trains are part of a £288 million overhaul of the subway, which is apparently the biggest of its kind in over 40 years. Trials of the new trains are expected by the end of the year, travelling along a test track near Ibrox Stadium, and will enter general service by 2020. Drivers will be onboard for the first year of operation, but by 2021 they're expected to be fully autonomous - just in time for the subway system's 125th anniversary. SPT says staff will be kept on the busiest trains and CCTV will be installed for the very first time.
The 17 new trains will replace the 13 that went into service in 1980, and are designed to be open plan to maximise space. Screens will also be installed on platforms for passenger safety, opening when the train arrives - much like the ones on certain London Underground lines.
The Unite union has already expressed safety concerns over the move, with official Pat McIlvogue claiming “SPT’s future vision involves a Subway system which is ticketless, with no counter staff, no staff on platforms and no staff on trains." Naturally they want to know what will happen if something goes wrong (and what will happen to the staff who currently work in the subway system).
Meanwhile Charles Hoskins, SPT senior director responsible for the Subway, told The Scotsman “We will always have staff in the system, but it is not our plan to have a member of staff on every train. These will be the first fully driverless trains in the UK.” An SPT spokesperson also told The Scotsman that it's still looking at how best to utilise staff once the new system launches. [The Scotsman]