London Underground proves its metro ambitions

London Underground’s decision to seek expressions of interest for the supply of Communications Based Train Contro (CBTC)l systems for for more of its routes – the Waterloo & City, Piccadilly, Bakerloo and Central lines – is yet another sign that the metro sector is booming.

Having pioneered automatic operation on the Victoria Line in the 1960s, London Underground has gradually introduced it on routes such as the Jubilee Line but this latest decision represents a step change in its operations. With passenger numbers growing this a very definite statement of intent that it intends to increase capacity as much as possible.

It seems a reasonable assumption that the introduction of CBTC will be phased with the introduction of new trains – those on the Piccadilly Line, for example, are set to enter service in around 2022 – and by then the already busy services will be operating almost at capacity.

It’s a bold decision from London Underground, which has had mixed experience with resignalling of its routes in the last 20 years or so, but one based on absolute confidence in the technology and the ability of the signalling sector to deliver on time and on budget.

Now it’s not so much a question of whether cities will convert to automated operation with CBTC: it’s a question of when. For passengers squeezed into crowded trains in cities around the world, the extra capacity modern signalling systems can create simply cannot come soon enough.

A case for convergence?

Three of the most challenging signalling projects in the world – Turkey’s Marmaray tunnel, and London’s Thameslink and Crossrail routes – could well be heralding a new era of urban rail operation and blurring the distinction between traditional metro and conventional operations.

Turkey's Marmaray Tunnel is being signalled to allow CBTC commuter trains and in the futuer ETCS passenger and freight on the same tracks.

Turkey’s Marmaray Tunnel is being signalled to allow CBTC commuter trains and in the futuer ETCS passenger and freight on the same tracks.

In Turkey commuter trains will run under CBTC while in the near future high-speed and passenger trains will operate using ETCS with potential for freight; Thameslink will see ETCS fitted trains run on the busiest section in automatic mode, and Crossrail will use ETCS on its Western limits, CBTC in the central section and British legacy signalling systems on the Eastern section.

All three rely on growing commonality of components such as balises, onboard computers and other equipment to avoid what would otherwise be horrendously complex lineside and onboard installations, and all will see metro style operation on railways designed and built to main line standards.

The potential to provide higher service frequencies and (in the case of the Marmaray Project) dual-purpose operations seems offer cities real potential to increase network capacity and meet growing demand without – in theory – the need to build separate metro and heavy rail lines seems vast. Could we be seeing the start of a new trend? Let us know your thoughts…

Siemens wins major Guragon metro extension deal

Siemens is to build a 7km, EUR 70 million extension to Guragon’s metro network near Delhi, India, in a comprehensive turnkey contract. The company will supply rolling stock, power supplies, signalling and system integration with the new route opening at the end of 2015.

A Guragon Metro train.

A Guragon Metro train.

The seven 80km/h metro trains will run at minimum headways of two minutes at peak periods, providing passenger capacity of more than 30,000 passengers per hour. The metro will run in Automatic Train Operation mode using Sicas ECC electronic interlockings, LZB 700 M Automatic Train Control and Vicos OC 501 Automatic Train Supervision systems.

The contract follows Siemens’ success in 2010 in building the initial metro system, which connects Guragon – a city with a population of 500,000 – to Delhi’s metro network. The new Southern extension will serve six additional stations and bring the total route length to around 13km.

Automation Week on

As rail operators around the world seek ever greater capacity and efficiency, is going to examine the issues and opportunities around greater automation of railways. From metros to high-speed rail and everything in between, we’re going to be examining the possibilities and potential pitfalls – and we want to hear your views.

On Tuesday, May 14, we’re going to look in detail at metros and commuter rail; on May 15 we’ll tackle heavy-haul freight; on May 16 we’re examining high-speed rail; and concluding the series, on May 16 we’ll assess whether widespread automation and driverless operation is really feasible on the world’s most demanding mixed-use railways.

So, if you have a view on these important topics, or if your company is involved, please share them, either via the comments form, or by emailing us at we look forward to hearing your views.

Beijing opens world’s longest CBTC metro line

The latest section of Beijing Subway’s Line 10 opened at the end of December 2012, and at 57km in length with more to follow is now claimed to be the world’s longest metro route equipped with Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) signalling.

Line 10 forms part of the outer subway loop linking the North West and South East of the city centre, and the first sections opened in 2010. The second section of the route comprises 30km of track and has 21 stations – with the final third section expected to be completed in Spring this year.

Siemens’ popular Trainguard MT forms the CBTC system using moving block signalling to optimise route capacity and speed. Siemens has scored significant success in China, with installations in operation in cities such as Guangzhou and Nanjing in addition to the country’s capital.