AusRAIL, Market Sectors

NWRL to be fully automated

<span class="" id="parent-fieldname-description"> Sydney’s North West Rail Link will be a fully-automated rapid transit system featuring driverless trains, the NSW government has announced. </span> <p>Once completed, the 36km railway between Cudgegong Road and Chatswood will feature new single-deck trains, which will be controlled by a central computer and monitored remotely by a team of experts, the government said on June 6.</p><p>“Automated systems optimise the running time of trains and increase the average speed of the system – allowing more trains to operate closer together and reducing the time it takes a train to slow down at stations, load and unload, and accelerate off,” the government said.</p><p>NWRL’s train station platforms will also feature screen doors at all stations, designed to make loading and unloading of the trains both safer and faster.</p><p>“Fully-automated train technology has been in use around the world for 30 years, keeping customers safe and ensuring rapid transit systems like the one we are building operate fast and efficiently, while catering for future growth,” NSW transport minister Gladys Berejiklian said.</p><p>“Automated systems deliver safe, efficient and reliable train services in global cities like London and Barcelona, with even higher levels of automation in Paris, Singapore and Dubai – and now Sydney will also finally have its own world-class network.</p><p>“This technology is focused on safety and reliability – there’s no point building a 21st century system with 20th century technology in it.”</p><p>The announcement was hit with swift criticism from the NSW Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), which condemned the decision, calling it “an irresponsible move that puts cost-cutting ahead of passenger safety.”</p><p>“Drivers play a critical role in the safe operation of our rail network,” NSW RTBU secretary Alex Claassens said. “Our trained and experienced drivers are there to react quickly to any emergency situation. They can see what is coming up ahead and ensure dangerous situations are averted.</p><p>“Do we really want to hand this critical job over to a computer system?”</p><p>The union’s comments were slammed by Australasian Railway Association chief Bryan Nye on ABC radio on June 7.</p><p>“Fully automated systems have been delivering safe, efficient and reliable train services in at least 14 countries on more than 40 rail lines used by millions of people for the past 30 years,” Nye said.</p><p>“Unions, like the RTBU, opposed to the idea, are resorting to using fear tactics, saying that this makes the trains unsafe. The use of modern technology increases the productivity of the service and is completely safe.”</p><p>The ARA later likened the decision to automate NWRL trains to Rio Tinto’s operations in the Pilbara, which have been operating with driverless trucks and autonomous drills since 2008, with a concrete plan in place for a driverless train network.</p><p>“These progressive initiatives are helping the resource giant to address the significant skills shortage facing the industry and improve productivity at its Pilbara iron ore operation,” the ARA said.</p><p>Calls made by Rail Express were not returned by the RTBU by time of writing.</p>