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Europe’s longest driverless metro line goes operational in Barcelona.

Posted by Luke Upton on Feb 15, 2016

View of the track from inside a driverless trainIt may be arriving eight years later than originally planned but Line 9 (Línia 9 in Catalan) of the Barcelona Metro has gone into operation and in doing so becomes the longest driverless line in Europe. The L9 comes online just a week before the huge Mobile World Congress opens in the city and bring tens of thousands of passengers to the line. Originally projected by Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB) to be completed by 2008, a funding crisis slowed its progress. The new line will stretch from university in the centre of the city to Terminal 1 of El Prat de Llobregat airport, adding 20km and 15 new stations to the Barcelona network. The airport was previously only served by the Renfe operated Rodalies line. Siemens have equipped the line with an automatic train control system for driverless operations, with the wireless system providing real-time data on train location and speed, increasing headway and passenger capacity.

Siemens supplied the Trainguard MT automatic train protection system, using wireless CBTC technology (communications based train control) to achieve fully automatic operation. Special platform screen doors provide added safety: Like shuttle trains at larger airports, glass doors separate the platform from the train. The doors do not open until the train has stopped at the platform. Unlike some other automated trains around the world, there will be no staff on-board the Line 9 trains. 

Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont took part in the maiden trip but Spanish Minister for Public Works Ana Pastor wasn’t present, after claiming that the Catalan government had “vetoed” her according to reports by the Catalan Press Agency. Puigdemont referenced the funding challenge in a speech at the opening, stating that he believed the federal government had failed to invest enough in the project; “The [Spanish] State has resigned” he stated and assured that “it put L9’s completion at risk”.

Metro Control CentreThe Barcelona based Catalan government had to add 200m extra to the budget to ensure the project was completed. “It hasn’t been easy at all” admitted Puigdemont, as the infrastructure had to be finished at a time of “limited resources”. “If it wasn’t for us, this infrastructure wouldn’t have been made”, he concluded. Tensions between Madrid and Barcelona are nothing new in politics, sport or indeed infrastructure investment.

The line is designed to accommodate some 330,000 passengers daily and offers a maximum transport capacity of some 165 million passengers a year. Currently, a further 18km long stretch of the line is under construction. Once complete, the line will have a total length of about 50km, only four km of which are above ground.  

Siemens has equipped more than 300 track kilometers worldwide with signaling systems for driverless operation, making it the market leader in this field. In addition to Line 9 in Barcelona, Siemens also operates the L Line in New York, Line 4 in São Paulo, Brazil, and Lines 1, 14 and 4 in the Paris metro with this system.

SmartRail Europe 2016

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Topics: Signalling, projects

Luke Upton

Written by Luke Upton

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