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Innovation focus: NeoTrans (DX Line), South Korea’s driverless heavy rail metro.

Posted on Nov 30, 2016

SBL Tunnel View (SmartRail World)

SmartRail World Exclusive


Driverless trains are increasingly common in our cities operating on light rail metro networks around the world but today we get an exclusive insight into a heavy rail metro line in South Korea. The 31.29 km Shinbundang Line (SBL, NewBundang Line or DX Line) connects Gangnam in Metropolitan Seoul with the neighboring satellite cities of Seongnam and Gwanggyo in Gyeonggi province. Privately-owned and operated by NeoTrans it opened in 2011, becoming the world's fifth subway to run completely driverless and the second in Asia. The six cars forming each train can take you from Gangam to Gwanggyo in just 36 minutes, with a maximum operational speed of 90km/h, the fastest average speed of any subway in the country.  Although driverless, the trains do have a Customer Service Office (CSO) on-board to respond to rider questions and concerns and provide assistance in the unlikely event of an on-board emergency.

The NeoTrans operates using state-of-the-art communications-based-train control (CBTC) technology, utilizing two-way digital radio communications between intelligent trains, wayside equipment, and other interfacing subsystems for very high system reliability and availability. The SBL Train Control System is uses CBTC minimizes faults and operational delays. To date (November 2016) there have been no accountable safety issues incurred which attests to the six years of accident free safety record of the Shinbundang line since opening.

Operational Control Center (OCC) - SmartRail World

The  SBL Operational Control Center (OCC) - pictured left - which plays the same function as the driver’s cab would. In the event of a problem, staff at the OCC can rectify it remotely, stopping the train if required. If the failure cannot be resolved from the OCC,  the on-board staff member (CSO) is able to manually drive the train. CCTV cameras in each train monitors the on-board situation, and there are also emergency interphones installed on each carriage. Upon the use of the interphone, CCTV in that carriage is automatically activated to show the OCC the passenger making the call.

Other safety aspects include each train being manufactured with fire-retardant material, a special door function and monitoring to ensure no one gets trapped in them and the facility for passengers to open doors in case of emergency.

The initial 18.47 km long Phase 1 route opened in October 2011 with six stations. Phase 2’s 12.87 km’s long extension opened in January 2016 adding 6 stations to the south terminating at Gwanggyo with one more station (to be opened in 2017). The construction for Phase 3’s 7.79 km extension northwards to Sinsa Station commenced on August 30, 2016, with an opening schedule for 2022.

SBL Train SmartRail World

With this great achievement, NeoTrans was able to start operating the YonginEverline in August 2016, which is also a driverless light rail transit metro. With the YonginEverLine, NeoTran’s runs both a driverless heavy and light rail transit metro systems.

NeoTrans is now ready for its next step by taking the experience gained and lessons learned on the Shinbundang line and Yongin Everline. With such accumulated driverless related operation experience and know-how, NeoTrans is now able to share its learnings with the wider rail community. NeoTrans plans to set up a business group with the goal of passing on operating experience in driverless related training, together with operation consulting service and operation of other lines in overseas. The program was introduced at the Innotrans exhibition in Berlin in September 2016 and to date has received a great deal of interested and positive feedback from the rail industry.

To learn more about this line read our 5 Minutes With... on Friday 9th December which is with the CEO of NeoTrans (DX Line).


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Luke Upton
Luke Upton
Luke has edited this site since its launch and previously worked for b2b media companies across industries including energy, advertising and sport. His role includes writing, editing and commissioning...read more
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