02 July 2016
Driverless Trains Future For Glasgow's Subway As It Closes For Upgrade
Brave new world comes to Glasgow and a hint of the future for us all
(Picture: Look ahead the future's - erm, dark here isnt it?)
It is the third oldest underground railway system in the world and the only completely subterranean system in the UK and when it was constructed it was an integral part of the planned city of Glasgow and drew admiration and interest from all over the world.
Now the system has been shut down completely for four weeks as the next phase of its modernisation goes into deep earth.
Already the stations have been upgraded with new ticketing systems, with passengers being urged to buy smart cards, as well as given a a more modern clean look. Now the phase goes to the tunnels and tracks themselves.
The goal of this modernisation is the goal of many transport operators now: having less human involvement in the processes - and that includes the trains themselves, for by 2020 at the least, Glasgow's subway trains will not be operated by drivers, but by remote control and automation.
This will be the first fully automated passenger rail system in the UK and one of the few truly automated ones in the world. As our picture shows, passengers will be right up front and see for the first time what it is like to stare into the abyss of a completely subterranean railway.
Benefits touted for this change included the ability to run trains at any time night or day, or even more frequently on quiet times, as no driver is being paid. Could we see 24 hour round the clock operations? Without any doubt it will be possible. The main benefit to operators is naturally a significant reduction in the wage bill as train drivers historically have always commanded a fairly decent salary.
The transition to this has been remarkably smooth and without opposition, which is surprising given that so many jobs will be lost when this system is completely finished. There could well be a time when this model is applied to nearly every form of transport - billions are being spent on developing autonomous road vehicles for example and you can be 100% what is driving that development has nothing to do with the private car driver and more to with an eye to a future where goods and passengers are ferried without the inconvenience of a human at the wheel.
Once again the world will come and see this in operation, and take very copious notes.