Thameslink launches first ‘self-drive’ customer train

29th Mar 2018

Thameslink launched the UK’s first ‘self-drive’ train on a mainline route on Monday. It ran on computer control between London St Pancras and Blackfriars stations.

To ease passengers’ worries, rail bosses made it clear that the driver remained in the cab for the whole time.

The journey marked the first use of automatic train operation (ATO) on a mainline route in the country. The London Underground already uses ATO on the Victoria, Northern and Jubilee lines.

Thanks to the on-board computer controlling braking and acceleration, trains can run as close as 100m apart and every two to three minutes during rush hour. This could increase rush-hour passenger capacity by 60,000.

Like on the ATO serives on the Underground, the driver remains in the cab to operate the doors and step in when there are safety concerns. This system, if adopted by Thameslink on all its services, will see 24 trains operating automatically through central London.

In the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index, Thameslink scored 64.7, which is below the transport sector average of 73.7 and the UK’s all-sector average of 78.1.

Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service, says: “With demand on the rail network set to increase, train operating companies will need to work hard to continue to deliver on customer satisfaction and retain loyalty.”

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