Click to get your own widget

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Driverless Trains for Glasgow - After Only 16 Years

  Sent to me by Ed Buckley. It comes from the Glasgow Evening Times.
GLASGOW will have a new modernised Subway by 2020 following the announcement of a quarter of a billion pounds for the project.
The programme will involved buying a fleet of new driverless trains, refurbishments at all 15 stations, a new signalling system to prevent delays and a new smartcard ticket system similar to the London Oyster card, but even more advanced.
The Evening Times yesterday revealed how the Scottish Government pledged £246million for the works, meaning operators SPT will not have to borrow the cash as was previously thought.
SPT will now make up the remaining £41.5m needed from its own capital budget.
     The driverless trains bit was first suggested by me in a speech I sent to then Transport Minister Nicol Stephen in 2004. Before I started this blog but reprinted here.

     And it will be done by 2020 (if it goes to plan ;-)  ) a mere 16 years later.The rate of technological progress in the Scottish Soviet Socialist Republic is indeed breathtaking.

     I did also mention it several times subsequently. Here and as part of the 9% Growth Party programme.(#9 ) of what I described as the best and most innovative programme of any Scottish party - with hindsight that now seems indisputable even if it didn't get the coverage.

   However I am not writing this simply to say I told everybody so but to examine the figures produced.

   It is to cost £297.5 million for a series of things "driverless trains, refurbishments at all 15 stations, a new signalling system to prevent delays and a new smartcard ticket system" of which my proposal is a quarter. So a guesstimate of 1/4 would be reasonable.

   The other parts of what I then proposed were, as stated in the manifesto
10) Fully automate the Glasgow-Edinburgh train with the same effect.
11) Ultimate aim of a fully automated Scots rail transport system.
    The Glasgow Subway is 6.5 miles while the Glasgow Edinburgh rail line is 45. On the other hand the Subway uses 15 stations while the intercity train stops at 4. The conventional trains are bigger but that has no bearing on driving control systems. The Subway trains arrive every 3 well 5 well 7 minutes whereas the Edinburgh train is half hourly. On the basis of 2 of those the automated subway system is the more complicated.

    The only complication not applying to the Subway is that cows and small children cannot wander across the line. This would mean an automated traditional train would need a Collision Warning with Auto Brake now available as an optional extra from more safety conscious car manufacturers.

     So on balance automating the Glasgow-Edinburgh line should not cost appreciably more and might well cost less, even in Scotland, than the £75 million automating the Subway looks to cost.

     Of course that is Scottish government prices. We know that in the real world the engineering costs start at 1/8th of what the politicians demand [Forth Bridge £1,600m projected cost when the last bridge cost, adjusted for inflation, £320 million] and the ratio gets worse from there [Holyrood promised Parliament building at "not one penny" over £40 million - actually £413m so X 11] [Glasgow airport monorail offered at £20 m but they went for a £300 million link and then cancelled it for £42m so either X 15 or X infinity][Edinburgh trams probably now £1 bn with only half the line when elsewhere it would have cost £110 million so X 18] [{Forth tunnel costed at £6,600 million when the Norwegians could build it for £30 million so X 200].

    Still waiting for any politician from the major parties to come up with an explanation of where the missing money, for which they are legally responsible, goes.

    So it is reasonable to assume that the Glasgow - Edinburgh line could be automated at just under £10 million if there were no politicians involved.

   Even if there are it should be about £75 million.

   And probably less than 10 times that for the entire Scottish rail system.
   Automated rail means it is possible to substantially reduce running costs; greatly increase capacity by running single carriage units every few minutes; reduce the time passengers spend waiting by sending carriages every few minutes (for most this would save at least as much time as increasing train speed); allow trains to run 24/7; allow more flexibility in destinations since there are so many single units.  Automated rail would be competitive, or more than competitive, with road for the first time in 80 years. That it has not happened is proof of the stultifying effects of top down control over economic activity, compared to the bottom up decision making that the roads run on. Automated rail has been possible for at least a generation. With modern computer capacity it automated road driving and even flying is being developed so rail is obviously child's play. So perhaps it is not too optimistic to think politicians may manage the start of it by 2020.

Labels: , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

British Blogs.