Automated metros in six EU countries

  • June 4, 2021

The majority of EU members have at least one metro system. Only six of them, however, run automated metro systems (GoA4).

France and Italy have the highest concentration of unmanned networks. They jointly handle nine of the EU’s 13 automated metro systems. This list may be expanded to include four EU states in the near future.

In 1983 the French city of Lille opened the first automated metro line in the European Union. Initially with 12 stations it now has two completely automated lines with a total of 60 stops. Matra Transport International created the communication-based train control system for automated metro lines in the 1990s. It was installed in some lines in Lyon Metro and Paris Metro. This system has also been deployed in other European nations such as Germany (Nuremberg U-Bahn), Spain (Barcelona Metro), and Hungary (Budapest Metro). Over the next decade, the Italian engineering company AnsaldoBreda (now Hitachi Rail Italy) developed its own technology for autonomous metro operation (ATO) also called Driverless Metro. This approach is used in four Italian cities’ metro systems – Milan, Rome, Brescia and Turin.

ATO technology introduction in German city of Nuremberg in the 2000s resulted in parallel running of Line automated Line 3 to Line 2’s traditional path. For several years the automated trains ran alongside the regular manned ones on the Nuremberg U-Bahn (Metro) network. Finally, Line 2 was converted into an automated system in 2010. Siemens Mobility provided the solution for Lines 3 and 2. 

Implementation of ATO systems in EU cities is continually evolving. Currently, three lines are under construction in Paris Metro with two more converted from conventional to automated service in 2020. The Rennes metro network will be expanded with a second automated line this year. At the same time, few more EU member states might join the list of nations having automated metros. The Dutch city of Rotterdam has revealed its plan to use ATO technology on the busiest stretch of its metro network. Amsterdam Metro may also begin to run the autonomous trains in the future. The Irish capital is also planning its own driverless metro network.

Other EU countries like the Czech Republic and Greece are building future automated metro lines. The Czech capital is set to have its first autonomous line by 2027. Meanwhile, Greece is preparing to build a new completely automated line in Athens Metro. The long-delayed Thessaloniki Metro project is also in development equipped with Hitachi Rail Italy autonomous technology. The new metro network was supposed to open in 2012, then in late 2020. The new date announced by Greek Prime Minister is April 2023.