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Helsinki rethinks metro automation

The latest CAF metro cars for Helsinki will feature removable driver cabs for future full automation. (Image: CAF)

On 19 January Helsinki City Council backed a decision by city transport operator HKL to terminate the metro automation contracts signed with Siemens in 2008-09; HKL stated that negotiations to bring that project in on time and budget had failed to conclude a satisfactory way forward.

Driverless operation had originally been due to begin on the system’s two lines in 2013, followed by the under-construction first phase of the Länsimetro extension, which was expected to open in 2014.

HKL is keen to see this extension to Espoo brought into service as soon as possible pending completion of construction works, with the new date tentatively scheduled for August 2016, however it claims this could not be achieved without rethinking the troubled automation project.

A significant problem emerged in retrofitting automation equipment onto a mixed fleet of older and newer trainsets and in 2012 the decision was taken to truncate the project from fully-unattended operation to having a train operator onboard to close the doors and manage other functions. Tenders for a new automation contract could be invited ‘in the 2020s’.

The latest 82.m CAF trains (ordered in 2012) will have removable cabs, and it is understood that HKL believes that even with driver operation that it can still run at 2.5 min headways.