The Pujiang Line, which opened late March in Shanghai, has taken the total of kilometers of fully automated metros in the world over the 1,000 km bar. Today, there are 63 FAO lines in 42 cities in 19 countries, for a total of 1,003 km.
Growth of FAO has been exponential. After the opening of the world’s first FAO line in Kobe, Japan, in 1981, it took 30 years to reach 500 km. It then took only eight years to double that figure. The last 250 km were built in just three years; that is three times the yearly average before 2015.
Development in China
It is not a surprise that the 1,000 km mark was passed with the opening of a line in China. The Asian giant was slow to adopt FAO, focusing its spectacular growth, crucial to keep up with rapid urbanisation, on the construction of conventional metro lines. However, several Chinese cities are adopting FAO.
The first automated metro line in mainland China was the 4-km Zhujiang New Town Automated People Mover System in Guangzhou, using Bombardier technology and inaugurated in 2010. Seven years later, at the end of 2017, China’s second FAO line, the Yanfang Line, opened in Beijing. Significantly, this line was designed and implemented exclusively with domestic technologies; that is, all subsystems were developed and supplied by local manufacturers, including train control-command. While this was not the case for Shanghai’s Pujiang Line which opened last March, it is expected that many future lines will be domestically-developed.
There are projects for FAO lines in the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Dongguan and Nanjing.
Keeping close to these developments, UITP organised a workshop of FAO with the China Association of Metros (CAMET) in November 2017. The Observatory of Automated Metros will continue to monitor developments. It expects China to feature prominently in the projects section of the next Statistics Brief on automated metros, due later this year.
A global trend
While it is significant that it was a new line in China that took FAO past the 1,000 mark, it would however not have been a surprise either if this had happened with an opening outside China. In 2017, new FAO lines opened in five cities: Beijing, Santiago, Istanbul, Seoul and Kuala-Lumpur. (Another two cities, Hyderabad and New Delhi, opened lines designed for GoA4 but which are operated with drivers in GoA2 mode during a first phase.)
The total length of these five new lines was 108.1 km, which represents 15% of the total metro infrastructure installed in 2017. If we exclude China which, as mentioned above, was a relatively late adopter of FAO, out of a total of 204.7 km of new lines, 91.5 km were GoA4, which represents 45% of total.
The percentage of new FAO lines compared to conventional is expected to increase further. Significantly, no city that has built an automated metro line has ever reverted to conventional mode afterwards.
The benefits of automation are increasingly recognised by decision makers. The key advantage is to enhance the quality of service through greater flexibility in service deployment and optimising run-time of trains. FAO also has a proven track-record for safety. With adequate redundancy built in, fully automated metros are generally safer as human factors in safety-critical decisions are reduced. Safety concerns, which have been a barrier for the adoption of FAO in some cities, are gradually disappearing.