Sunday 4 March 2012

Mummy, it's dark down here

There have been a lot of reports claiming that Boris has promised driverless trains within two years when actually what he said was that by 2014 the Northern should be running under ATO like the Victoria, Central and Jubilee and the sub-surface lines will follow suit in 2018.

Some people have failed to grasp the difference between automatic operation and driverless though that is quite understandable as I’m not sure Boris, who is chairman of TfL, actually understands either. Additionally no one seems to have bothered to correct the misunderstanding as I suppose to those of that inclination it appears as if he’s taking a tough stance against the Unions when in fact he hasn’t taken any stance at all and invariably leaves everything to his underlings.

Naturally the dates mentioned are subject to everything going without a hitch and you only have to look at how smoothly the conversation of the Jubilee Line went to know that likelihood of that happening. As I’ve said here and elsewhere to the best of my knowledge the driverless system is currently being developed on 4 miles of the Old Dalby Test Track in Leicestershire and will undergo trials on the W&C in about 2-3 years.

If it is successful it will be rolled out on the Bakerloo though that will take around 4-5 years before it is completed. Once they've finished installing the new signalling system they’ll move onto the Piccadilly then onto the Central but before they finish that I will probably have reached retirement age. The old trains will be withdrawn from service as the new NoPO trains are delivered and TOps displaced to the Lines where they use ATO. Who knows, I might spend my last day on the job driving the last 92 stock train on its final journey before Robbie the Robot takes over.

A few days later we received the tale of a 5-year old boy who’d fallen down the gap between the train and the platform being saved by the watchful eye of the TOp in the cab. Many made the point, ASLEF included, that if the train had been driverless he would no longer be with us while supporters of automation have claimed that had this happened in the golden future we are promised there would have been various unspecified measures to save the child.

What grabbed my attention was that the parents, who had let the boy go running of ahead on his own in the first place, didn’t want to delay their journey with any medical attention for their offspring and jumped on the next available train. With that level of parenting and inherited genetics I doubt if he will survive to see his 16th birthday. Hooray for Darwin!

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