The project to introduce driverless trains in Switzerland, which would have mainly concerned the Gotthard tunnel railway line, has been halted for lack of money.
Last summer the state railway company CFF (Chemins de fer fédéraux) announced its intention to buy a locomotive for towing freight trains equipped with ATO (Automatic Train Operation). Tests with the rail industry were also planned.
But recently, CFF’s director general, Vincent Ducrot, changed his mind and the invitation to tender was cancelled, which is extremely rare in the Cantons. CFF officials justify the cancellation by “the worsening financial situation”.
Peter Füglistaler, director of the Federal Office of Transport (FOT), recently called on public transport officials to be more cost-effective and efficient. “For us, it is not clear what the FFC means by <financial bottleneck>. The resources available are known four or even five years in advance,” an OFT spokesman said.
As the ATO relies on other functionalities that need to be developed first, this technology is not currently in focus, the OFT official explained.
The state funding of CFF is already the subject of heated discussions in the Swiss Federal Parliament. In December, the National Council decided that CFF should receive a one-off capital subsidy of 1.15 billion Swiss francs, equivalent to around EUR 1.22 billion, but the Finance Committee wants to reduce this to just 600 million francs (EUR 635 million).
Tests for automated train movements not cancelled for good
Returning to the project to introduce driverless trains in Switzerland, SBB officials stress that the tests for automated train movements are not cancelled for good.
The group plans to continue the project “with an optimised procedure and even stronger involvement of the industry. The continuation of the procedure is currently being finalised”. CFF’s long-term objective is to create, by means of technological improvements, the basis for the implementation of an economical, modern and attractive working environment for the ‘train of the future’, in cooperation with other European railway companies.