France aims to roll out new high-speed TGV trains… with no drivers

Fancy travelling through France at 320 km/h on driverless TGV train? Don't worry, you have a few years to mull it over.

France aims to roll out new high-speed TGV trains… with no drivers
Photo: AFP

French rail chiefs SNCF have revealed ambitious plans for France to become the first country in the world to roll out driverless high speed trains, according to France TV info.

While passengers have a while to get used to the idea – it won’t happen before 2022 and that’s if all the tests go according to plan, it looks like one day they will have to contemplate taking a train from Paris to Marseille or Bordeaux that has a robot instead of an old fashioned driver.

“We will become the first in the world to put into service an autonomous train on a high-speed commercial rail line,” SNCF chief Guillaume Pepy told Le Figaro newspaper: 

However passengers can be reassured than SNCF doesn't plan to leave them alone on the train without someone who knows how to operate it.

SNCF told France TV Info the system will more like the automatic pilot systems used on airplanes rather than scrapping drivers altogether.

The “driver” will be on board to handle any unexpected events but the rest will be done automatically.

Up until now driverless trains have become common on Metro systems around the world, but in cities trains only travel at around 50km/h and are mainly in tunnels.

A TGV hurtles through the French countryside at 320km/h so the technology needed will be somewhat more complex.

“When you automate a Metro, you can put barriers along the platforms and then you are in tunnels,” says SNCF's Matthieu Chabanel.

“A train is going to run on a high-speed line for 1,000 km, in a completely open environment with trees, animals, people, who can get onto the tracks and so we need a driver to handle all the possible disruptions.”

SNCF say driverless trains are not about saving money on personnel but on making the service more effective and getting more TGV's onto the tracks.

By 2019, SNCF hopes to be able to test a prototype but only on trains carrying freight.


Why is France bidding adieu to its famous TGV trains?



Wildcat French rail strike to hit Toussaint holiday weekend

Wildcat French rail strikes which have hit TGV services look set to cause disruption throughout the Toussaint holiday weekend with passengers warned their travel plans for the long weekend could be ruined.

Wildcat French rail strike to hit Toussaint holiday weekend
Photo: AFP

Rail services between Paris and cities in western France were once again disrupted on Wednesday with some 70 percent of TGV trains on the “Atlantic line” cancelled.

That mean passengers travelling between western cities like Bordeaux, Rennes and Nantes and the capital Paris faced huge travel disruption.


The disruption has been caused by a wildcat strike at a maintenance depot near Paris, which could just be the start of weeks if not months of unpredictable industrial action by SNCF workers.

The strikes now look set to cause misery for the thousands of workers booked to go away over the long holiday weekend, known as Toussaint (All Saints), which begins with Friday's public holiday.

SNCF are mobilising staff and extra trains to try to ensure disruption is minimised and hope to run 80 percent of TGV services over the long weekend.

The rail operator will reportedly put TGV trains that usually serve other parts of the country to use on the busy the Atlantic line.

But scores passengers fearing they will end up stranded by the strike and unable to return have already decided to cancel their trips.

“We are going to stay in Paris, we won't be going to see the grandparents. We are disappointed,” one passenger named Estelle told Europe1 radio.

Nevertheless the strike has been good news for car hire companies, which have seen a boost in the number of customers booking vehicles for the weekend.

READ MORE: Why train strikes in France look set to worsen this winter