Automated Tram Systems: Defining the Best Solutions
24 April 2017

Automated Tram Systems: Defining the Best Solutions

Currently, for a traditional tramway, the driving concept is the drive-on-sight operational procedure. The driver is responsible for controlling and adapting the tram’s speed in line with wayside signals and the limitations of the surrounding environment to ensure safe tram separation from other trams, vehicles and pedestrians.

Whilst this system may work perfectly the majority of the time, there is always room for driver error. Here at SYSTRA we are constantly looking for new, innovative ways to ensure tram safety. We lead the field in automated systems with involvement in 50% of all driverless mass rapid transit lines under construction worldwide.

Our specialised engineering team are aware that the level of automation that can be incorporated into a new or existing tramway system is dependent on a number of factors such as system complexity, investment, operation and maintenance costs.

Currently Assisted Driving Systems fall into two main categories:

  • Simple safety systems are either self-sufficient or with few interfaces which have limited impact on the life cycle cost. These systems are typically used to address risks to service punctuality by measuring the speed of the tram and adjusting where appropriate, or applying the emergency brake when a hazard such as a missed signal or obstacle occurs.
  • Complex safety systems requiring interfaces between sub-systems systems and with a significant impact on the life cycle cost include an Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system inherited from the metro. An ATP system constantly monitors speed, if the train is running above the authorised speed the emergency brake is triggered. Temporary speed restrictions can be sent to the rolling stock to adjust the speed in a defined section.

SYSTRA uses an evaluation process for each of our projects to assess the benefits and drawbacks of each Assisted Driving System for the specific project environment, in order to help our clients ensure they choose the most appropriate solution to meet local needs..

To find out more about our expertise in automated tram systems or other elements of light rail systems please contact Jérémie Wajs (

Jérémie will be presenting “Automatic train operations for light rail: lessons learnt” at the World Metro Rail Congress on April 25th.

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