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Barcelona’s Line 9/10. The metro of the future has arrived…

Posted: 19 August 2010 | Dídac Pestaña, Executive Vice President, TMB (Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona) | No comments yet

The launch of service of Line 9/10 – the first automatic metro in Spain – is an example of how Barcelona is moving towards automation as a way of providing maximum support and efficiency to the underground public transport system. One of the country’s most relevant technological milestones has thus become a tool in the improvement of the quality of life for the citizens of Barcelona and its metropolitan area.

The longest driverless metro line in Europe – 47.8km-long with 52 stations – is now a tangible reality with its first stretch of 11km, which connects the metropolitan cities of Santa Coloma de Gramenet and Badalona with the La Sagrera interchange in the north of the city of Barcelona, and will be used by thousands of passengers. The Line has a semicircular shape and is forked at both ends. Identification of numbers 9 and 10 with the colours orange and cyan will be operated jointly with the rest of the TMB conventional metro network, the main public transport operator in Catalonia and an international reference in innovation applied to collective mobility.

The launch of service of Line 9/10 – the first automatic metro in Spain – is an example of how Barcelona is moving towards automation as a way of providing maximum support and efficiency to the underground public transport system. One of the country’s most relevant technological milestones has thus become a tool in the improvement of the quality of life for the citizens of Barcelona and its metropolitan area. The longest driverless metro line in Europe – 47.8km-long with 52 stations – is now a tangible reality with its first stretch of 11km, which connects the metropolitan cities of Santa Coloma de Gramenet and Badalona with the La Sagrera interchange in the north of the city of Barcelona, and will be used by thousands of passengers. The Line has a semicircular shape and is forked at both ends. Identification of numbers 9 and 10 with the colours orange and cyan will be operated jointly with the rest of the TMB conventional metro network, the main public transport operator in Catalonia and an international reference in innovation applied to collective mobility.

The launch of service of Line 9/10 – the first automatic metro in Spain – is an example of how Barcelona is moving towards automation as a way of providing maximum support and efficiency to the underground public transport system. One of the country’s most relevant technological milestones has thus become a tool in the improvement of the quality of life for the citizens of Barcelona and its metropolitan area.

The longest driverless metro line in Europe – 47.8km-long with 52 stations – is now a tangible reality with its first stretch of 11km, which connects the metropolitan cities of Santa Coloma de Gramenet and Badalona with the La Sagrera interchange in the north of the city of Barcelona, and will be used by thousands of passengers. The Line has a semicircular shape and is forked at both ends. Identification of numbers 9 and 10 with the colours orange and cyan will be operated jointly with the rest of the TMB conventional metro network, the main public transport operator in Catalonia and an international reference in innovation applied to collective mobility.

Line 9/10 was conceived to provide fast mass transport for the densely populated and economically dynamic area located in the high part of Barcelona and the municipalities in its immediate vicinity, which have a population of approximately three million people and accommodate crucial infrastructures such as the port, the airport, la Fira, la Ciutat de la Justícia, the FC Barcelona stadium and two Universities. With its 20 interconnection points, it will also increase the network effect with all the other metropolitan railway operators: Metro (9), FGC (4), tramvia (2), Rodalies trains (6), airport (2) and high-speed trains (2).

A key part of the Transport Metropolità de Barcelona Infrastructures Plan, Line 9/10 is the most important public engineering work currently underway for the Government of Catalonia. Together with Line 2, which will also be automated in the future, it will form a type of circular line which will unite the whole railway network of the central core of the metropolitan area. Everything on Line 9/10 is innovative, from the construction of the tunnel on two levels and the well-shaped stations installed with large-capacity elevators for access, to the automatic driverless trains and the platforms with screen doors.

With regards to the civil engineering works, Line 9/10 is mostly constructed (38.3km) with last generation tunnel boring machines designed to perforate soil of different compositions and to make tunnels of different diameters. In the case of the 12m tunnel boring machines, the resulting tunnel is divided by means of a slab that permits trains to run on different levels, one in each direction. Thirty of 52 stations will be excavated, independently of the tunnel (in a well structure up to 70m-deep), with superimposed platforms constructed inside them. There is also a small stretch of 3.9km which has been constructed on a viaduct with open air stations.

Meeting passenger forecasts

The progress in the construction and launch of the commercial service of the new metro is proportional to the importance of the project, valued at €6800 million. Once completed in 2014, it is expected to transport 130 million passengers annually (the current demand of the whole network is approximately 370 million) and permit further progress in TMB’s market share for public transport which is now 34%.

The evaluation of the first months of service of the first section of Line 9/10 has been fully satisfactory. In order to provide a transport service of the highest possible quality, TMB staff has met the challenge of launching the first automatic line in Spain with great pro – fessionalism and efficiency. This has been acknowledged by the users in a survey where they described their travel experience on the best metro in the country and one of the most advanced in Europe as outstanding, both from a technological and functional point-of-view.

Automatic metro – line of the future

The launch of the commercial service of the first 3.9km of Line 9, in December 2009, put Catalonia as a pioneer in the adoption of an automatically driven metro system, a challenge which was confirmed shortly after with the implementation of a driverless system on the light metro of Line 11. After the latest extensions, including the two lines, 13km of automatic metro are now running in Barcelona and 15 stations are equipped with platform screen doors.

This success has not been a coincidence but the result of a firm and meditated decision to convert the Barcelona metro network into a leader in the application of the latest tech – nologies in the management of railway systems. The aim is to improve the punctuality of trains, to ease the regularity of the service and to focus the employees – operation technicians – on personalised attention to users and the full availability of facilities and installations. From an operating point-of-view, automation also provides a maximum capacity to adapt offer to demand and to respond to any incident with extremely precise time margins, thus improving all aspects of the service.

The whole Barcelona metro network is moving towards automation in the medium to long-term. New lines have been planned as automatic lines and those that are currently operating will gradually become automatic. After Line 9/10, Line 2 will be reconverted technologically to become automatic. The reason for this is that when it is extended to the Airport by means of the fork at Parc Logístic, it will share part of the infrastructure with Line 9. Both will have to run compatible trains and systems in order to operate together with the same infrastructure. Thus, at least 43% of the future network (70 of 160km) will be automatic.

Using technology for maximum safety

As a result of the launch of the Line 9/10 service – parallel to the extension of various con – ventional lines – the Metro Control Centre has acquired key importance. As well as the area from which the conventional lines are operated, specific locations to operate the automatic lines have been added with new professional profiles. For this reason, the Control Centre has been extended and modernised and it has been equipped with more technical and human facilities, with specialists in operation areas – maintenance, safety, civil protection, infor – mation – providing support to the line staff.

The Control Centre

The Control Centre stands at the heart of the operation of an automatic line and is the place where the running of trains is supervised and controlled in main lines as well as sidelines and at depots. Supervision is carried out permanently and remotely by specialist operators by means of remote management systems which allow them to watch inside the trains using video surveillance, give and receive messages from passengers through interphones and even carry out remote assistance.

The Control Centre manages power systems, platform screen doors, fixed installations, lifts, escalators, entrance barriers, fire alarms and communications. It also provides constant surveillance of the network in order to adapt the offer to any peak in demand by injecting more trains when needed. Flexibility is fundamental when handling the mobility needs of a metropolitan area such as Barcelona.

Communications Based Train Control

The CBTC (Communications Based Train Control) is the automatic control system that guarantees the safe running of trains by means of data communication (speed, location) between the different control elements (on-board, on-track and centralised) of the whole system. It transmits the exact position of the trains and the maximum speeds according to the stretch characteristics and train load in such a way that trains can run on the same track very close to each other without the risk of collision. Thus, the interval between trains can be reduced and the line capacity increased.

Platform screen doors

The automatic closing of platform screen doors, synchronised with train doors, is another differential factor of Line 9/10 with respect to a conventional metro. The physical separation between platforms and trains by means of sliding glass doors guarantees maximum safety during the operation, avoiding falls and intrusions onto the track at the same time as it adds comfort for passengers and permits a better management of the platform space.

On Line 9/10, not only has driving of the trains been automated, but also have key aspects of the infrastructure. The stations can be remotely opened and closed and large-capacity elevators – the most convenient way to connect hall and platforms due to the depth of the tunnel – are intelligent and synchronised with the arrival of the trains in order to reduce waiting time. The launch of the Line 9/10 service represents a notable step forward in the quality of information and client services channels.

Real-time passenger information

Information is received in the halls and the platforms in real-time by means of screens providing the remaining waiting time and the destination of the next trains, as well as other useful messages about the service. This infor – mation is complemented by LED indicators placed above the entrance doors of the trains and on the screens situated inside the trains, which give real-time information. Finally, halls, platforms and interiors of trains are equipped with clearly visible intercoms connected to the control centre which can be used for assistance or information requests. This link is com plemented with closed circuit cameras covering the whole station and the interior of the trains.

Rolling stock

The rolling stock for Line 9/10 are series 9000 trains specially manufactured by Alstom for automatic driving, although they also run on conventional lines such as Line 2 and Line 4. These trains – a total of 50 are planned for the whole line – are characterised by their light structure, advanced technology and high energy saving. Furthermore, the redundancy of their critical equipment permits an increase in their reliability, which is reinforced by their permanent communication with the Control Centre. For emergency situations, there are unblocking devices for doors and front evacuation ramps.

Regarding the interior comfort, trains are fitted with air conditioning, areas for wheel chairs and bicycles, intercoms, video surveillance cameras and LED screens displaying continuous information. The area where the driver’s cabin is usually situated is not separated on these trains, this allows passengers to occupy the place of the driver and experience the trip from the driver’s point-of-view.

About the author

Dídac Pestaña

Dídac Pestaña has been the Executive Vice President of TMB since July 2007 and he has been the Mayor of Gavà (a city near Barcelona) and Vice President of the ‘Mancomunitat de Municipis de l’Àrea Metropolitana’ during 12 years. (This Metropolitan Area is the institution that manages the loan of certain field services supramunicipal out of the 36 townships that constitute the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona).

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