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‘Driverless’ train tested near Bern

Train cabin
Hands off: the untouched console during a test drive Keystone/Christian Merz

Swiss Federal Railways has tested a system to automate train traffic. If rolled out, the idea is to increase passenger and freight capacity by 30%. 

In the early hours of Tuesday, a train carrying about 30 people made its way along a stretch of track within the Bern-Zurich corridor, without a human touching the physical controls. Instead, a remote system steered the train for a while, both braking and accelerating. 

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As Swiss Federal Railways CEO Andreas Meyer told Swiss public radio, SRF NewsExternal link, the plan is to get more trains on Swiss tracks. 

“Automatic driving tools can reduce the distance between trains. With shorter gaps between the trains we can bring more trains onto the tracks – and that means more seats for passengers and more tons of freight,” Meyer said. The goal is to increase capacity by 30%. 

Asked whether it was safe, Meyer said “absolutely”. He also said that the technology would not replace human train drivers. 

“The train driver’s job will become more of a monitoring role,” Meyer said. “But in our heavily used and varied transport system, we need staff who are familiar with the different train models.”

Train driver Lea Steppacher


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR