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China's first automated driverless subway starts operation in Hong Kong

by December 21, 2016 General

The interior of a 1:1 scale model of the automated driverless train (Photo/

The opening ceremony of Hong Kong’s South Island Line was held at Ocean Park Station on Dec. 19. Leung Chun-ying, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, attended the ceremony and delivered a speech. This is the first time a fully automated driverless train with independent intellectual property rights has operated in China, reported.

Hong Kong’s South Island Line (East) will officially begin operation on Dec. 28. The line consists of 10 three-car trains than run at 80 kilometers per hour. Operation of the line will be fully automatic, including train departures, door opening and closing, fault detection and cleaning.

There will be no drivers onboard the trains, though the vehicle control center will still monitor and control the trains through a closed circuit television system. Passengers will be able to see through the glass at the front and back ends of the trains.

The trains themselves, made by China’s CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., are the first GOA4 (Grades of Automation 4) automated driverless trains to operate in China, though China has operated three driverless lines before. The 4-kilometer automated passenger conveyor system opened in 2010 in Guangzhou, the Airport Express opened in 2008 in Beijing, and Subway Line 10 currently operates in Shanghai.

However, according to a professional at CRRC, the three previous lines cannot be considered driverless subway lines in the strictest sense. The trains still require drivers onboard, and the driverless technology is not China’s independent intellectual property rights.

China has mastered the core technology of driverless subways after many years of research and development. The Yanfang Line, currently under construction in southwest Beijing, will utilize completely automated, driverless trains made by CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co. Meanwhile, driverless trains manufactured by CRRC Sifang Co. have been exported to Singapore.

It is expected that the total length of fully-automated subway lines in Beijing will exceed 200 kilometers by 2020, accounting for more than one-fifth of the total length of subway lines in the city.