BVG announces plan for semi-automatic U-Bahn trains in Berlin

BVG announces plan for semi-automatic U-Bahn trains in Berlin

The BVG has formally announced that it is planning to purchase semi-automatic U-Bahn trains to be used on the city’s underground network.

BVG will purchase semi-automatic trains for U-Bahn network

The local public transport association in Berlin, the BVG, has announced that it will purchase semi-automatic trains to trial on the capital’s U-Bahn network. 

Unlike the fully automatic underground trains used in Paris or Copenhagen, the locomotives will have a driver, but the process of stopping and starting the train, as well as opening and closing to doors, will be operate automatically at specially converted stations.

According to estimations that the BVG discussed with Tagesspiegel, the association plans to convert two U-Bahn stations per year across the network - between yet-to-be-converted stations, the driver would take over all the train's functions. Using their timeline, this would mean that once the trains are purchased it would still take 25 years before the whole 175-station strong network in the German city is converted. The association has said that the U5 and U8 lines will likely be the first to be automated. 

Pro Bahn worries automated trains will cause accessibility issues

Two U-Bahn lines in Nuremberg are currently the only ones in Germany which host fully automated trains, which don’t even have a driver. These systems are also in operation in Paris, where trains complete whole routes without a driver.

While Berlin is currently aiming for something in between manual and fully automatic trains, critics have already voiced concerns over how further accessibility issues might arise should the system eventually transition to full automation.

At the moment, U-Bahn drivers in Berlin take on the responsibility of helping wheelchair users board the train with a fold-away ramp since the platform does not sit flush with the older models of U-Bahn trains.

"It's quite simple: if there is no accessibility, then self-driving trains won't do us any good," Thomas Schirmer of the passenger association Pro Bahn Berlin-Brandenburg told broadcaster rbb, "People with limited mobility must be taken along. Whether a wheelchair or pram, it doesn’t matter.”

Thumb image credit: NGCHIYUI /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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