Wiener Linien Tests Its First Driverless U-Bahn

A cooperation between Wiener Linien and Siemens has culminated in the X-Wagen’s first test drives, phasing in for a wider public by 2022.

Move over Elon Musk: The ever-green city of Vienna is introducing its first fully automated underground line consisting of 90 percent recycled materials and featuring particularly low energy-consuming technologies. Having commissioned Siemens in 2017 to produce 34 fully-automated metro trains, for full implementation by 2025 the first X-Wagen was unveiled in early July at the Siemens plant in Simmering, in Vienna’s 10th district, adding to an already widely-admired public transportation network.

Each X-Wagen can seat up to 928 passengers, 46 more than the traditional V-Wagen. Günter Steinbauer, managing director of the Wiener Linien described the project on their website as “a new chapter in the history of Vienna’s underground,” calling the intersection of of the U2 and the new U5 “the city’s greatest climate protection initiative.”  

The X-Wagen will be installed on the U5 following the completion of construction between Frankhplatz and Karlsplatz, making it Vienna’s first fully-automated line. In total, the expansion of the underground network will be able to carry up to 300 million additional passengers annually, reducing CO₂ emissions by an estimated 75,000 tons. 

What’s in It for Me? 

The driverless X-Wagen is also designed for efficiency: Automated trains ramp up the ability to manage service disruptions, increase service frequency and improve punctuality. Vienna’s underground network already carries a number of semi-automated features, requiring drivers only to oversee the opening and closing of the doors, and responding to passenger emergencies, while the train is largely operated remotely.

Full automatization means that the role of existing staff will become even more service-oriented and providing information and support for passengers, and responding to calls for help. In addition to the U5, the X-Wagen will gradually phase out the aged Silver Arrows on lines U1, U2, U3 and U4, with a driver still present in the cab. These innovative trains are now undergoing their first test drives – also with a driver present – and are on track to obtain a license to operate, Siemens reported, and begin transporting passengers by 2022.

Caitlin Elston-Weidinger
Born in Berlin but raised in Oregon, Caitlin is now finishing her degree in International Relations in the Netherlands. Throughout her studies she has also double minored in Geo-resources for the Future at TU Delft and Colloquial Lebanese at the American University of Beirut. She is an editor and contributor to a student e-magazine at Leiden University and enjoys film photography.

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