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1963: Train drives itself
The first automatic train on the London underground could be hurtling into stations in three weeks, the government has revealed.

The trains, which operate without a driver, are currently undergoing a series of trials commissioned by the Ministry of Transport before passengers are allowed on board.

But the public has the chance to glimpse the trains today, which have cost 60,000 to test, as they are demonstrated in South Ealing, west London, by the London Transport Board.

If these final tests are successful the trains could be fully operational over a section of the district line from 8 April.

The trains work by picking up signals from coded electrical impulses from the rails which give them the intelligence to start, accelerate, coast or slow down automatically.

Safety

An operator will still be on-duty aboard the train in the motorman's cabin to survey opening and closing doors and to take charge of the train if any of the electrics fail during a journey.

Safety is maintained through a signalling system, also run on impulses from the rails, designed to halt the train if it overruns.

This system eliminates the need for fixed visual signals although some may be retained for emergency.

There are three routes which will first run the new system including the test train route operating as part of the normal service between Stamford Brook and Ravenscourt Park in west London, from 8 April, subject to Ministry of Transport approval.

From next year a fully operational route will be run between Hainault and Woodford on the Central Line along with automatic trains on the new Victoria line when it opens in 1968.

London Transport has revealed it may take between 20 to 30 years before automatic trains are introduced throughout the whole of the network.

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New train
The trains will operate without a driver


In Context
Automatic trains were first tested on the London underground in 1962 between Stamford Brook and Ravenscourt Park after years of planning.

The Victoria Line became the first underground line in the world to be fully equipped for automatic train operation after it was opened in stages between 1968 and 1971.

It was not just the drivers who had technological replacements but a range of workers from ticket sellers to train time announcers.

In 1983 the dot matrix train destination indicator was introduced on platforms allowing passengers to see at a glance a selection of trains, with various routes arriving at stations.

And in 1987 new self-service ticket machines were introduced throughout the network - cutting back queuing times at kiosks.

In 2003 Transport for London introduced smartcards for commuters in the capital. The new Oyster cards are contactless - meaning they do not need to be inserted into a machine and can simply be placed on top of a reader.

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