A sleek, driverless maglev train is seen running on Beijing Metro's S1 line. Photo: WikiMedia/N509FZ
A sleek, driverless maglev train is seen running on Beijing Metro's S1 line. Photo: WikiMedia/N509FZ

China’s first fully automatic high-speed intercity rail line is set to be up and running between Dongguan and Huizhou, two boom towns in Guangdong province where driverless bullet trains will start cruising at 200km/h by the end of 2018.

Xinhua also reported on Monday that the state-owned China Railway Signal & Communication Corporation had finished laboratory tests for the world’s first 350km/h automatic high-speed railway signaling system and road tests could start in the second half of the year.

Artist’s impression of the future automatic trains first to run on a high-speed line between Beijing and the ski resort of Zhangjiakou during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games. Photo: Xinhua

The company said railway operators in China no long had to depend on imported operation and control systems to monitor and marshal trains on the nation’s sprawling high-speed network.

The report quoted an official with the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission as saying that with the breakthrough, intercity through trains, metro and subway trains and other medium to low speed trains could all be driverless to enhance safety and efficiency.

The report also added that while rail and subway transportation in such countries as France and the United States are often marred by driver strikes, passengers and commuters in China wouldn’t need to worry about industrial actions or manpower shortages as more trains are set to become driverless.

Fully automatic trains and automatic people movers have been serving commuters on metro lines in Shanghai and Chongqing, and the 8.25-kilometer automatic maglev S1 line in Beijing was also opened last December.

Commuters flock to the first compartment of a driverless train to peep into the tunnel on Hong Kong’s South Island Line. Photo: WikiMedia/Wpcpey

Trains on the future Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed line to shuttle athletes and spectators between the capital city and the ski resort will have no driver’s cabins either. The lead project of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics is a 174km artery where automatic trains galloping at 350km/h will reduce the current four-hour journey to a 30-minute hop.