EAST Japan Railway (JR East) has announced that it will launch automatic train operation (ATO) on an initial 30km section of Tokyo’s Joban commuter line between Ayase and Toride on March 13.  

The rollout of ATO on the line was announced at a press conference on October 8 2019, and was initially planned to be introduced on the section from the end of 2020. 

ATO implementation includes fitting of ATO equipment to the series E233 EMUs which operate on the line. The ATO system will operate over the existing ATC signalling system and will regulate speeds between stations. Drivers will remain onboard trains, opening and closing doors and activating the ATO system. It is hoped that the introduction of ATO will prevent trains from exceeding the permitted line speed, stop collisions and improve reliability of services.  

The project is part of a wider objective to improve safety and will be followed by the installation of platform screen doors at 14 stations along the route. JR East says experience from operation at GoA 2 will inform future work to transition to driverless operation. 

JR East awarded a contract to Thales in 2014 to install Japan’s first communications-based train control (CBTC) system on the Joban Line.