Mr Luc Laroche, director of SNCF’s automatic train project, is pursuing a step-by-step approach to the development of main line ATO in partnership with others including German Rail (DB).

“We don’t want to develop ATO alone,” Laroche says. “ATO should work over both ETCS and existing signalling systems. We don’t want to put a driver on the train to cover gaps in the ETCS network. We also don’t want to modify the infrastructure for ATO.”

SNCF expects to complete work on obstacle and signalling detection systems by the end of 2018. It is also working on a project for ATO GoA2 over ETCS to increase capacity on the Paris - Lyon high-speed line.

“We are convinced that ATO is the future for rail and it will help to protect rail against future competition from autonomous cars and trucks,” Laroche says.