Véhicule Automatique Léger

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VAL 206 and VAL 208 as used on Lille Metro.
Interior of VAL 256 with manufacturer's decal.

Véhicule Automatique Léger (French for automatic light vehicle), or VAL is a type of automatic rubber-tyred people mover technology, based on an invention by Professor Robert Gabillard from the Université Lille Nord de France. It was designed in the early 1980s by Matra and first used for the then-new Lille Metro system. This was one of the world's first fully automated driverless mass-transit rail networks to serve a city centre and the first such in Europe, preceded only by the Port Island Line in Kobe, Japan.[1]

A total of 11 lines in 8 systems based on the VAL technology are currently in operation worldwide. The current version of the VAL product is marketed as NeoVal (with a distinction between AirVal for airport environments and CityVal for more conventional transit environments) by Siemens who acquired Matra in the late 1990s.

The acronym VAL was originally for Villeneuve d'Ascq à Lille (French for Villeneuve d'Ascq to Lille), the route of the first line to be projected (and inaugurated).

Technology[edit]

Original VAL[edit]

VAL-style track point as used on the Taipei Wenhu Line.

The VAL system uses a fully automated elevated guideway, which may be metal or concrete depending on prevailing weather conditions. Primary suspension is by rubber tires, with pairs of horizontal tires to provide lateral guidance. Electrical power at 750 V DC is collected by shoes from the guidebars.[2]

The vehicles are lightweight 2-car sets (VAL 206 or VAL 208) with 124 total capacity, or twin sets (VAL 256) with 80 seated and 160 standing capacity. All axles on these vehicles are motored with 150 kW electrical motors. The system detects the location of trains on the guideway by the use of ultrasonic sensors.[3]

VAL can cope with unanticipated demand by inserting additional trains into the network as required by remote command from the control center. The control center computer system automatically speeds up or slows down trains in order to maintain a timetable. The VAL system can handle headways as small as 60 seconds, and the Lille VAL system rapidly proved itself with a 99.8% availability.[4]

In contrast to another early driverless metro system, the Vancouver SkyTrain, the VAL design uses platforms that are separated from the rollways by a glass partition, to prevent waiting passengers from straying or falling onto the rollways. Platform screen doors – produced by Swiss glass door manufacturer Kaba Gilgen AG – are embedded in these partitions and open in synchrony with the train doors when a train stops at the platform. The original platform-edge doors were manufactured and installed by PLC Peters in Hayes, Middlesex and were used on the first line.

In addition to the trains being driverless, the station platforms are unstaffed in normal operation. In the original Lille metro system, they are monitored by a large closed-circuit television system with 330 cameras and 24 television monitors in a remote control room.[5]

NeoVal[edit]

CityVal for Rennes Metro Line B

In 2006 the NeoVal project, successor of the VAL, was announced. It will feature regenerative braking. 40% of the 62 million Euros set aside for the programme will come from the Agence de l'innovation industrielle (the technology-supporting project agency formerly known as the AII). The program is managed by Siemens Mobility, in association with Lohr Industrie. The NeoVal will be guided by a single central rail, similar to that of the Translohr, and will be able to operate without any electrical supply between the stations (no third rail or overhead lines), making the cost of infrastructure much lower.[6]

The NeoVal is offered in two versions:

  • the CityVal version designed for conventional transit environments (car width 2.65 m) with the first implementation on Line B of the Rennes Metro;
  • the AirVal version designed for airport environments (car width 2.80 m) with the first implementation on the future people mover at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport.

List of Active VAL Systems[edit]

As of 2021, there are a total of 11 lines in 8 systems with VAL technology in operation:

Future Systems[edit]

Defunct Systems[edit]

Medium-Capacity Transport System[edit]

When VAL was introduced to Taipei, the term medium-capacity rail transport system was coined by railway planners to differentiate VAL from heavy rail (metro).[citation needed] Since then, this term has begun to be applied on similar capacity transit systems–mainly in Asian cities–even when the systems are not based on VAL's technology. On Siemens' official website, VAL was during a certain time advertised as the "first fully automated light metro", in which the term "light metro" can be traced back to Moscow Metro Butovskaya Light Metro Line. Siemens now rather uses the terms "medium-capacity metro" or simply refers to VAL as a "people mover".

See also[edit]

Competing systems:

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bushell, Chris, ed. Jane's Urban Transport Systems 1995-96. Surrey, United Kingdom: Jane's Information Group; 1995. p178, 472
  2. ^ Bushell, Chris, ed. Jane's Urban Transport Systems 1995-96. Surrey, United Kingdom: Jane's Information Group; 1995. p472-3
  3. ^ Bushell, Chris, ed. Jane's Urban Transport Systems 1995-96. Surrey, United Kingdom: Jane's Information Group; 1995. p472-3
  4. ^ Bushell, Chris, ed. Jane's Urban Transport Systems 1995-96. Surrey, United Kingdom: Jane's Information Group; 1995. p472-3
  5. ^ Bushell, Chris, ed. Jane's Urban Transport Systems 1995-96. Surrey, United Kingdom: Jane's Information Group; 1995. p178
  6. ^ euromedtransport.org
  7. ^ "Métro Rennes Métropole - le projetlLigne b - quel système?" (in French). Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  8. ^ "Siemens delivers fully automated people mover for the Frankfurt airport". 3 April 2018. Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  9. ^ "Siemens builds fully automated people mover at Suvarnabhumi airport". 17 July 2020. Retrieved 27 November 2020.

External link[edit]