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Reorganisation of the S-bane for driverless operation

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Project Acronym
Reorganisation of the S-bane for driverless operation
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
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Transport policies
Environmental/Emissions aspects
Transport sectors
Passenger transport


Background & Policy context

The study has its current actuality due to a number of circumstances related to the S-bane and its environment that makes it particular relevant to assess UTO mode in details now:

New signalling system on the S-bane
The new signalling system, currently being implemented, is the foundation for the future operation of the S-bane. Its functionalities support the transition from manual operation to STO, thereby permitting higher frequency and automation of a number of tasks (e.g. starting and stopping) at the same time. The implementation of the new signalling system is the enabler for further development, an upgrade rather than a new system, from STO to UTO, and without massive associated transformation required.

Procurement of 5th generation of S-trains
The current S-train fleet (4th generation) which were put into operation from 1996 to 2006, will reach the end of their lifetime from 2026 to 2036. Procurement of a new 5th generation S-train fleet thereby needs to take place around this period. The in-any-case procurement of new trains then opens up an opportunity to purchase rolling stock which from the beginning are designed to operate in UTO mode.

Growth in the greater Copenhagen Area
The greater Copenhagen Area has experienced a significant population growth during the last decades. This development – which is considered to continue – impacts the transportation system and creates new requirements to existing infrastructure. The S-bane will experience a higher demand, especially during the peak hours.

Previously promising results
Earlier investigation of the potential for UTO on the S-Bane has shown promising results. A Parsons report from 2010 documents a feasible transfer to UTO, including different operational solutions bringing a stronger financial result. Equally, a 2013 screening report from the Ministry of Transport, Building and Housing state a potential.


The purpose of the investigation has been to explore the possibilities and perspectives of reorganising the S-bane to automatic and driverless operation (metro operation) in connection with the purchase of the next generation of S-trains. 

The current S-trains lifespan expires in the years 2026-2036.


An assessment of the possibilities for introduction of UTO on the S-bane requires investigations into a wide range of operational, technical and organisational focus areas. The areas are to a wide extent mutually interdependent and the result from one focus area serve, might have an impact in the investigations in other areas. For that reason, the study has been divided into distinct focus areas making cross analysis more transparent. The areas are:
1) Best performing operational scenarios
2) Feasible and high potential technical solutions related to infrastructure and rolling stock
3) Analysis of associated organisational impact
4) Total financial and social economic assessment

The investigation of operational scenarios has been designed in order to develop a number of potential alternatives making determination of the best performing as clear and significant as possible. Through an iterative process, preferred scenarios have been defined and selected for further investigations based upon relevant key parameters covering operational and financial indicators. 


Funding Source
Ministry of Transport, Building, and Housing


The conclusion is derived from the overall analysis where there is focus on the strongest key findings and can be summarized as follows:

UTO attraction

When purchasing the next generation of rolling stock for the S-Bane in Copenhagen, it is possible to define UTO scenarios as much more attractive and viable option, than a comparable STO mode. From a financial perspective the attraction can be clearly demonstrated in the possibility to provide the same service at reduced cost (frequency of 30 trains per hour in central section with an operational pattern as it is today), or to increase the service level at the same cost (frequency of 36 trains per hour in central section with a combination of classic and metro style operation). If also taking the Social Economic analysis into account, the scenario with best service provision also exhibits the best economic performance. 

Operational flexibility

The UTO attraction and the investigated scenarios should be understood as a confirmed proofof-concept, rather than suggestions for specific future operational plans. For that reason, it’s not required that a decision about introducing UTO is necessarily followed by decisions about exact operational plan, or a specific traffic pattern. This could be addressed as a part of the potential future tender process. 

Technical feasibility

From a technical point of view, feasibility can be provided by different solutions that are all functioning in commercial operation today. The major technical elements comprehend CBTC based rolling stock with a max. speed of 120 km/h, coupling into units from 1 to 3 sets, stepless boarding, objective detection systems (ODS) on platforms and fences in between stations. No of the suggested technical solutions are characterized as green field. However, due to innovation, even more efficient and robust solutions are expected to be developed and introduced within the next 10 years.

Rollout based on early deployment and stepwise implementation

The recommended rollout scenario is based on the test and early deployment on Ringbanen, leaving the vast majority of the network undisturbed until a more robust solution is implemented and sufficient lessons learned are collected, reviewed and assessed. Once the Ringbane is converted into a UTO mode, a three step successive rollout plan encompassing the outer lines, shall be planed taking the complexity of each line into account, including the accessibility to depots and workshops. 

Organisational impact

The most obvious organizational impact will be that +500 of the existing train drivers that will be made redundant on the S-bane. The existing on-train and platforms service personnel may probably be enlarged to a team of an estimated 200 service stewards, as known from the Metro today. The changes give a major positive contribution to the final financial results. However, a combination of natural reduction in staff (retention, job changes) and potential transfer of train drivers into regional- and long distance trains (fjernbanen), makes the redundancy among train drivers and the need for layoffs manageable. It’s recommended to keep a strong focus on the general transition process, which should be supported by change management strategies and strong leadership.



Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
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