On the past 21st of March, our adjunct Secretary and train driver, Laura Pantone, represented ALE at the first stakeholder conference regarding the means on how to mitigate the disruptive effects of automation within the transport sector, including the role of train drivers of tomorrow.

The theme is brought out by the EU Commission in the “Smart & Sustainable Mobility Strategy for 2030”, where there is clearly stated the political intention to fully implement by 2030 the so-called ATO – Automated Train Operations, without going into details and explaining what it really means from an operative standpoint. Furthermore, an EU recommendation on how to mitigate the impact on the workforce was promised, but only now, EU Commission has done the first steps to really develop it.

These stakeholder conferences have the objective to develop a complete EU recommendation on the theme to further develop, maybe, in EU binding regulations. This process is fundamental since the transport sector is basically the first sector to undergo massive automation in 2030. If not properly addressed, there is the severe possibility of massive unemployment in the long term.

ALE´s position is very clear on the matter. Firstly, we need in-depth and accurate preliminary research on the impact of these measures: for ALE, the actual impact assessment study on the workforce is not sufficient to take an informed decision. Secondly, the EU Commission, Institutions and Authorities must accompany the process with binding rules for RUs, to avoid collective layoffs. Thirdly, more specific rules and conditions must apply to the broader “upskilling & reskilling”, to ensure the same level of employment and the same level of professional training. All this taking into account the importance of ensuring safety as a fundamental pillar in the development of digital tools in relation to the driving of railway vehicles.

The journey towards a fully ATO-implemented technology and complete regulations on the matter is still long. We are still in an embryonal state, and ALE´s contribution will be crucial for a proper evolution in the next 10 years.

ALE is an organization representing more than 50.000 train drivers in Europe and the expertise we exchange within every forum will surely enhance the correct development of the EU regulations.