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Véhicule Automatique Léger


Véhicule Automatique Léger

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 metro system in Lille. VAL is one of the world's first driverless mass transit rail network to serve a city centre (preceded only by the Port Island Line in Kobe, Japan); this VAL system was the first fully automated driverless metro in Europe starting service in Lille in 1983. [1]

The acronym was originally for Villeneuve d'Ascq à Lille (Villeneuve d'Ascq to Lille), the route of the first line to be projected (and inaugurated). It now officially stands for Véhicule Automatique Léger (automatic light vehicle).

In contrast to some other driverless metro systems like the Docklands Light Railway or Vancouver's 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, which are produced by Swiss glass door manufacturer Kaba Gilgen AG, embedded in these partitions 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 driverless trains, 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.[2]


  • Technology 1
  • List of VAL systems 2
  • Other uses of VAL technology 3
  • NeoVal 4
    • CityVal 4.1
  • Medium Capacity System 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


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. [3]

The vehicles are lightweight 2-car sets (VAL 206) with 124 total capacity, or twin sets (VAL 256) with 80 seated and 160 standing capacity. All axles on these vehicles are motored with 150kW electrical motors. The system detects the location of trains on the guideway via ultrasonic sensors.[4]

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.[5]

List of VAL systems

Outside of France, VAL systems are also used in:

The Chicago O'Hare and Taipei lines use the wider VAL 256 version of the system.

Jacksonville, Florida had a VAL line inaugurated in 1989, which was shut down in December 1996 and replaced by a monorail, the Jacksonville Skyway. The rolling stock was sold to O'Hare.

Other uses of VAL technology

Interior of VAL 256 with manufacturer's decal
  • The automatic trains on lines 1 (MP 05) and 14 of the Paris Métro (MP 89) are not VAL, but they use part of the VAL technology. Siemens (the company that acquired Matra) is going to transform line 4 into an automatic system like lines 1 and 14.
  • Lyon's metro line D is a larger rubber-tyred metro; it was originally developed independently but ended up incorporating some components of VAL technology. The type of vehicle is the same of Paris lines 1, 4, 6, 11 and 14: rubber-tyred metro (trains that run on rubber tyres and steel wheels, in contrast to VAL trains, that use only rubber tyres).


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 AII (tech. supporting project agency now called Oseo). The program is managed by Siemens, 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), making the cost of infrastructure much lower.[7]


CityVal is based on the NeoVal system. 19 CityVal trainsets have been ordered for the second line of the Rennes Metro.[8]

Medium Capacity System

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). Since then this term began to be applied on similar capacity transit systems, mainly among Asian cities, even when the systems are not based on VAL's technology. In Siemens official site, VAL is advertised "first fully automated light metro", in which the term "light metro" can be traced back to Moscow Metro Butovskaya Light Metro Line.

See also


  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. p178
  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. p472-3
  6. ^ "Uijeonbu (Korea) Line 1" (pdf). Siemens. June 2012. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Siemens selected for Rennes metro Line B".  

External links

  • UrbanRail.netLille at
  • UrbanRail.netToulouse at
  • UrbanRail.netTaipei at
  • RoissyVAL (French)
  • Turin Metrotorino official page
  • VAL and NeoVAL at Siemens TS official page
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