US’ first fully autonomous urban railway system, built by Hitachi Rail, opens in Honolulu

Hitachi Rail announced the completion and start of passenger service for the first phase of Honolulu’s ‘Skyline’ – the city’s new metro system and the first fully autonomous metro system in the United States1.

The state-of-the-art system will eliminate an estimated 40,000 car trips per day from the city’s congested streets and highways – equivalent to adding up to eight new freeway lanes – once fully complete.

The new line has been delivered on behalf of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) and the City’s Department of Transportation Services (DTS); it marks the first new major metro system to launch in the US since 1993.

The first phase of Hawai’i’s largest infrastructure project is open to passengers from, with the elevated rail line covering nearly 11 miles between the nine stations from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium. Passenger services to additional stations further along the rail line, such as the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport will commence in two additional phases over the coming years.

To commemorate the important milestone, a grand opening ceremony was held at Aloha Stadium station. A crowd of 250 celebrated the achievement, with speeches from U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, the Governor of Hawaii Josh Green, Mayor of Honolulu Rick Blangiardi, DTS Director Roger Morton, and Alistair Dormer, Executive Vice President of Energy and Mobility, Hitachi. The group then took the inaugural train ride through the nine stations opened, which opened to the public.

The full line is due to connect 19 stations along a 19 mile corridor on the south shore of O‘ahu. The system is all electrically powered and will move people on to sustainable transport and away from pollution via private cars, reducing emissions and congestion for residents and tourists. The densely packed O‘ahu east-west transportation corridor currently suffers from notoriously bad congestion and significant traffic delays. The new high capacity transit system is also set to unlock important economic benefits for the Hawaiian economy.

Hitachi Rail’s role in the joint venture includes:

  • Manufacturing passenger vehicles (train cars) for the system
  • Design and construction of the subsystems (fire detection, alarm system, passenger screen gate system, etc.)
  • Testing and commissioning the entire system to be safety certified for passenger service
  • Operating and maintaining the system during passenger revenue service

Now completed, the overall fleet is comprised of 20 four-car trains, each equipped with capacity to hold up to 800 passengers. Total train length is 260ft, with generous open gangways between cars to allow passengers to move freely using all available space. Trains are also air conditioned, featuring Wi-Fi for all passengers, as well as ample space for bicycles, surf boards, baby strollers, luggage, and more. Trains are also fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with dedicated spaces for wheelchairs allowing free autonomous movement for disabled passengers embarking on and off the trains.
Alistair Dormer, Executive Vice President Energy and Mobility, Hitachi said:

“We’re delighted to have delivered Honolulu’s largest ever infrastructure project, which will have a major impact reducing congestion and emissions on the island. Reducing car journeys by up to 40,000 a day, once the full system is complete, this will make a huge difference to travel in Hawai’i.”

Giuseppe Marino, CEO, Hitachi Rail said:

“Delivering the US’ first ever fully autonomous rail system is an extremely proud moment for Hitachi Rail. It cements our position as an international leader in autonomous metros, which have such an important place in offering reliable, high capacity, sustainable transportation for cities around the world.”

Rick Blangiardi, Mayor of Honolulu said: “This system represents a long-overdue opportunity and I cannot thank enough the hands that went into completing this first phase of the project. It is because of each and every one of you, our future generations of residents and visitors alike will be able to experience a modernized transit network on O‘ahu. Skyline presents an unprecedented opportunity to connect passengers to our central and leeward cities and the distinct beauty and character they each possess… My warmest ‘Mahalo’ to the hundreds of hard-working professionals at Hitachi Rail who have served as valuable partners in this project thus far…”

Lori Kahikina, HART CEO said: “The initial opening of the Honolulu Rail Transit Project is a momentous achievement and Hitachi Rail has been an instrumental partner in reaching this goal of delivering the first fully automated driverless commuter rail system in the country to the community. The HART Team is extremely grateful to have earned the trust and support from our stakeholders to work collaboratively in the interest of the tax payer to deliver the first installment of the State’s largest capital improvement project and infrastructure investment in its history.”

Hitachi boasts a proven track record as a world leader in implementing pioneering autonomous metro systems worldwide – including delivering systems in Copenhagen, Milan, Rome, Riyadh and Taipei. The Automatic Train Control (ATC) system employs cutting-edge technology to guarantee the safety of passengers, vehicles, and the entire system. All train movements and track switches are managed from a single control room that is staffed 24/7, meaning the systems will offer passengers safe and efficient travel all year round.