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Rail Stories

Germany’s first driverless airport transportation system turns 25

This October, Frankfurt International Airport’s Bombardier-built automated people mover system celebrates its 25th birthday. Installed in 1994, Frankfurt airport’s SkyLine was Germany’s first airport-based driverless rail transport system and has been providing seamless mobility ever since.

With 65 million passengers per year, Frankfurt International Airport is Germany’s busiest airport. It's one of the world’s major aviation hubs, the fourth busiest in Europe and 13th busiest worldwide. On October 25th, the system celebrated its 25th year of continuous operation.

Originally built in 1909 to accommodate the world’s fist airline Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-Aktiengesellschaf, the airport quickly grew over the years and was handling 54 million yearly passengers when the airport’s second terminal opened in 1994. To accommodate this spike in traffic, the airport selected the BOMBARDIER INNOVIA 100 automated people mover system (APM) to connect Terminal 1 with the newly opened Terminal 2.

Frankfurt SkyLine

At the centre of this two-terminal aviation hub, is the SkyLine, a fully-automated people mover system based on the INNOVIA APM 100 automated people mover system. Already in service in some of the world’s busiest and largest airports, this proven passenger mobility solution provides safe, swift and seamless connectivity between the airport’s two existing terminals.

Inaugurated in 1994, Frankfurt International Airport’s SkyLine was Germany’s first airport-based, fully automated people mover system.

The entire 4-station, 3.8 km system is highly efficient and automated operation at 52 km/h means passengers need only wait 90 seconds between trains during peak hours with a slightly longer wait of around five minutes during slower times. This reliable and frequent service means any one of the system’s 1,300 hourly passengers can easily make their connecting flight in the next terminal with plenty of spare time to grab a coffee or a quick bite to eat. 

Frankfurt Airport’s INNOVIA APM system is somewhat unique as it uses a set of air-filled rubber tires running on a concrete guideway.

With some team members having worked on the SkyLine since its launch 25 years ago, the entire Bombardier Services team is proud of the system’s near-perfect availability rating.

Safe on the ground

The SkyLine uses Automatic Train Control (ATC) technology for operational and passenger safety. ATC systems ensure that the train maintains safe speeds and manages the doors so passengers can’t wander onto the tracks or slip between the gap between car and platform.

A Bombardier Services team keeps the entire system running smoothly - nearly 50 committed employees, some of whom have been with the system since day one. As manufacturer, operator and maintainer, Bombardier’s complete system operations and maintenance program has optimized the SkyLine’s performance, quickly detecting and correcting operational issues before they can impact service. The result: an average availability rating of 99.83%.


Proven technology for driverless operation

The SkyLine’s driverless operation is managed by the proven BOMBARDIER CITYFLO 550 fixed block solution. Designed for operational integrity, CITYFLO 550 is a dual-channel, cross-checked, solid-state interlocking computer system. This redundant setup carries out essential route interlocking functions, including track switch control, ensuring safe headways between trains by using speed-command generation.

One of the rail industry’s most proven and widely used computer-based interlocking solutions, the CITYFLO 550 system supports driverless vehicle operation on segregated tracks.

Fast facts: Frankfurt Airport's SkyLine 

1.9 km long

90 second headway

52 km per hour

33,000 passengers per day

18 INNOVIA APM 100 cars

99.83% availability average

A world of automated people movers

The INNOVIA APM 100 system is also used worldwide in these airports: