Over 200 Tube Lines employees are forgoing their usual Christmas festivities in order to test a new signalling system on the Jubilee line that will speed up passenger journeys.
The new signalling system is part of a £600 million investment in the Jubilee and Northern lines. When the Jubilee line work is completed in 2009, it will be the most significant improvement on the London Underground since 1999.
The new signalling system uses a train-based computer that connects with a special electrical induction loop between the rails and records each train’s position with pinpoint accuracy. The system enables a train to report its location to a control centre to within centimetres. In response, the centre sends out messages telling trains how fast they need to go to maintain a safe distance from the train in front. It will mean that trains will no longer need to be spaced out according to fixed signalling blocks but can safely run closer together and move along the line much faster.
Once accomplished, the line’s 600,000 daily users will benefit from shorter waiting times for trains which means 25% more capacity – potentially space for an additional 5,000 passengers an hour – and an average journey time reduction of 22%.
The Jubilee line will be closed from the end of services on Christmas Eve through to the start of traffic on Monday 29 December – giving workers 104 continuous working hours to carry out vital testing compared to the usual four hours at night.
"After looking at all the options with London Underground we jointly decided that the best time for a full closure is over Christmas as it causes the least disruption for commuters," said Tube Lines chief engineering manager George Clark. "It is vital that we fully test the new system to check that services can run smoothly and safely before passengers come on board. Unfortunately this can only take place during a closure of several days."