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Viewpoint: Feeling the upgrade effect

Every day of the week the Tube carries up to 4M passengers. We’re putting huge amounts of effort and investment into upgrading the railway to keep pace with demand, delivering 30% more capacity across the network with new trains, track and signalling, and rebuilding key stations to make them bigger and more accessible.

After six years of hard work, we’re seeing real delivery on the first of the major line upgrades. By the end of the year Tube Lines is due to deliver the Jubilee Line upgrade.

This upgrade involves new automatic signalling and the installation of a new control system, which will cut journey times by 22%. The upgrade has been very hungry on access and closures, and after so much inconvenience to our customers, it is vital that Tube Lines delivers on its commitment to deliver the upgrade by 31 December.

The remaining upgrades are being delivered by LU − the Sub-Surface Railway (the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines) and the Victoria Line.

“After so much inconvenience to our customers, it is vital that Tube Lines delivers on its commitment to deliver the upgrade by 31 December.”

We recently unveiled the first air-conditioned Tube trains for the Sub-Surface Railway and scheduled them to enter service on the Metropolitan line from 2010. In July we invited tenders to replace the antiquated signalling and safety systems on the Sub-Surface Railway.

When complete in 2018 the capacity and reliability on 40% of the Tube network will be increased with larger trains and fully-automated signalling enabling faster and more frequent journeys. We’re deliberately standardising with one signalling system and train type across all four lines, to get maximum efficiencies.

July also saw the introduction into passenger service of the first train of the new state-of-the-art fleet being introduced as part of the Victoria line upgrade (VLU).

This was a major achievement as the Victoria Line is fully automatic. New track and signalling will mean a smoother ride more frequent trains, a reduction in journey times and almost 20% more capacity.

Addressing concerns

The VLU is due to be completed in 2012 although strong project management means we’ve already installed two-thirds of the new signalling equipment, introduced a brand new train and replaced much of the track whilst minimising inconvenience to customers by closing down early on weeknights to reduce weekend closures.

Our customers tell us one of their biggest concerns is cooling the Tube and, as well as our investment in air-conditioned sub-surface trains, we’re making improvements to manage temperatures on the Victoria line, with 13 ventilation shafts being renewed or upgraded to remove heat.

“We’re delivering the biggest investment in the Underground since WWII.”

All of this is right around the corner, but we’re still looking to the future. We’re already planning for the replacement of trains on the Bakerloo and Central lines at the end of the next decade, with a standardised fleet that is lighter, more spacious, and more energy-efficient.

We’re developing a deep tube air conditioning solution that could be ready for this fleet. We’re delivering the biggest investment in the Underground since WWII.

LU is an “engineering-intelligent” customer; we know what we want and increasingly, following the integration of Metronet into LU, we’re delivering it ourselves together with industry partners.

  • David Waboso is director of Line Upgrades, London Undeground

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