diamond geezer

 Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Ten years ago today, TfL announced big news.
TfL Commissioner reveals plans to upgrade Circle, District, Hammersmith and City and Metropolitan lines
The biggest single rolling-stock order in Britain was underway. It was no overnight solution.
Detailed plans to upgrade a third of the Tube network over the next decade and help tackle climate change were announced by the Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy today.
And now here we are a decade later. So how's the planned tube upgrade been going?

In terms of introducing new trains, pretty well.
The Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines will get new air-conditioned trains from late 2009, together with a new signalling system and renewed track.
The first we saw of these new trains was in September 2008 when a mock-up tube carriage was displayed outside Euston Square station for the public to inspect. At this stage it was expected that the first new train would enter service in early 2010, a date that later slipped to the end of July.
Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said: "This upgrade will be felt by passengers every day, who will benefit from air-conditioning and extra space on the trains."
Air-con was the big selling point for passengers, who on certain days each summer endured sweaty rides that would now cease. But the big selling point for TfL was capacity, because longer trains with fewer seats meant more people could climb aboard, helping rush hour commuters to get around more easily.
"The upgrade of these lines is the next stage of Transport for London's investment in the renewal and improvement of London Underground."
Replacing all the 1960s trains on the Metropolitan line took two years, with the last 'A Stock' running in public service in September 2012. Attention then switched the other sub-surface lines, where the rush hour crush was much worse, with the Hammersmith & City line first to see longer trains.
Trains on the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines will increase in size from six to seven carriages, an overall capacity increase of 17 per cent, as will those on the District line between Edgware Road and Wimbledon.
Six-car 'C Stock' was the target, with complete replacement on all three lines achieved in February 2014. Few mourned the disappearance of these clunking workhorses, and it's now much easier (and cooler) to take a ride.

Back in 2006 it seems the intention had been that only District line trains running to Edgware Road would be replaced. But that aspiration was swiftly extended to cover the whole line, even though the fleet of 'D Stock' units had only recently been refitted.

Since January 2015 these District line stalwarts have been removed from the network at a rate of roughly one a week, trailered off for reuse or scrap, with a scheduled removal deadline in late 2016. New 'S Stock' trains have dripfed into service to replace them, and a couple of weeks ago the last of the new sub-surface fleet of 192 trains was delivered.
"A common train fleet for all these lines will help us deliver a better service to passengers."
So, ten years on from the initial announcement of total rolling stock replacement, are we there yet?

Not quite, and the issue is signalling.

TfL's attempt to upgrade the signalling on the sub-surface lines hasn't been going well, in fact it's been a disaster. The first contract faltered, then collapsed, with expensive repercussions. The latest contract is going much better, but will cost much more and is running several years behind the original schedule.

As a consequence, all 192 S Stock trains are having to return to the factory to have a new in-cab signalling system installed. They're being taken off to Derby a few at a time, and coming back future-proofed, but while they're away TfL needs spare trains to make sure it's always possible to run a full service.

And that's why, even though all the old 'D Stock' units were supposed to have been removed by now, a few remain. I understand ten old trains are theoretically available, but no more than five are generally out in service, and often it's rather fewer than that.

Almost all the trains you'll see out on the District line are new ones, halogen lamps blazing, with higher capacity and fewer seats. But stand for long enough on a District line platform and an old train will eventually turn up. It just might take a while.

I tried catching one the other day, and failed. An old 'D Stock' pulled into Bow Road on the opposite platform, which I couldn't reach in time, and then I saw nothing but 'S Stock' for the ensuing hour. The following day a 'D Stock' pulled in at West Ham running west, but I was going east and had no time for a detour.

Expectations are that these few old trains will continue in service until February next year, when presumably they'll be withdrawn in a blaze of congratulatory publicity. In the meantime, if you'd like to take a final nostalgic ride on the District line you have a couple of months, and you'll need some luck.
LU Managing Director Tim O'Toole said: "The upgrade will provide more robust and reliable trains, with more integrated and flexible services on all of the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines. The new trains will have air conditioning and deliver more reliable and comfortable journeys for passengers. Shorter journey times will be delivered through a combination of track improvements, a new signalling system and reduced boarding times at stations." (6th December 2006)
What's impressive here is that TfL announced a decade-long rolling stock replacement project ten years ago, and ten years later it's virtually complete. They're a heck of a lot further behind with the signalling, and the regenerative braking, and the improved service pattern, but it's good to know not every mammoth public transport project faces inevitable delays.

Previous dg coverage of the S Stock revolution:
Ken announces first air-conditioned train will arrive in 2009 [December 2006]
Public invited aboard a mocked-up carriage [September 2008]
Boris unveils aircon tube [June 2009]
First air-conditioned Metropolitan line train in public service [July 2010]
Metropolitan 'A Stock' celebrates its 50th anniversary [July 2011]
Last A Stock train runs on the Met [September 2012]
First new Hammersmith & City Stock train runs from Barking [December 2012]
Last C Stock train runs a commemorative tour [June 2014]
District, Circle and H&C now all fully airconned [some time in early 2017]

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