diamond geezer

 Monday, August 02, 2010

There'll be a lot of fuss in the media today about the launch of London's first air-conditioned tube train. At last, after 147 years of enforced perspiration in underground tunnels, a brand new coolbox on wheels has finally arrived. When Boris rides the Metropolitan line from Wembley Park out to Watford this morning, he'll be proudly proclaiming a fresh chilled dawn brought about by innovation and investment. But what he won't be mentioning is that the new train's first public appearance isn't today. It made two return trips on Saturday, and anyone in the area (or in the know) could have taken a ride. So I did. The Mayor can catch up later.

Why the dry run on Saturday? Partly to check that everything worked in public before being paraded in front of the media today. Partly so that all the tubegeeks had their 'first train' opportunity early, carefully quarantined from today's City Hall top brass. But mainly because TfL's milestone for launching these trains was 'July 2010', so waiting until August would have been failure. I'm not complaining.

new S StockThese new trains are officially called 'S Stock' [photo], and they're very different to the Metropolitan's long-serving 1960s workhorses. The front of the train is red, with the destination displayed electronically - Watford [line break] All stations - above a curved cabin window. The doors are red too, with a button on each which looks like it needs to be pressed to gain entrance. But no, the doors pull apart automatically on stopping at each platform, and with a definite swish rather than a clunk. Oh, and there's only one carriage. Technically speaking there are eight, but they're all joined together to create one long articulated snake allowing passengers to walk all the way from one end to the other if they so wish. Welcome to Boris's new bendy train.

Once aboard you'll be struck by the space [photo]. Traditional Metropolitan line carriages are full of places to sit, and these new replacements most definitely aren't. Most of the seats run along the edge, facing away from the windows, and there are only a handful of 4-somes where family groups might choose to locate. Several of the seats flip up to make way for wheelchairs or pushchairs, or to provide additional standing room if things get too crowded. By my calculations there are only 30 seats in each new carriage, compared to more than 50 in the old, which is a brutal reduction of approximately 150 places to sit in each S Stock train. That's not a problem in the centre of town where journeys are brief and crowding is high. But on the commuter run to Amersham, or Uxbridge, or Watford, not having anywhere to sit for up to an hour is going to frustrate hundreds of post-work travellers daily. Once the 57 remaining new trains are rolled out they will not, I think it's fair to say, be pleased.

Aboard the new S StockAnother innovation inside the carriages may be more welcome - scrolling displays which tell you the train's destination, and which station's coming up next, and whether the train's fast, semi-fast or not. Automated voice messages are played too, even the dreaded "This train is being held at a red signal and should be moving shortly" which customers on the Met have never previously had to endure. The seats have a smart new moquette, covered in regularly-spaced pairs of pink/purple and yellow/green rectangles. But there are no longer any racks on which to stash your briefcase, nor any hooks on which to hang your overcoat. People of Chorleywood, your new trains are no longer middle class, they're 21st century egalitarian. [photo]

I was particularly pleased because my first journey took me via Croxley, sweet village of my childhood, and there was a certain charm in hearing its name uttered by a disembodied voice for the first time. Round the curve and across the viaduct, the new train ran noticeably more smoothly than the old, and with a rather softer rumble. And then into the terminus at Watford, with a brand new pre-door-opening beep to get used to (a cross between a klaxon and a doorbell, muffled within a cushion, I thought). The train wasn't staying long, so all the genuine passengers departed while the enthusiasts hung around on the platform for a stretch and a photo-opportunity [photo]. After 45 seconds, horror of horrors, all the doors slammed shut. Was the new train about to head off without us already? It turned out no, this is a new feature designed to keep in the heat (or cool, depending), and a simple press of the door button allowed us to regain entrance.

New S Stock moquetteAnd so back to Wembley Park to complete Saturday's inaugural round trips. Although most on board at Watford were there for a reason, the train slowly filled with everyday passengers as it ran south. Some barely noticed the new layout, like the Neanderthal teen and his silent girlfriend who got on at Croxley. Others stared hard at the sleek new train as it pulled in beside them, breaking into a broad grin as they realised how lucky they'd been. "Fantastic, I didn't think these were in service yet," said the father of one family boarding at Pinner, even if there was already nowhere for all four of them to sit together. And an off-duty ticket inspector seemed particularly pleased at the efficiencies that having no doors between carriages would bring. "My colleague and I will be able to start at each end and work our way through to the middle," he said, "and there'll be nowhere any fare dodger can hide."

On reaching our final destination, the driver switched off the automated female voice and read out all the relevant passenger information himself as we disembarked. Then he slipped the new girl back into Neasden depot, and the rest of us had to take the old train back into town. Oh so very shaky by comparison, but ooh, still so many seats. And what should have struck me, but didn't, was the lack of air-conditioning. It may have been a warm summer's day but the temperature inside the 1960s carriage was perfectly reasonable and not in any way uncomfortable. Because air-con isn't the most important thing about this Metropolitan line upgrade, not at all. Expect Boris to proclaim loudly otherwise, across all major news channels, later on today.

Lots of first-day photos: londonstuff, bowroaduk, Chorleywood Residents
A first-day video: Harrow on the Hill to Wembley Park (for aficionados only)
Other first-day riders: Boris Watch, Zones 1 to 6

Previous dg coverage of the air-conditioning revolution:
Ken announces air-conditioned trains will arrive in 2009 [December 2006]
Public invited aboard a mocked-up carriage [September 2008]
Boris unveils aircon tube [June 2009]
Last chance to ride the old Metropolitan A Stock [December 2011]
District, Circle and H&C now all fully airconned [December 2015]

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Wed 19th - Sun 23rd October
Bloomsbury Festival
It's free to visit the Foundling Museum this weekend.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards