diamond geezer

 Saturday, March 06, 2021

How long do you have to wait before everyone forgets you've already announced something.

Not necessarily exactly the same something but near enough, and everyone's only looking at the pictures anyway. Back in October 2014 Mayor Boris Johnson stood in front of a mock-up of the proposed new Piccadilly line trains and tried to explain to reporters why his new driverless trains still had a driver's cab. Here's a still from the video TfL released to mark the announcement. "Wow," said everyone, "those look amazing."

Back then the trains were expected to be fully automated, all the stations down the line would have needed platform-edge doors and the first new rolling stock was due to arrive in 2022. None of this subsequently happened, partly because Boris left office in 2016 but mainly because it was entirely unfeasible. But the walkthrough interior and the overall look, courtesy of design agency PriestmanGoode, lingered on.
2014: BBC, ITV, Londonist, Ian Visits, me, Design Week, Dezeen

In June 2018 TfL signed a £1.5bn contract with Siemens to build the new Piccadilly line trains. Commissioner Mike Brown was keen to emphasise that the new trains would be built in East Yorkshire and expected the first to enter service in 2023. Here's the artist's impression circulated with the press release. "Wow," said everyone, "those look amazing."

That's a nigh identical looking train, even down to the number 256 on the front, except the destination is now Heathrow rather than Northfields. The platform's had all its unnecessary signage removed and gained an upgraded Next Train Indicator, but it's still identifiably the same station.
2018: BBC, Evening Standard, Ian Visits, Londonist

I'm glad I tweeted that picture at the time because that meant it looked familiar when I saw it again this week. You don't forget diagonal headlamps like those... except it seems a lot of people do.

The 2021 version is almost identical to 2018 except with Cockfosters on the front instead of Heathrow. A few minor details have changed, like the door buttons being in a different place and the '256' being a bit lower down, but it's still very much the same train pulling into the same station. "Wow," said everyone, "those look amazing."

This time the excuse for the press release is that TfL and Siemens are ready to "unveil the final detailed design". We're told the new trains will be "state-of-the-art, with more space, air-conditioning, walk-through carriages and improved accessibility", these all things we knew seven years ago. To be fair the interior of the carriages has changed a bit between 2014 and 2021, now with brighter LED lights, different coloured grabpoles and a less finicky ceiling, but in reality only a bit. Even the in-car video advertising was signalled years ago.

» This week the BBC said "Designs for a new generation of Tube trains for London's Piccadilly Line, which will replace the existing 1970s fleet, have been unveiled."
» This week Londonist said "New state-of-the-art trains will be zooming along Piccadilly Line in just a few short years, and now we know what they'll look like."
» This week the Evening Standard headlined their story "First look", while Time Out called it "a secret lockdown glow-up".
» This week Ian Visits said "Externally not much has changed from early concepts, but there’s been a refinement of the interior, and more details announced about how they will operate."

It's either testament to the original design that the exterior's hardly altered in seven years, or it's testament to a lack of cash that nobody can afford a properly new illustration. Still, that doesn't matter when most of us can be just as excited the third time we see a swooshy tube with aircon as we were the first.

And these new Piccadilly line trains aren't now due to be introduced until 2025, so there's still plenty of time for TfL to slip this picture out again and excite us all once more.

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