03 August 2009

Was it worth it?

'GWB' gives us an insight into new Underground trains that have started to appear on the Victoria Line.

If you - like me - have visited our capital city for a weekend or two's tourism over the past eighteen months, you'll have almost certainly been made aware that, due to *planned* engineering works, the Victoria Line is closed. From King's Cross, the terminal station at which trains from my home in East Anglia arrive, this line provides some essential direct links. But not on Sundays.

There are young people growing up who think "Victoria Line Closed" is its actual name!

Yes, there has been the odd weekend or three when the Victoria Line has seen some sort of service, but overwhelmingly these occasions have been in the minority. The closures have generally been made so that new-style Tube trains can be tested. Matters came to a close last week, when these new trains entered service.

What many readers may not know is that Victoria Line Tube drivers are essentially door open and closers. The do not in any way drive the trains. Being one of the most recent Tube lines on the London Underground network, the 1967 stock that work said line do so in a similar way to that in which the Docklands Light Railway operates - automatically. The advantage of this type of operation is that human error is massively reduced and trains can be operated more closely together.

Roll-out is expected to be complete by the end of the autumn.

The knock-on effects are greater frequency and a more regulated service. Drivers simply signal when it is safe to leave a station and trains pull away. Upon arrival at the next station, the driver opens and closes the doors before again signalling when it is safe for the train to proceed. A similar installation is currently being applied to the Jubilee Line.

Back to the Victoria Line and the new-style trains that have entered service this week. The Bombardier-built 2009 stock will be gradually rolled out over the summer; this week has seen some of the new-style units operating during the evenings, in tandem with new signalling that has also been installed and another reason behind the Victoria Line's weekend closures. While Transport for London (TfL) has been keen to point out that the existing trains used on the line are over 40 years old, they're by no means the oldest trains operating on the Underground network!

Carrying 200 million passengers a year, and with pivotal links for me, personally, I wholeheartedly welcome the new, more spacious and better-ventilated trains. They continue to conform to the 8-car formations that the Victoria Line is built to accommodate, unlike those on other lines that can only handle 6-car trains. With projected growth on the Underground being 15% by 2025, TfL has made the Victoria Line well-placed to handle the additional users that will inevitably come its way.

It's nice to finally start to see this investment in the Tube we've been told about for so long! (GWB)