London’s $2 Billion Plan to Ease Congestion on the Tube - CityLab

There’s no denying that London’s Tube system is pretty efficient. Hosting 5 million journeys a day, its busiest lines manage 36 trains an hour at peak times. That’s a train every 100 seconds.

Some lines, however, are currently running a service that, by London standards, is a little threadbare. The busy Piccadilly Line, for example, manages just 24 trains an hour, a rate that no doubt seems irreproachable when viewed from the beleaguered public transit systems of New York or Washington, but actually risks creating serious congestion. This week, London finalized a remedy to this relative slow down: a batch of 250 new trains added to its rolling stock. When coupled with an upgrade to the signaling system, this should enable London’s four “Deep Tube” lines—which run through more deeply excavated tunnels—to increase their capacity by 10 trains an hour. The cost: a not insignificant £1.5 billion ($2 billion).

These trains, the first 94 of which have been commissioned from Siemens this week for London’s Piccadilly Line, will be a little more spacious than some older models. Starting service in 2023, they have a carriage-less layout, already in service in other parts of London’s public transit network, that enables passengers to walk from end to end and spread out more efficiently. They will also be the first Tube trains running deep below surface level to possess proper air conditioning, long overdue in a city where sweltering, stuffy trains have been a perennial summer scandal.

They won’t be replacements for existing trains, though; they’ll run alongside existing stock, meaning that by 2035 the four lines will be able to increase their capacity by 35 percent. The £1.5 billion allotted to commission these trains sounds pretty generous, but they’re not a mere bonus—they’re badly needed. Without them, London’s Tube network might well be on a fast-track to meltdown.

That’s because London is growing quickly. Having reached an estimated all-time high of 8.8 million residents within its official limits this year, the city is predicted to house another 1.5 million residents by 2029. Many of these new residents will be using a transit system that’s already congested—and doesn’t necessarily have much space to expand into. Because while there is some pride in possessing the world’s first subway system, the sheer age means that the tunnels are antique and already fit London’s narrow trains like a glove.

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