It’s getting to be a habit, this re-announcing of existing policy as brand-new-Boris-manifesto-rah stuff, accompanying by drooling troglodytes in the Standard comments.

Today’s story is Boris visiting what the Standard describes as an ‘Oxford track’ to run an uneducated eye over the new ‘S-stock’ sub-surface Underground trains, due to start being delivered for the Metropolitan Line in 2010.

So, we get the usual Mayor Rabbit:

He said: “For thousands of clammy Tube passengers some relief is finally in sight. We have now begun testing the first of 191 super cool and spacious new trains.”

Reality check: the first test runs of the rather bug-eyed S-stock at Old Dalby were apparently last March, the train having been delivered from Derby on the 26th February.  Here’s a helpful picture of the thing moving, or at least being towed down there.  On with the rabbit:

Mr Johnson, who boarded the new air-conditioned train at an Oxford test track, said: “Having taken it for a test run myself I can vouch that passengers are going to be terrifically impressed.”

That’s the test track at Old Dalby in Leicestershire, in fact, modified last year to mimic London Underground four-rail operation.  Evidently the Standard, unlike the BBC, didn’t send anyone (or if they did, they went to the wrong county), although both organisations are drawing heavily on the press release.  I also wonder quite whether Boris should really be saying passengers will be impressed with an interior that looks very like a bendy bus.

He said the air conditioning “will keep passengers comfortable whatever the weather”.

What about the deep tubes, which are actually the hot bits people complain about?

Air-conditioned trains are a major step forward. However much of the Tube is made up of deep and narrow tunnels built with insufficient space for air conditioning and finding cooling solutions is one of the many challenges being addressed by the Underground’s Cooling the Tube project team.

Amazingly, a certain Pyong-Yang style freesheet was talking in suspiciously similar terms in 2005.

Plans to equip new trains with air-cooling systems could see an end to stuffy summer journeys on the Circle, District, Hammersmith and City, Metropolitan and East London lines within four years. The air-cooling units will sit on the roofs of the carriages and are due to be up and running on the Metropolitan line from 2009. They should be in service across the other four lines by 2013. However, lines that are more than 20 metres deep have tunnels that are too narrow for the rooftop units. These include the Bakerloo, Central, Victoria, Waterloo and City, Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines.

We’ve looked at this before, and what should be obvious by now is that Boris is trundling straight down the track marked out by his predecessor, on whose watch the air-conditioned S-stock was ordered, as was the air-conditioned Class 378 for London Overground and the distinctly non-air-conditioned 09TS stock for the Victoria Line.  In other words, Boris is back to a default position, constrained by the laws of physics, of introducing air-conditioning on the sub-surface lines but not on the deep tubes, where more evolutionary and less eye-catching solutions are required, which is precisely why there’s been a team looking at it since 2005, with a hefty budget announced in 2007, leading to things like the innovative groundwater cooling solution at Victoria developed by South Bank University.

So, what’s Boris actually done that’s new?  Is it this bit?

2007:

This summer London Underground will again be issuing its tips to passengers on how to try and “Stay Cool’ on the network. Posters will be displayed at all stations bearing the following advice. Announcements will also be made at stations:

“Here are a few tips for keeping comfortable in hot weather:

  • Carry water with you;
  • Don’t board a train if you feel unwell;
  • If you feel unwell please get off at the next stop and seek help from our staff; and
  • Avoid pulling the passenger alarm between stations.”

2009:

LU will, as in previous summers, be providing hot weather advice to passengers.

Posters and announcements at stations will provide tips to passengers on how to try and stay cool. ‘Stay Cool’ posters will be displayed at all stations bearing the following advice:

  • Carry water with you
  • Don’t board a train if you feel unwell
  • If you feel unwell please get off at the next stop and seek help from our staff and
  • Avoid pulling the passenger alarm between stations

or this bit?

2007:

Temporary portable industrial fans will be trialled at Seven Sisters and Chancery Lane stations this summer to increase air circulation and if successful will be rolled out to a number of stations in 2008.

2009:

In addition, this summer will see the return of the industrial-sized blue fans that help increase ventilation at 36 locations on the Tube network.

Can’t see it myself, really.  Perhaps it’s this bit, about ventilation fans?:

In 2003, only 38 fans were in operation, whereas today 83 fans are working. Later this year works will start at Old Street, Angel and Notting Hill Gate to bring more fans back into operation.

Er, no:

8/6/2007, talk on tube cooling:

Attention has been given to rehabilitating the 126 ventilation fans on the network, some of which had ceased to work through reliability issues, noise complaints from neighbours and sometimes merely from people not being aware of the importance of switching them on. Some 92 are available for service, ‘making a major beneficial effect on the way we extract air from the system’. Slides were shown of a new fan fitted in an old vent shaft at Liverpool Street.

Actually, the main new, pounds-in-the-ground piece happening right now is digging extra ventilation shafts for the Victoria Line, which a recent TfL document assesses thus:

This is a long term programme to control ambient temperatures, which are already high, and without intervention could rise to unacceptable levels as more energy is used within the tunnels to provide the Line Upgrade train service capability. Planned mitigation measures include improved energy efficiency, increased ventilation, and selected station cooling systems.

Priority is being given to the work needed to enable the planned Victoria Line upgrade train service. The Victoria Line Cooling works consist of Mid Tunnel Vent Shaft upgrades, and cooling at specific stations. The Design and Build contracts for the first two (of up to sixteen) Mid Tunnel Vent sites are now underway and work started on site on 29 September 2008.

As reported here.  So if the work started 29/9/2008, when was it developed, signed off, funded and tendered for?  Ah, yes.  Announced in Construction News in March 2008.  So that’s not Boris, either, is it?

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5 Responses to Tube Cooling Update : History Rewritten

  1. Helen says:

    I had a ride on the 1961 Metropolitan line tube-stock this morning – stuffy.

  2. Alex says:

    What does the Standard imagine an air conditioner does with the heat, I wonder? Have they ever walked past one venting into the street?

  3. Tom says:

    Since they have no idea where Old Dalby is and lack the wit to discover this fairly simple fact, I imagine they assume that the A/C box is loaded at the factory with a fresh charge of coldiness which it dispenses into the carriage. I wonder if Boris is familiar with the Second Law of Thermodynamics?*

    The A/C on deep tube problem is actually for when the train is stationary, as you’d immediately have to switch them all off to avoid a divergent heating condition where the A/C is trying to cool down the warm air it is pumping out, plus that adding more heat to tunnels automatically adds it to stations, which people tend to forget are also a problem.

    * ‘Every time you fire a Deputy Mayor, your administration becomes inevitably more chaotic’, isn’t it?

  4. Where_art_thou_ken says:

    Excellent analysis Tom.

    I am particularly interested in the part about drawing from press releases as this seems to be how most of our ‘news’ these days is written.

    Instead of getting a balanced or investigative view, we get a re-hashed press release which is in fact not a story at all.

  5. Tom says:

    Yes, it’s called ‘churnalism’ and is why good blogs beat average journalists for analysis – papers are written by journalists, good blogs are written by experts.

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