One of the standard Boris stump speech touchpoints is a mention of:

…a neo-Victorian age of transport investment – the Tube upgrades, the Thames Tideway tunnel – and my job as mayor is to keep blapping ministers between the eyes until they understand that it would be utter madness to cut infrastructure projects that will increase com­petitiveness

or alternatively

…the Neo-Victorian level of investment that has flowed from the Olympics and the upgrades being delivered on the Tube

or even

… a neo-Victorian level of investment in its transport network.

And there are plenty more where those came from.  Got it? A neo-Victorian level of investment.  Let’s examine that, in particular the Tube upgrade mentioned by the Back Boris blog above.

Boris inherited the following plan:

  • Victoria Line to complete resignalling with Westinghouse Distance-To-Go equipment and train replacement with Bombardier 2009TS by the 2012 Olympics
  • Jubilee Line to complete resignalling with SELTRAC 40 moving block signalling by January 2010
  • Northern Line to complete resignalling with SELTRAC 40 moving block signalling by January 2012
  • Piccadilly Line to complete resignalling with SELTRAC 40, with new trains of unknown origin, by 2014
  • Circle Line and H&C Line new trains/signalling by 2015
  • Metropolitan Line new trains/signalling by 2016
  • District Line new trains/signalling by 2018
  • Bakerloo Line new trains/signalling by 2020

In spring 2010, so before the General Election, TfL were still more or less on course for this, with a PDF from Mike Brown suggesting:

  • Jubilee Line in ‘autumn 2010′ (with a nod to Tube Lines failing to meet the deadline)
  • Northern Line (phase 1, 20% capacity gain) ‘by 2012′
  • Victoria Line ‘in 2012′
  • Piccadilly Line ‘by 2014′
  • Metropolitan Line in 2016
  • Circle/H&C in 2017
  • District Line in 2018
  • Northern Line (phase 2, 21% capacity gain) in 2018
  • Bakerloo Line in 2020

Now, however, in TfL’s business plan the position has changed radically:

  • Jubilee Line – April  2012 (using SELTRAC 40)
  • Victoria Line – April 2013 (using Westinghouse DTG)
  • Northern Line – early 2015 (using SELTRAC 40)
  • Metropolitan/Circle/H&C/District trains – 2016
  • Metropolitan/Circle/H&C/District signalling – 2018 (using Bombardier CityFlo 650)
  • Piccadilly and Bakerloo Line – tbc

In other words everything’s been pushed back a bit and two lines now have no dates at all.  That’s doubly worrying when you consider that the Piccadilly Line is already seriously overcrowded (due to St. Pancras International) and has trains that date from 1973, for all that they’re extremely reliable at present (the Bakerloo’s trains are actually a year older).

Indeed, Boris has already been asked about Piccadilly Line overcrowding in the light of substantial housing developments planned, including the Earl’s Court scheme that TfL are involved in as the landowner for part of it.

TfL works with developers wherever possible to ensure that plans for new housing developments take into account local transport capacity.

The Piccadilly line is due to be upgraded by the end of 2014, which will deliver new, more spacious trains and a new signalling system. Capacity on the line will be boosted by approximately 25% and journey times will be reduced by around 19%.

Well, that one’s gone for a Burton.  One wonders what happens when TfL’s plans change – do the housing developers get told to wait?

So, what is going on? A new line item appears in the Business Plan to give us a clue:

Deep Tube – first prototype for the new train

Yes, having sorted out the buses Boris is now getting the crayons out for a new train.  In truth this ‘Deep Tube Programme’ has been around for a while and London Reconnections are already well on the case with three masterful posts on the ‘Operational Strategy Discussion Paper’ produced last year.  Their conclusion:

…something far, far, more wide reaching and complex – a complete programme of organisational and cultural change aimed at modernising London Underground

This explains the sudden pushback of the Piccadilly and Bakerloo Line upgrades – following George Osborne’s 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review which took 28% of London’s general grant over four years*, TfL have decided to stop upgrading the tube, sit down for a few years and have a jolly good think about things like automation, control, ticketing etc. on a holistic basis for entire system, which is at least relatively cheap to do.  ASLEF obtained a leaked presentation last year which made this clear, and taking our cue from there we can work out what happens next.  As part of this the next three deep tube upgrades (we have to add the Central into here now we have 15-year horizons to aim at, as that’ll be coming up to replacement time for its 1992-era stock and signalling) are now being seen as a group, with the following timescales for complete line upgrades:

  • Bakerloo – 2017 to 2022
  • Piccadilly – 2018 to 2025
  • Central – 2021 to 2027
The Waterloo and City, which operates with Central Line stock in non-automatic mode, would be the testbed area, with a prototype train being trialled in 2015/16 and a new fleet following on from the Bakerloo upgrade in 2022.

These four lines would therefore operate with a single massive fleet of new trains, described here as

…a new generation of Standard Tube Stock

which is putting it rather neatly.  What happens to the lines in the short term?

To ensure both lines continue to operate reliably until the introduction of new trains and signalling under the Deep Tube programme, small-scale life-extension works are planned for the Bakerloo and Piccadilly line rolling stock fleets. The Piccadilly line signalling control system, based at Earl’s Court, dates from the 1960s and it is increasingly expensive to maintain. The system will be gradually replaced by a new control centre at Hammersmith by 2014, reducing the risk of disruption to services.

No word, then, on capacity or congestion issues, just a bit of tinkering with the stock and a new control centre in Hammersmith for, presumably, the existing signalling system on the Piccadilly.  I’m pretty sure the Victorians would regard that sort of work as the kind of small scale thing that could be knocked off before lunch.  They certainly wouldn’t expect us to pay RPI+2% fare increases for six years while they sat about twiddling their thumbs and sketching trains.

* To be specific, the following happened in 2010:

The CSR’s headline figures suggested a funding cut to London of 28% by 2014-15 (or 7% per annum). In reality, this figure significantly overstates the extent of total transport cuts in the capital. First of all, the 28% reduction refers only to the general TfL grant of around £1.9bn. In 2010-11 TfL received an additional Investment Grant of £0.9bn, which will be cut by only 14% in real terms by 2014-15. But more significant, perhaps, is the fact that the 28% cut in the general TfL grant will mostly take place from 2013-14. In 2011-12, the TfL revenue grant is being cut by 3% in real terms, following a 5% in-year cut prior to the CSR. The cut will be 2.5% in 2012-13, 9% in 2013-14 and 17% in 2014-15. This phasing in of cuts gives TfL time to adapt.

Or, to look at it another, more cynical way, TfL’s grant cut takes place mostly towards the end of Boris’s second term as Mayor, just before he bails out.  I really must work out the original and post-Osborne grant profiles for TfL sometime.

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