In our look at the Piccadilly Line upgrade we explained that the line would be upgraded so as to be capable of unattended train operation (UTO) with the exception of the Rayners Lane – Uxbridge section but that no decision had been made on whether the trains would actually run without a member of staff on board. We now take a look at a history of earlier attempts to introduce UTO on the Underground and, beyond the hype, what the future is likely to be.

UTO in tunnels – nothing new

It is easy to forget that UTO beneath the streets of London is nothing new, with a fully-operational UTO railway line in existence from 1927 and complete by the following year. It was an impressive 6½ miles long and double track throughout with nine stations. Of course, crucially, the Post Office Railway, as it was then known, did not normally carry passengers (although as we announced last year, it may well do so in future).

The current proposal to at least make trains on the Piccadilly Line capable of running without staff on board is also not the first. For that we have to go back to the first half of the 1930s. Then, no doubt spurred on by the success of the Post Office Railway, there was a proposal to run an unstaffed two train shuttle service on the Aldwych branch.

The rationale behind the Aldwych branch proposal is not immediately obvious. It would have involved building a crossover tunnel just north of Aldwych station so that the line could operate from Holborn as a double track railway. Trains would leave both single platform termini at the same time, proceed to pass each other on the double track section and arrive at their respective termini more or less at the same time. The process would be repeated all day. Given the capital cost of building the crossover tunnel and the cost of the extra train to provide a frequency that really wasn’t necessary, it is fairly clear the proposal made no sense as a money saving measure.

The likely objective of the Aldwych shuttle proposal would have been to see what was technically possible, with a view to implementing similar schemes elsewhere. One could imagine the forward-thinking Frank Pick endorsing the plan as a showcase for future development. Maybe the proposals were not serious but were a test to see if the Ministry of Transport would countenance such an idea. It didn’t. It was firmly rejected in May 1935. It was clear that consequences of something going seriously wrong (such as  “the occurrence of … smoke”) with no-one present to deal with it were of major concern to the ministry. In those days the only communication the driver had with the line controller was effected by clipping a telephone into the tunnel wires so it is difficult to see how passengers would have been able to summon help. Presumably the first indication to staff of something being wrong would be when a train did not arrive at the terminus as expected – or maybe smoke billowing from the tunnels.

DricoHow a driver communicated with the line controller in the tunnelled sections prior to the opening of the Victoria Line.

What is a little more surprising about the Aldwych proposal is that after it was rejected London Transport didn’t then appear to try to get the Ministry of Transport to approve driver-only operation, which would have seen more reasonable and practical on this short shuttle line. If it had gotten approval then there would have been at least the possibility of extending the idea to the East London Line with its short trains, which would have produced a worthwhile saving in staff.

UTO on the surface – nothing new

Although the Aldwych branch proposal was the only one in 1935 which concerned the Piccadilly Line, it wasn’t the only one on the Underground system. There was also a proposal for no staff to be aboard the short shuttle service between Acton Town and South Acton, which was already operated by just a driver.

tearunThe South Acton shuttle. As it was single carriage there was no requirement to have a guard.

The logic behind permitting just a driver appeared to be that a guard was normally essential and had to ride at the rear of the train in case it became divided for any reason. As the shuttle consisted of a single carriage this could not happen and so a guard was not required. Like the Aldwych proposal, the effort that would have had to be expended all for the purpose of saving one member of staff at any one time suggests this too was done to see how receptive the Ministry was. On this occasion the service would be entirely above ground and maybe the Underground thought that this may have been treated more favourably.

The 1960s and another proposal for UTO

The next recorded proposal was an ill-fated scheme to extend the Aldwych branch to Waterloo which was developed in the early 1960s. The London Transport Board at the time was enthusiastic and the scheme got as far as parliamentary approval (the equivalent of a Transport & Works Act Order today). It seems that they wanted to push the embryonic technology intended for the Victoria Line further towards automation.

This push for total automation was partly to improve the financial case for the proposed line, as it was known that the government was not yet entirely committed to the idea. Automation would potentially make the Victoria Line cheaper to run, with the carrot of perhaps extending it to other lines for further cost reductions no doubt dangled as well. Given that the Underground was a drain on the public purse, any money saved would have effectively gone back to the government. The government prevaricated, however, and in the end the London Transport Board was effectively told that they could extend the Piccadilly Line shuttle to Waterloo or an extension of the Victoria Line to Brixton – but not both.

The Victoria Line – A few automated steps forward

Full automation may have been out of the question, but by the end of the 1960s London Transport did at least have a showpiece success of driver-only operation (DOO) on the Victoria Line to build on. Despite touting the advantages and technological success of the Victoria Line though, it is noticeable how slowly the conversion of other lines to driver-only operation took place.

The conversion of other lines to automatic train operation (ATO) has been even slower. In the early 1960s a lightly used part of the Central Line was experimentally converted to ATO but manual driving and conventional signalling were reinstated. Apart from that, the first regular passenger-carrying ATO service on the Underground ran on the Victoria Line in 1968 and today only the Central and Jubilee Lines can truly claim to be fully converted. Progress is, of course, still ongoing. With the latest “migration area” recently switched over, the bulk of the Northern Line is now also ATO with only Stockwell-Morden and Chalk Farm-Edgware still to be completed. Indeed under current plans all Underground lines will be ATO by 2033 with the completion of the Bakerloo Line Upgrade.  If all goes to plan, the last manually driven train in passenger service can thus be expected to run on the Bakerloo Line around 2032/3. That is, around 65 years after the first one – something that both politicians and planners would do well to bear in mind when managing expectations over any rapid introduction of UTO on the London Underground.

An unwanted UTO record

This is not to say that UTO hasn’t, technically speaking, happened already. The Victoria Line can actually claim to have featured the very first run of a passenger service without any train staff aboard – but it was unintentional. In the early days of the line, a driver pressed the start buttons but the train refused to move – apparently because a set of doors had not closed properly. Exiting his cab, the driver went out onto the platform to ensure the door were fully closed…

…and was horrified to see his train disappear into the tunnel.

Needless to say there was some fairly urgent modifications to the train’s electrical circuits carried out after that incident. It is a UTO record that the Victoria Line would perhaps prefer not to have.

An immature technology

Accidental milestones aside, and despite much optimism, the opening of the Victoria Line really highlighted why technology at the time was not ready for UTO. The first problem, quite minor, was that London Transport could not manage a service on the automatically operated Victoria Line beyond 28.5 trains per hour(tph), yet 30tph was quite possible with manually driven trains and good operational working. 30tph was continually promised on the Victoria Line but ultimately never achieved with the old 1967 stock. Some of this was down to poor acceleration by modern standards, but a lot of it was due to the relatively crude 1960s implementation of an ATO system.

The second issue was more serious – that on the Victoria Line the trains would not consistently stop at the same point along the platform. If this could not be managed below ground, it did not bode well for the conversion of other lines above ground –  where the added complication of wet rails was a permanent risk. Manual intervention used to be quite often necessary on the Victoria Line to stop a train before it overran the stopping mark and possibly even continued into the running tunnel a short distance beyond it. They rarely, if ever, stopped short. To a certain extent inaccurate stopping was an anticipated issue – the reason for the Victoria Line’s long platforms is to allow for some overrunning – but despite this they were clearly still not long enough.

Indeed the issue of inaccurate stopping haunted the Victoria Line for most of the lifetime of the 1967 tube stock and it was only towards the end of the stock’s life, with advances in electronics, that this issue was finally solved. For the Victoria, that problem has thus now finally gone away, although the same cannot be said for the Central Line which still has problems – yes, you probably guessed it – when it rains. A read of ASLEFshrugged’s blog mentions this in passing in various entries.

A further attempt at UTO in the 1980s

Despite ATO issues on the Victoria, by 1980 London Transport were confident enough to successfully run trials with full UTO. In January 1980 a Central Line train ran between Chigwell and Grange Hill via Hainault. Not an unusual event in itself, but this particular service was special – not only did the train involved run without any train crew, it also ran without any fare-paying passengers. Mike Horne describes this and other aspects of UTO in an article in a Modern Railways article in the September 2012 issue, which is well worth a read. The article included a clip from the Evening Standard with the Headline “Driverless Tubes in service by 1990”. Within the Evening Standard article it states that “By the year 2010, almost the entire London Transport tube network will have been turned over to fully automatic trains”. Again, when some of the more optimistic forecasts are suggested today it may be a good idea to reflect on the track record of these predictions over the years.

Indeed in passing it seems pertinent to mention that Mike Horne’s recent article on Driverless trains and the Underground’s deep tube programme which covers similar ground (and reaches similar conclusions) to our own.

The forgotten UTO line

Moving forward now to today, there is one line in London that gets forgotten in the debate over UTO on the Underground, but one that without consideration of which any discussion is incomplete – Crossrail.

Terry Morgan, Crossrail’s Chairman, is on public record as saying there is no technical reason why Crossrail could not run its trains in UTO mode on the line’s underground sections. In effect, it is likely that what Morgan really means by this is that Crossrail could be run in UTO mode on the section independent from Network Rail and ATO signalled. This would actually include Custom House and Abbey Wood station which are surface stations, but which would presumably need to have Platform Edge Doors fitted for UTO to be truly possible.

Despite UTO on the central section of Crossrail being technically possible, though, there are absolutely no plans to run Crossrail trains without drivers. On a line that will run out to at least as far as Maidenhead in the west and Shenfield in the east, UTO working on the proportionally short central section would add complexity and logistical overhead. Ultimately just because you can run UTO it doesn’t automatically follow that it makes sense to do so. Indeed it is notable that in Paris they have converted just one line to UTO and only have plans for one more. There, each line has been considered on its merits, and so far it is just for those two lines that it is considered a return on investment.

Towards the goal of eliminating trains staff?

Ever since the publication by the RMT of a leaked TfL report entitled London Underground Operation Strategy Discussion Paper the subject of “driverless” trains has taken a large political dimension. It is abundantly clear from his many comments on the subject that the current mayor has aligned himself to the idea of getting rid of the drivers, although he seems to waver on whether the Underground should go the full UTO route or the “train captain” route (the latter of which has been particularly criticised by Mike Horne as the worst of all options for a crowded Underground). That lack of clarity on both the part of the mayor and others is no doubt intentional. It is clear that there is a lot of hyperbole about this subject that has emanated (and continues to emanate) from the mouths of both politicians and, on the other side of the fence, various Unions. So far very little of it seems to be overly concerned with conforming to the ever-harsh mistress of reality.

Not cutting down on drivers any time soon

Few examples demonstrate this quite so well as the question of future train driver numbers. As long as a year ago an article on Boriswatch highlighted London Underground’s published past and projected driver numbers. These clearly demonstrated that driver numbers have been going up since 2003, are going up now and are projected to continue to do so until 2015 after which they will remain constant for the next three years. Indeed despite all the talk, a simple moment’s thought shows that currently the trend can only continue to go upwards. Reasons for driver numbers to go up in future years include:

  • More frequent services proposed for the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern and Victoria Lines
  • Croxley Rail Link and Northern Line Extension to Battersea being added to the tube network
  • More “stepping back” at terminal stations due to the more frequent train service being run
  • Introduction of the Night Tube

When one takes all this into account and considers any possible improvements in employment conditions (more days holiday or a shorter working week) one can quickly see that the reality is that even should the Piccadilly Line go UTO, London Underground will probably be doing very well indeed if they can keep the number of tube drivers in 2025 at or below the 2015 level. In other words, if UTO happens on the Piccadilly Line, it is not so much about reducing the number of drivers but trying to avoid the increase in the number of drivers that would otherwise be necessary.

The long term future of UTO

In recently published plans it was stated that the conversion of the Piccadilly Line will be followed by a conversion the Central Line. The obvious next line for conversion would have been the Bakerloo but, as explained in our article on the tube upgrade plans this has been delayed and TfL have concluded that more benefits can be realised by converting the Central Line ahead of the Bakerloo. Of course if the Bakerloo Line continued to run beyond Queens Park on Network Rail’s track there would probably need to be staff of some kind present on this section anyway. With a journey time today of only 26 minutes to Elephant & Castle the benefits of UTO on the Bakerloo Line will thus not be as significant as on other lines.

Only with UTO implemented on both the Central Line and the Piccadilly would London Underground start to see any kind of significant reduction in the number tube driver numbers. After that it may even actually creep up again in the period before the Northern (or part of it) or Jubilee Line become candidates for possible UTO treatment.

How soon?

The latest TfL document, mentioned above, suggests that the Piccadilly Line upgrade will not be complete until 2025. Given that UTO cannot commence until platform doors are installed and platform doors cannot be installed until the all the previous generation of trains have been retired from service this means that UTO, if implemented, will only happen towards the very end of the project. With even the possibility of UTO thus at least ten years away, it would seem that any debate on the finer details would be somewhat premature. The simple fact is that next London mayor, even if he completes two full terms in office, is unlikely to be proudly travelling on the first unstaffed passenger service on the London Underground.

Incentives to Introduce UTO

Whilst the whole issue has become politicised, one can envisage other considerations that would encourage London Underground to go down the UTO route and to seek the mayor’s endorsement. The obvious first one is cost saving. A tube train driver currently earns around £46,000 per annum which, with pension contributions and National Insurance, means a cost to London Underground of at least £60,000 per person, per annum. As a rough guide, one probably needs around four drivers per train to ensure a driver is available through the week for each train in service during peak hours. For the Piccadilly Line with an expected order of over 100 trains there are thus clearly potential cost savings of around £24m per annum on this one line alone.

Some politicians clearly feel bitter, and they feel that the drivers are unduly enriched due to the unions and the threat of strikes, but even without the unions we live in a capitalistic world where you have to pay the going rate to get the staff that you want. Over the years shift work has become less popular, but London’s increasingly 24-hour society needs more people working unsocial hours. This means, inevitably, such jobs attract premiums as does the fact that the training course for a tube driver is long (and therefore expensive) and companies generally want to keep staff that cannot quickly be replaced. With the emotion stripped from the debate, the simple fact is that pay for a tube driver is on par with drivers working on the overground suburban railway – but with the disadvantage for the tube drivers that some or all of their productive time is spent in tunnels, something which makes the job less pleasant for many.

The above considerations mean that London Underground has to worry about the wage bill spiralling or, worse still, being unable to attract sufficient drivers. Things in this area will only get worse when Crossrail opens. Already we are seeing mainline freight train drivers (typically working night shifts) able to earn up to £70,000 per annum and there is still a shortage. Their high pay is not down them holding their employers and customers to ransom but simply the law of supply and demand taking effect.

Lowering cost, of course, is not the only operational benefit of UTO. With the human element removed if one gets an unexpected extra flow of traffic one can simply calls up more trains – without worrying about meal reliefs, how many hours the driver has already worked or how they get back to their home station without exceeding their hours – or the fact that there are no drivers available. For the customer, the reduced running costs of operating UTO may generate specific benefits. It could swing the balance when deciding whether or not to run a marginal service or to increase the frequency of an existing off-peak service. It has to be said though that many people say that they feel uncomfortable with the idea of travelling on a train with no staff on board even if they don’t think twice about using lifts or unstaffed airport shuttle trains.

The time is not now

We offer no opinions as to whether UTO will happen. Neither will be be drawn on whether it should happen. All we can say is that, if the policy is implemented and progressed, it won’t happen any time soon – the work of decades not just years.

It is not just the case that there are future Tube drivers who haven’t been born yet. In fact it is quite possible there are future Tube drivers whose parents haven’t been born yet. This is a perspective well worth remembering when watching the theatre of the driverless debate.


The information about early proposals for UTO comes from the book “The Aldwych Branch” jointly written by those stalwarts of tube history, Antony Badsey-Ellis and Mike Horne. Our thanks also go to the London Transport Museum for allowing us to use their photos. The cover photo, by Hitomi Kai Yoda, shows Yuri Suzuki’s etched tube map circuit board (and working radio).

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There are 460 comments on this article
  1. Tim Burns says:

    Boarding a train on Paris metro line 1 for the first time with no driver at the front, is a bit unnerving. But this passes and it is pretty neat watching the trains pass yours, all with passengers at the front, not a cab.

    So how would this translate to public opinion in London? Would sections of the tabloid press whip up public angst before a UTO train has even left the station? It will need some careful news management by TfL, to ensure that public opinion is onside. Perhaps doing a public evacuation exercise?

  2. Malcolm says:

    Perhaps slight care is needed, in view of some inflammatory things that have been said. But surely the novelty of no-one in the driving seat has already worn off for most Londoners, who will have made at least occasional trips on the DLR. Yes, there are of course many differences, but none of them too obvious at first glance.

  3. Mark Townend says:

    I don’t quite see Mike Hornes point that train captains are a particularly bad idea. Their old fashioned equivalents, guards, were rather controversial when removed, perhaps more so than might drivers be now. Whilst the driver is obviously visible on an incoming train, there’s otherwise no direct interaction with the passenger except announcements and intervention in case of delay or emergency, which in a future scenario could just as easily and perhaps more effectively come from a captain/guard, or a distant control room. A staff presence in the passenger cabins could provide some welcome sense of security too, especially at quiet times, although is less use for that in the peak crowding scenario.

    Whilst driving a train between stations is a task ideal for automation, the riskier element is the dispatch operation at stations. Doors and platforms can be equipped with ever more sensors, barriers and interlocks, but it is a brave organisation that totally eschews human supervision of all this complex machinery at each departure event. There are many actors who can perform such supervision: driver, guard, platform dispatcher, station control room operator, line controller. An otherwise totally automatic train could receive a ‘right away’ signal from any one of these. The logistics are quite daunting though if you try to do it all centrally with many controllers required to authorise departures every few seconds. Perhaps it is better to distribute the task and configure new systems so any such actor (those that remain) can technically dispatch the train, varying the method actually used based on specific station characteristics, time of day etc. So one could rely on platform dispatchers in busy central stations during the peak and daytimes, with train captains performing the task at suburban outposts. With platform dispatch in the defined central core, train captains could turn back at the boundaries during the peak whilst continuing on board through off-peak to help provide security and assistance, and allow some of the platform dispatchers to be withdrawn at those times.

  4. peezedtee says:

    It’s not only Paris. I have travelled on staffless automatic metros in Lille, Turin and Kuala Lumpur. Nobody appeared particularly unnerved.

  5. stimarco says:

    It’s also worth pointing out that the DLR stock is not articulated throughout, but comprises multiple coupled articulated pairs of units. There is only an emergency door between each pair of units, and they’re clearly not designed to be used while in transit.

    If you need the Passenger Service Agent (or Train Captain, or whatever they’re called today), and they’re in another unit, you’ll have to wait until the next stop. To all intents and purposes then, a DLR train is only partially staffed.

    I think this is as much a question of psychology as it is about staffing or reducing unnecessary costs. Nobody thinks twice about taking a lift unaided – despite the fact that these, too, used to be staffed originally.

    However, the key point here is that full computer control of the system would let you do things with the trains that wouldn’t normally be possible (or would require major surgery to the trains and / or signalling) today.

    For example, fully automated coupling and uncoupling would be a given. With the right signalling software and hardware, you could also divert trains down one track while you maintained the other at night. Such software could also work in reverse: if a train fails, or is stuck, then another train can be coupled to it to fetch its passengers (while bringing an engineering team) and bring them to the nearest station.

    (Incidentally, if the walkways thing really is an issue, a potential solution would be to fill in the gaps between the rails and make the trackbed itself the walkway.)

  6. Mark Townend says:

    A Centre track level walkway is difficult with the present 4-rail setup. Perhaps the central traction rail might be moved elsewhere within the tunnel envelope, if conversion to running rail return remains unacceptable.

  7. @Mark Townend,

    You totally miss Mike Horne’s point. His argument is that if you are going to retain staff to close doors and dispatch trains then these should either be on the platform or in an enclosed cab. A platform is better for Mk1 eyeball visibility and a raised area can be provided to improve this further. This can be supplemented by monitors. Alternatively keep the cab so that the driver of the train can view the monitors properly. Remember DLR trains are slightly shorter than Underground trains, although only marginally shorter than “C” stock, and DLR platforms are straight so having a Train Captain dispatch a train on the DLR is not so much of a challenge.

    Mike Horne stated that if there was an issue with retaining a staff presence then that person could be retained on the train for an emergency but it would still be better to dispatch the train from the platform in the absence of a cab as attempting to do this on crowded underground trains on curved platforms below the surface using a Train Captain was a particularly bad idea. That is why he says a Train Captain (by implication and analogy with the DLR a person who oversees closing the doors from within a carriage) is the worst of all options.

    I have to admit I personally struggle to see how having a Train Captain is workable. I can’t see how you can allow passengers to use the same door as him/her on a crowded tube train but if you designate it for the Train Captain’s use only you are going to increase dwell time which is absolutely crucial these days.

  8. timbeau says:

    “Apart from [Woodford Hainault], the first passenger-carrying ATO train on the Underground ran on the Victoria Line in 1968 ”

    Not strictly true – the very first ATO train in passenger service was in April 1963 on the District Line at Stamford Brook – see page 3
    Only after the technology had been proved was the 1960 stock converted to ATO to work the shuttle as a larger-scale test-bed

  9. @Mark Townend,

    On a re-read of you comment and reading the second paragraph properly I realise that I jumped the gun after the first paragraph. In reality it just comes down to semantics. You got the point. But if the the person involved is normally doing nothing for a long period of time they are probably not a Train Captain in the sense that I (or Mike Horne) would understand.

  10. @Timbeau,

    Yes, that slipped my mind. I have slightly altered the wording to say something closer to what I really meant. In the context of this article the Stamford Brook experiment was pretty irrelevant because the guard remained on the train so it didn’t contribute to staff savings although obviously it was an important stepping stone to future changes.

  11. Fandroid says:

    I think Mark Townend’s ‘horses for courses’ analysis is about right. There is a world of difference between train dispatch in the peak in a central underground station and the same activity in the late evening far out in the suburbs. Why does one size have to fit all?

    Most platforms are staffed in the peak in those central underground stations (presumably based on a risk assessment), so upgrading those staff members from being just amplified voices to being safety-critical dispatchers makes a huge amount of sense.

    In the comments on the previous Piccadilly article it was discussed at length how rescue might happen with an automated system. That boils down to a staff availability issue. With station staff in the central underground zones trained in train rescue (and larger numbers present there) , then it just needs one to jump aboard the next automated train, evacuate it and then to supervise the nosing up to the stranded one and the transfer of passengers. Even possible with no power if the trains have the battery back-up capability previously mentioned.

    If passengers find it odd to have no driver (TOp), then they could be gently phased out. Initially, put them in the front car at the front, very visible but doing sweet FA. The press will then quickly say ‘What are these overpaid etc etc people doing at fare-payers’ expense?’ Within a month there will be a media campaign to move them on (and Boris can say ‘I listened to the travelling public and acted accordingly’).

  12. Mark Townend says:


    An operator encapsulated within a cab on an automated railway, although possibly an ideal dispatch agent, is clearly not engaged in any traditional driving activity between stations, yet can’t do anything else either. Many would say that’s very poor value as the journey time between stations presumably constitutes the majority of a typical shift. A platform dispatcher by contrast can at least help to inform and supervise passengers between dispatches, as can a train captain, although I agree the latter would’t be able to dispatch practically in many cases, especially during very busy periods and at those severely curved platforms. I wonder whether dispatch performance on DLR has been affected significantly by the recent train lengthening to 3 units.

  13. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Mark T – I’ve used a few fully automatic metro lines and your question about who does the dispatching has made me ponder who does do it. I haven’t see any staff on the platform on Paris lines 1 and 14, nor in Lille on the VAL or on the North East / Circle lines in Singapore. I have seen roving staff *on* the Singapore Circle Line trains though but only doing what looked like security / customer service duties. I’ve blithely assumed that the computer just decides when to initiate the dispatch process and people have to ensure they comply or else be clobbered by the closing platform doors! I suspect that approach would not pass scrutiny in the UK nor with the very high loadings that London has coupled with many stations with narrow platforms. Newer systems like Singapore tend to have large, open island platforms with few obstructions thus giving plenty of circulation space and making CCTV surveillance easy.

    Generally the concept of UTO doesn’t bother me unduly except in Lille. I think it was the small size of the trains in Lille, the lack of access between cars and the very plasticky interior that made me wonder what on earth happened in the event of a fire. The counterpoint in Lille is that the service is extremely frequent.

    I do feel that LU will have quite a job in convincing Londoners that UTO will work on the Tube. I think concerns about evacuation in the event of a breakdown or fire will be the primary concerns (and fire is certainly one of my concerns). I fully expect the local media to be facing in both directions at the same time – ranting on about the evils of drivers going on strike while fretting endlessly about passengers being roasted alive if there were to be a fire on a train.

  14. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Fandroid – have I missed the press campaign to abolish train captains on the DLR? Your description could readily apply to a fair proportion of train captains who simply control the doors and do little else. Revenue checks are next to impossible given peak loadings. DLR trains could readily dispatch themselves if programmed to do so (I accept there would be a number of safety certificate (the legal paperwork) issues to address before this change could be introduced).

  15. Fandroid says:

    @WW. I thought the initial reason for ‘Train Captains’ was to have a staff presence at all times. Having decided that, they took the decision that there were more stations than trains, so it was cheaper to staff the trains! The reverse may be true now, but c’est la vie. The key thing is to have that staff presence, for reassurance and to deal with disruptions and emergencies. With no station staff, the trains are the obvious places for them, whatever they keep themselves busy with.

    As the outer Underground stations are to be only thinly staffed, I think it might be too much to ask a single person to deal with possible passenger issues outside the barrier and train dispatch as well. Better to have an on-board person to do that, and to provide the assistance in an emergency. (Given that station staff should not leave their stations unstaffed, especially during disruptions).

  16. Tim Burns says:

    On Paris Metro lines 1 and 14 in the rush hour, I have not been able to suss whether there are some clever sensors that tell the system “close the doors now and let’s get going” or whether the dwell time is considered “up”, the beeper sounds and woe betide anyone caught in the way. Even in crush conditions, the travelling public recognise the door beeper going, respect it and get out of the way. The platforms are all unstaffed though they do have edge doors and lots of CCTV. Trains also have CCTV in the carriages and the Control Room can speak direct to every train’s PA. No doubt TfL would have to do the same.

    The only time in Paris I saw someone with part of a coat trapped in the door was on a manually driven line. The Metro drivers can be pretty brutal about pressing the door buzzer, even when people have not yet finished getting off, never mind started to get on. Somehow it all works.

    No doubt, tube dwellers in London would also adapt to UTO if it comes. Getting the public onside is crucial and probably no one will notice. Also having robust and tested incident handling procedures will also be key.

  17. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Just to be clear, my earlier comments were based on the premise of
    if you believe that there has to be a human element involved in train dispatch then …“. I believe it is normally the case that this is just done automatically. I am pretty sure that is how it works in Paris on Ligne 1 and Ligne 14 and in fact I suspect it is the case on other lines in Paris even though they do have a driver.

    I was not suggesting in the article that there would be human involvement in dispatching with UTO (if introduced) on the Underground. To me this seems to entirely defeat the whole point of it. And the reason for all the fail-safe technology based around the platform train interface I understood was because there would be no human intervention so it had to work reliably and it had to detect when there was a problem.

    All I was trying to say is if you believe it is necessary to have human intervention then it is better to have it done by platform staff than by a train captain. I take Mark’s (and others’) point that if one requires trains to be dispatched by humans then at times when a particular station is lightly used and the train is not crowded then providing sight lines are acceptable and/or monitors are available it may be appropriate for the train captain to dispatch the train. I am pretty certain that is how it will work between Rayners Lane and Uxbridge.

  18. ASLEF shrugged says:

    Stimarco –

    “divert trains down one track while you maintained the other at night”. This would need crossovers in both directions, in the case of the Central Line there aren’t any between White City and Leytonstone, I would imagine the same problem exists on the other deep level lines.

    “if a train fails, or is stuck, then another train can be coupled to it to fetch its passengers (while bringing an engineering team) and bring them to the nearest station” – that’s standard procedure except it’s done manually as ATP/ATO won’t allow it. The wisdom of enabling a UTO train to disobey signals telling it that it too close to the train ahead is questionable and certain raises a few safety issues.

    And you certainly don’t fully couple a “healthy” train to a faulty one, the fault can pass from one to another and then you end up with a double length dud.

  19. Greg Tingey says:

    Tim Burns
    (In Paris) Even in crush conditions, the travelling public recognise the door beeper going, respect it and get out of the way
    But, in London, LUL assumes that every single member of the public is a moron with an IQ marginally larger than their shoe size … so that, not only do we have “beepers” we are shouted/bellowed at to “Stand clear of the closing doors” time, after time after time ….

    More on-topic, I think the problem is the one we’ve mentioned before … most of the UndergrounD is pretty old, with many curved platforms. I suspect that our safety rules would mandate platform-edge doors for UTO. And that is going to be difficult (to say the least) to implement on a pre-existing “heritage” system.
    Also, how, without drivers, do you avoid a fatality when an incident like the recent one @ Finchley Rd, where a child fell off the edge, just as the train was about to start?
    [ And the driver saw in time & stopped the train ]
    That & “jumpers” of course ….
    Which brings one back to ped’s in open-air stations &* vulnerability to weather & shoehorning them into truly underground stations, which are overcrowded already.
    How to square the circle?

  20. @Greg,

    Also, how, without drivers, do you avoid a fatality when an incident like the recent one @ Finchley Rd, where a child fell off the edge, just as the train was about to start?

    By using moveable plates to bridge the gap so that there is no gap between the platform and the train with a combination of reliable sensors interlocked with the train control system so that no harm can come to anyone. One of the reasons it gets so expensive.

    This is where perception comes in. The reduction of risk to “jumpers” and people who are pushed onto the track for whatever reason – generally by people with mental health issues – would be far, far greater so a massive overall safety benefit just by introducing platform edge doors. But incidents like the one you describe are deemed wholly unacceptable and the “overall benefit” argument won’t wash with members of the public so the implementation has to be done to a really high safety standard.

    If someone does get on the track for whatever reason there is nothing one can do. But remember the DLR is far worse in this respect and that does have a member of staff onboard. And there was an incident some years ago where, if I recall correctly, members of one gang pushed a member of another gang onto the train at Shadwell as the train was entering the platform and he was killed.

  21. BrizCommuter says:

    Re: train dispatching on UTO systems.
    Most driverless/UTO systems do not have dispatching by humans, it is performed automatically by the system after a set dwell time (which may be modified “on the fly” by the control computer due to late running, or trains being held ahead). However, humans in the control centre or platform may override if required – e.g large school group boarding.

    What is fairly unknown is how are trains are dispatched when being taken out of service (“tipping out” in LU terms). I’d be interested to know how this is performed on UTO systems. Certainly, I know that on Paris Line 14 trains trains are not necessarily checked to be empty before being taken out of service – there is a video on You Tube of a passenger being taken into the sidings. The passenger had to call the help intercom, and the train had to be put back into service.

  22. Ig says:

    the link in the long term UTO para has an extra ”

    [Thanks. Fixed. You wouldn’t believe the problems I have with those quotes.
    Or maybe you would.

  23. Moleman says:


    the reason LU are so preachy on “move away from the doors” is that people DO leap in, force them, trip out the trains causing havoc on a tightly regulated system. its a real problem, perhaps commuters are a bit thick? (mind you I’ve done it my self and felt stupid as i wiggle out of decidedly closed set of doors)

  24. Mark Townend says:


    Without platform edge doors or gates throughout and taking into account open air sections where complete segregation cannot be reasonably guaranteed, perhaps automated trains should have some sort of forward scanning radar or other sensor system on board that could detect unexpected incursions and initiate evasive braking, as envisaged for autonomous road vehicles.

    As you say, installing PEDs at severely curved narrow platforms is likely to be difficult and might remove much of the standing room on the platform in some cases. With large gaps remaining between platform and train on these curves some pretty comprehensive sensor scanning will be neccessary to ensure no-one is left trapped in the gaps or behind the screens before departure and the main reason I am so concerned about the supervision aspect is that even assuming the technical challenges can be overcome and fully automated door close scheduling and initiation can be achieved, operational performance recovery will largely depend on the speed of human reaction to investigate and override anything picked up by the sensors that could prevent subsequent departure. Sensors will detect minor incursions such as trapped clothing and luggage and equally may fail safe detecting objects that were not really there or were removed at the last split second. If someone, somewhere is required to at least supervise each departure and react to any alarm, the closer that responsible human is to the train platform interface, the quicker the intervention can be made.

  25. Greg Tingey says:

    Yes, it all comes down to costs & “benefits” again, doesn’t it?

    Sorry, but this is a sore point & I don’t agree.
    We managed perfectly well, without all the verbal bullying form 1863 until about 2003.
    Off-topic, really so I will say no more.

  26. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – as Moleman has said there is a cultural thing in London whereby people (myself included) react as if the train in the platform is the last train to ever run so they *must* catch it. Unless it is actually the last train of the day then it’s a stupid attitude but it is a “London thing”. The other factor these days is that services are typically much more frequent *and* reliable than in the 70s and 80s when missing a train might mean a 10 or 12 mins wait (anyone remember the x12 service to Walthamstow on Sundays on the Vic Line?). People’s attitudes, perceptions and actions with regard to leaping through closing doors need to readjust to the current time.

    I know you love a good rant about PA messages on LU but the risks around the platform / train interface are real and major. I would venture to suggest that the average passenger has no idea about the risk they may be exposed to if only a couple of small things happen. Reminding people to take care is sensible if it stops people being killed and injured. The alternative is that we shut certain stations immediately on safety grounds. No one would have invented railways with open edge platforms if they’d understood the risks of death and injury from the interaction of people, trains and those platforms as we understand them today. LU is legally bound to manage those risks effectively.

    Conversely Parisians are all too aware that the doors on Metro trains are vicious and drivers do not reopen them so you simply do not dice with them. RER stock is a bit different – you have to be aware that the doors release before trains stop so the trick is not to fall out on to the platform if you’re holding the release handle / pressing the button. It’s almost as if the French have deliberately designed in “the edge of death and injury” to their train door systems so people know not to muck around with them. 😉 No offence meant to any French train system designers who may be reading!

  27. @BrizCommuter,

    That brings back memories. I was a member of a party being shown around Ligne 14. I asked a question about procedures and time taken to turn trains around at the termini. Our guide said when we visit the line we will stay on the train and and you can see for yourself. So we stayed on.

    Two things impressed me. One was the sheer speed of the reverse. We stopped in the siding for 15 seconds maximum whilst the set of points changed before heading for the “pick up” platform. The other was the rapid acceleration. As the system believed there were no passengers on board there was no need for it to be restricted to girly-mode acceleration.

    You writing about it reminds me of a third thing that happened. I think we actually got off the train and then our host rang the control centre first to make absolutely sure we weren’t getting on a train that would sit in the siding for hours. Only then did we board again. But as others have mentioned, in Paris you have to look out for yourself and the people quickly learn not to do silly things like stay on the train at the terminus.

  28. Graham H says:

    @WW – I suspect that Londoners’ impatience is of a piece with the shrinking headway for Turn up and Go.

    @PoP – I thought that the Parisian drivers’ “viciousness” was surpassed, if anything, by the Moscow drivers – maybe that’s how they provided (allegedly*) a 50 tph service.

    BTW, there’s a pleasant story about one Parisian driver, in the days of the Sprague stock, who couldn’t be bothered to walk the length of the train at the terminus and had developed the technique of setting the controls to the first notch as the front cab reached the end of the platform, disembarking, letting the train run on into the “tiroir” and then reboarding the rear cab as it came alongside, and then bringing the train to a halt. Only, one day, the rear cab was locked…

    *Whatever the Soviet period claims, my current Moscow metro guide mentions only 2 minute headways.

  29. Tim Burns says:

    @BrizCommuter During the rush hour at the St Lazare terminus of Line 14, the boarding platform for the journey south east cane experience crush conditions. I have observed many times canny commuters boarding at the alighting platform and happily sit in the sidings, only to gaze at the oncoming crush from the relative comfort of a seat. Control must be aware of it, but the authorities just seem to let it happen. London, I suspect, would be very different.

  30. Ian Sergeant says:

    Good article which stays well clear of the emotions involved with the subject. However, some of the English makes me thinks of Star Wars: “to be proudly travelling”, “gotten approval” (been granted?), “would not consistently stop”.

  31. @Ian,

    I plead guilty on two counts and will attempt not to repeat the offence but “gotten” was definitely an editorial change as I would never have used that word. I must consult the London Reconnections style guide and see if I can find the relevant paragraph so I can confront John Bull on the issue.

  32. Kim says:

    Not sure the East London Line would have been early candidate for UTO given all the inter-regional frieght carried in the pre-and post-war years.

  33. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Tim Burns,

    Not if you believe this clip. Sorry, couldn’t resist referencing it again.

  34. timbeau says:

    Star Trek, not Wars, is surely the one guilty of boldly splitting inifinitives?

    @Tim Burns
    in the old days of the ELL, I have heard of people backtracking via Shoreditch to avoid the crush at Whitechapel

  35. Melvyn says:

    It seems the first problem with UTO on existing lines is getting from here to there if the first requirement is to install PEDs to let’s say 70 platforms a job that is unlikely to be possible overnight or even a Christmas to new year closure !

    While installing PEDs while existing service runs raises the question as to whether gaps for UTO train door openings will align with existing trains and if not then some or even all doors may be inaccessible at some stations.

    Ironically the best line for UTO is the Victoria Line which with the exception of depot access has stations all underground and straight enough to overcome sighting problems so perhaps TFL should look at new UTO trains for the Victoria Line with walkthrough carriages like S Stock trains which is the only way our small gauge tube trains could have roving train captain option. The new Victoria line trains could then be transferred to the Bakerloo Line allowing that line to get new trains decades earlier than presently planned !

    As for the Central Line its main problem apart from the massive gap at Bank Station caused by the platforms curvature which forms no plans for action in major Bank Station upgrade is how close its running tunnels have been built leading to stations with narrow platforms which PEDs would make almost impossible to use . So first job would be to construct a new running tunnel along original CLR with station upgrades allowing escalators and lifts to all platforms , with similar work needed along other sections of other lines where space constraints apply !

    It was said the biggest mistake with the jubilee line extension was connecting it to the historic network so as a starter someone should look at costs and problems of expanding current PEDs to cover all stations on jubilee line stating with new section Baker Street to Westminster .

    It’s just a pity London media do not challenge Mayor Boris on this but his one of their own and so is let to get away with saying anything he wants !

  36. Tim Burns says:

    @pop thanks. Tres amusant.
    @timbeau I can believe it. Wonder if such a things goes on anywhere elseoin London’s network?

  37. Graham H says:

    @Tim Burns – certainly used to be worth travelling south from Waterloo to get a Kennington starter on a bad day…

  38. Pedantic of Purley says:


    While installing PEDs while existing service runs raises the question as to whether gaps for UTO train door openings will align with existing trains and if not then some or even all doors may be inaccessible at some stations.

    This was covered in the previous article on the subject. There is no question to raise. The doors won’t align.

    – gradually introduce new stock which has a rudimentary cab until sufficient to remove last of old the stock
    – install PEDs
    – once all PEDs are installed remove cabs and run UTO if required

    On the subject of the best line to convert, well, the pressing need is to replace the Piccadilly Line trains before they start having unacceptable levels of failures. Any plan has to solve this issue first. Although it is ten years away, a lot of design and planning work has already been done and any change of plan would only delay things further. So if one ignores business cases and BCRs and all those sorts of boring things that get in the way of coming to the conclusion we want to achieve, yes, the Victoria Line would probably be the easiest to convert first. But what would you gain? It should be running 34tph in the peaks from next April as it is and there are plans to get it up to 36tph. A lot of disruption for minimal increase in capacity. What would be the point in doing it?

    @Tim Burns,

    I confess to having once resorted to travelling from Victoria to Pimlico to catch a northbound train when I needed to make my journey as quickly as possible. I felt guilty because it is an anti-social thing to do. If people start doing things like that then that indicates it is time to temporarily close the platforms to people arriving from the ticket hall which is what normally happens on LU.


    I wasn’t suggesting UTO only DOO for the East London Line but I had completely overlooked the fact that the line was used for freight. Was this still the case though under London Transport ownership? And what happened to the freight at the northern end?

  39. The other Paul says:

    When we were commenting on the last article I started writing a response and realised it would probably impinge into the political territory you’d requested everyone not to. So I saved the text until now 🙂

    You mentioned the BCR for standalone UTO schemes being a bit rubbish and I’m inclined to agree. However I think the trouble is, once you accept the sequence of work required (train replacement, signalling replacement, then UTO including PED installation), UTO on the Picc becomes a detachable and effectively standalone project anyway. And once you look at that, the BCR for UTO on a service with more stations and long branches is going to be less attractive than for a service with fewer stations and higher average service intensity.

    The BCR for a UTO scheme must largely depend on operational cost savings that are more or less directly proportional to train mileage (i.e. not having to pay drivers). However the capital cost of the UTO scheme, including PEDs, will be rather more proportional to the track mileage and number of stations served. So UTO is going to have the best BCR where there’s the highest (envisaged) train mileage on the shortest length of track with the fewest stations, which I think leads us straight to the Victoria, or maybe the Jubilee where that ratio isn’t as good but the capital cost is additionally offset by the presence of some PEDs already.

    I guess the counter to my argument, which you’ve now hinted at, is that if you detach UTO from the end of the Picc upgrade you have to run your 36 or more tph at the higher operational cost – that’s a 50% hike in train miles with all the extra drivers you need to pay to run that. So maybe it’s easier to justify in the form of avoiding operational costs not yet on the books rather than reducing operational costs already being incurred.

    Or maybe UTO is being touted now as it helps the overall business case for the Picc upgrade, but when it comes to it it’ll be quietly dropped as at that point it’ll be easier to hire a few extra drivers than to navigate the political issues and pay to install all the PEDs and other UTO gear.

  40. timbeau says:

    “the line was used for freight. Was this still the case though under London Transport ownership? And what happened to the freight at the northern end?”
    According to Wikipedia (usual health warnings apply) freight used the line until 1962: at the northern end it used the connection at Shoreditch (lifted in 1966) and reversed in Liverpool Street (GER and successors)
    Undated, but F stock did not appear on the line until the 1950s.

  41. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Melvyn – the 09 stock is line bound due to its profile (this from an informed source). To move the stock to a new line would (almost certainly) require each train to be dismantled and transferred by road and then be reassembled. I wonder if it could run on the Bakerloo Line and there would be some fun and games north of Queens Park on the NR section.

    It is relatively straightforward to install PEDs on working lines provided you’re confident about door spacing (as PoP says) and if your platform structures are strong enough to take the extra weight and you’ve got adequate power supplies. Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo show this can be done – either full height or half height doors. To be fair though most of these operations have relatively new assets (compared to LU) and good asset management processes / knowledge.

    I remain of the view that things like platform strength are a significant issue for the Picc Line upgrade which could mean strengthening or reconstruction work being needed. Once you touch them you then get into the issue of providing level access unless a waiver can be agreed with the DfT. This is because you’d trigger legal and standards compliance.

    I simply can’t see the Central Line tunnels being reconstructed at Bank. Land ownership in the area is not an easy issue and that’s before you get to whether there is any business case for such work compared to other alternatives.

    In terms of the Vic Line then not every platform is straight. Kings Cross n/b has a slight curve and Finsbury Park is humped and not entirely straight. Something is rattling round in my brain that PEDs were seriously considered for the Vic Line upgrade but were dismissed.

    @ PoP – don’t feel wracked with guilt about going backwards to go forwards. Regular Vic Line tactic at Blackhorse Rd with people blagging seats on nb AM peak trains and travelling back southbound. Given at the very height of the peak trains leave full and standing from Walthamstow it’s understandable if you value comfort over a longer journey time.

  42. The other Paul says:

    Also @PoP, if the BCR for the Picc upgrade depends on running 36tph without the requisite increase in driver headcount, one could still achieve this by installing UTO on the Victoria and transferring the displaced drivers to the Piccadilly. The BCR should be better because installing for UTO on the Victoria will cost less than the Piccadilly (fewer, simpler stations) but the operational savings in terms of driver salaries should be similar, and the cost of training drivers for a different route is fairly insignificant.

  43. Malcolm says:

    @otherPaul. You could be right, but your comment reads a bit as if you are thinking of drivers as a sort of “resource” which can be pushed around at will. Actually they are people, and the human cost of requiring drivers, and in many cases their families, to uproot from say Walthamstow to say Northfield, should not be neglected.
    It may be that I am overstating the case a bit: they would not be the first or only case of workers being required to move, but this is the sort of thing which would tend to mean that the currently allegedly dire state of tube staff industrial relations would tend to stay dire.

  44. Malcolm says:

    I think Pop’s guilt (which I would share) is connected with Kant’s categorical imperative: “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” If everyone took up “reculer pour mieux sauter”, it would be entirely self-defeating.

  45. Graham H says:

    @Malcolm – too much existentialist angst here; Better the Miltonian* approach: “Necessity and chance approach not me, and what I will is fate.

    *Not M Clevedonensis, of course…

  46. stimarco says:


    All those innovations in the field of self-driving cars we’ve been hearing about recently? There’s absolutely no reason at all why the exact same technology wouldn’t work at least as well – and probably better – for physically guided vehicles too.

    And that technology is already in the physical prototype stage today. I couldn’t begin to guess what’ll be on the streets come 2025 or 2030.

    There’d be no conventional signalling on a fully-automated railway at all. The software is the signalling. It’ll still be interlocked, but all that interlocking is virtual, and much more flexible. Even timetables for the network could be generated automatically.

    Many labour-intensive tricks of the past suddenly become viable again too, such as splitting and joining trains at junctions, for example. But that’s just the beginning. During quieter periods, you could improve connectivity by effectively creating interchange stations out of the trains themselves. (E.g. “This is a Hammersmith & City service to Barking. Passengers for Circle Line services should move to the rear four cars of the train, which will detach after Liverpool Street.”)

    Get the design and spec right and you can go way beyond any conventional metro system. I could go on for ages, but I’ve procrastinated enough for today.

  47. Jimweibo says:

    One of my all-time favourite subway experiences took place years ago on the Yonge line in Toronto, which then (and now) had both a driver and a guard on every train. I was sitting in the carriage that had the guard. At one stop, just as the doors were closing, a guy in a suit (a lawyer, I’m guessing) ran up to the train and jammed his briefcase between the doors, then stood smugly waiting for the guard to open up and let him in. Instead the guard came out of his cubby hole, booted the briefcase out of the doors, went back to his cubby hole and signalled the driver to start the train. THAT’s why you need staff on trains!!

  48. Milton Clevedon says:

    @Graham H 19/1 19:55
    The danger with transport policy is in being blind to so many things…
    It is nevertheless possible to make topics shine, but that’s a Meltonian approach.

  49. stimarco says:

    @Walthamstow Writer:

    I had a look at the DLR on a cab-view video* and noticed the re-sited South Quay station has a pronounced hump too. Don’t the regulations require new platforms to be flat and straight, or is there some leeway?

    * (On YouTube. Lewisham – Bank, if memory serves. The Deptford Creek area seems to be getting some regeneration love at last.)

  50. Anonymous Cow says:

    Regarding road vehicle automation improvements: note that what’s good enough for one car with at most five people (and usually one) is not necessarily good enough for a train with up to a thousand passengers. And the comparison of spotting and stopping distances is far less favourable to a train than a one-ton car.

  51. Milton Clevedon says:

    @ Graham H
    Encouragingly, on the site of a former railway line you can find Syncoelasma clevedonensis. So possible the M. variety is still flourishing!

  52. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @The other Paul
    19 January 2014 at 18:34

    You are getting far too focused on UTO. And anyway UTO is not inevitable. I keep repeating myself but you seem to have overlooked the fundamental trigger for this upgrade – the trains on the Piccadilly need replacing. If you haven’t addressed that issue then everything else is just moonshine.

    And before you come up with a plan to move stock around, the only lines with anything like enough trains are the Central and the Northern. In both cases you are solving nothing and are just moving the problem to a different line. Oh, and the Victoria Line probably has less than half the number of trains required for the Piccadilly Line. They also can’t run on the Piccadilly Line due to the tight curves – probably the ones at South Kensington. We know this because one of the original plans was to deliver the 09 stock to Northumberland Park via the Piccadilly Line but they couldn’t because it fouled the gauge on the tight curves. Yes the curves could be eased but that would be expensive and disruptive.

  53. Ian J says:

    @WW: there is a cultural thing in London whereby people (myself included) react as if the train in the platform is the last train to ever run so they *must* catch it”

    I actually think that is a universal human behaviour thing. On the Paris metro many years ago, they had gates at the entry to platforms that closed as each train came into the platform, so as to stop latecomers rushing for the train and causing delays. I think they were removed because people hated them: it was so frustrating being prevented from boarding a train you could see right in front of you on the platform.

    Incidentally automated turn-around of trains in Paris also happens at the southern end of Line 13, showing that unattended operation of trains in non-revenue service (eg. the Victoria Line depot moves) could be introduced separately to full UTO.

    @Mark Townend: some pretty comprehensive sensor scanning will be neccessary to ensure no-one is left trapped in the gaps or behind the screens before departure

    The tricky bit will be making the sensors sensitive enough to detect when, say, a small child has got stuck, but not so sensitive that every abandoned crisp packet, or build-up of snow, or deliberately placed item by the local delinquents, stops the service. This has proven an issue with the new level crossing obstacle detection systems being introduced by Network Rail. Nothing insoluble, but it will take time to get it right.

    @stimarco: Don’t the regulations require new platforms to be flat and straight, or is there some leeway?

    The Rail Group Standards based on the European TSIs only require platforms to be flat on high speed lines, or where trains terminate, reverse, or are split and joined. Curved platforms are allowed but the tightness of curve allowed depends on the particular circumstances.

  54. Malcolm says:

    So I suppose the trains came by road? Where’s me crayons? What about building a crossover between Victoria and Northern-City lines at Highbury and Islington? Might be on a bit of a slope perhaps?…

  55. Anonymous says:

    @stimarco: You’re placing far too much faith in computers. They’re great at doing what they’re told, but rubbish at coming up with ideas themselves. Think of how manufacturing has been automated: doing the exact same thing – for which they have unbelievably precise instructions – a billion times over and over. Not designing new cars.

    The idea that they can design optimal timetables is quite literally a classic mathematical problem from the 19th century:

    Figure out how to solve that, and you’ll be rich far beyond what TfL could afford to pay you.

  56. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Take off your mathematician’s hat an put on one an engineer’s one! Computers are NOT rubbish at “coming up with ideas themselves” in the context you mention. The travelling salesman problem is similar to the problem of how to get to A to B given a multitude of options (e.g. walking, buses, trams, trains, NR underground and any combination of these). Alternatively it is similar to the issue of driving from A to B on a road network where there are many possible routes. And do you know what? Millions of people rely on algorithms for these in computer programs to plan their journeys each day. And they are pretty good and often come up with ideas that humans don’t think of. I for one have dramatically changed the route of two journeys by public transport I sometimes make because these algorithms have produced a better answer than I could – and I used to work in a booking office.

    Running public transport or providing a solution to the travelling salesmen problem in real life does not need a mathematically perfect solution. It needs a “good enough” solution. The mathematical problem with these type of challenges is generally not the problem of finding the best solution. Pretty much most of the time computers can actually deliver. The mathematical problem is to prove that the solution you have found is the optimal one. But yes you are right, if you could prove this you would be very rich. The $1,000,000 millenium prize for solving this problem would just be for starters.

    The problem of not knowing you have the best solution can be very real in a transport environment but not in the context given.

    The real dragon that needs slaying is the issue of creating a timetable. Because a timetable is run daily and because tiny changes can save or incur quite large sums of money (typically because you need extra crew or an extra train) it is very important to optimise the timetable and for the National Rail timetable that is one of the biggest challenges the industry has – made worse by Thameslink and, in the future, Crossrail. Optimal crew rostering is almost as critical but often forgotten and of course the two can interact. Network Rail has teams of timetable planners (and computers) that come up with a good solution. The problem is, is it the best solution? In other words, if you timetabling section come up with a good solution but you don’t know it is the best solution do you accept the solution or pay the team large sums of money to see if they can tweak it? At what point does diminishing returns set in and the cost of the micro-fine tweaking exceed any savings it would have produced? More to the point, notice that this is an identical problem regardless of whether the process is done manually or by computers.

    Rant over.

  57. Tim Burns says:

    @Anon at 0207 That has been true up to now but things are beginning to change. IBM has just announced its “Watson” division to exploit the technology used to defeat humans in the “Jeopardy” US TV game show a few years back. Declared interest alert – I do work for IBM.

    The point about Watson is that absorbs information and then draws connections and new inferences. Hence, to some degree, it learns something new and then deploys that information in the task at hand.

    Whilst we are a long way from having this capability in, say, your smartphone or signalling cabin, it does show the way computing is going.

    New ideas from computers today? No. Tomorrow – who knows? The mind boggles how this sort of information could be used to run one line – or even a network. As Bachman Turner Overdrive once sang, “you ain’t seen nothing yet”!

  58. superlambanana says:

    “…next London mayor, even if he completes two full terms in office”

    I think Karren Brady, Diane Abbot, Margaret Hodge, Tessa Jowell, Oona King, and Siobhan Benita would all query your choice of preposition.

    [Yes, not ideal but difficult to reword without being a bit contorted. I will use the “he presumes he or she unless otherwise stated” excuse.PoP]

  59. superlambanana says:

    Pronoun. Must get a coffee.

  60. Castlebar says:

    Some sections of the Press will be in a bit of a dilemma over this.

    The section that would be pleased to destroy the Rail Unions, reduce costs etc etc, will also be the one that will fly the safety banner if it perceives there is any risk, and thus will be “anti” driverless trains if implemented by any Socialist administration. It will fly with the wind I think, so if implemented when a Boris type regime is in power, it will be “for it”, whereas if there is a regime of any different colour running the administration when it happens, it will be ‘against’ on the grounds of public safety, and they will suddenly be dangerous. The fact that it will have taken years of planning beforehand under a previous administration, will be overlooked.

    Interesting times thus lay ahead.

  61. Moleman says:

    The mayor has made this whole issue more difficult by suggesting it’s primarily about busting the unions. That’s a distraction, it will affect frontline staff but unattended operation is more about making the railway easier to run and more resiliant to disruption. Removing the need to have drivers at a particular place at a particular time and to change that as required is a massive hindrance. Boris and bob are both grandstanding.

  62. stimarco says:


    I’ve been in the IT industry since the 1980s. I know damned well what they can and cannot do. As I said, we can already do much of this stuff with automobiles, so why do you think railways would be exempt? I’m not proposing anything that the likes of Ford, Volvo, and a multitude of Personal Rapid Transit (“PRT”) researchers haven’t already proven in the real world.

    I therefore refer the honourable gentleman to Clarke’s Three Laws. As well as his fourth assertion: “For every expert, there is an equal and opposite expert”.

  63. Pseudonymous says:

    @PoP, 0248: I’m a software developer, not a mathematician! It seems like we actually agree, despite the argument. I’m just saying that ‘in five years we can throw away all humans and get computers to design an optimal system from scratch’ doesn’t and won’t hold up; not least because of the number of parameters you take for granted (gained from absorbing experience and trivia, all the while making subjective judgements thereon) that you have to somehow express to the system.

    Computer systems are brilliant at working within existing parameters, and tweaking (by brute force, if necessary) the existing, non-perfect, solutions. Ask them to run simulations based on a number of tweaks to non-human-obvious problems, and come up with a set of solutions that will optimise within the constraints given, and then have someone sanity-check the result.

    Which is what I believe already happens, and the best solution to the problem.

    @stimarco: PRTs, you’ll note, work exclusively as above: within existing parameters, attempting only tweaks around the edges with extremely well-defined criteria for ‘better’ (faster / most fuel-efficient / least overall expense including tolls). Moreover, those tweaks are entirely self-contained: one car taking a different route doesn’t have any kind of network or knock-on effect. The same cannot be said of generating a timetable from scratch.

  64. Fandroid says:

    I’ll back stimarco in that the carefully restrained and predictable environment in which the Tube runs makes up for additional numbers and risks compared with self-driving cars. Don’t forget that, even if cars only normally carry 5 max, they have the unrestrained potential to collide at speed (including head-on) with many other vehicles, including fully-loaded buses.

    As for obstacle detection systems, they only have to be as good as, or slightly more effective than, a driver. Even drivers cannot make trains stop instantaneously. The crisp packet problem will be solved. The technology is almost certainly already around.

  65. 1956 says:

    (Yes, not ideal but difficult to reword without being a bit contorted. I will use the “he presumes he or she unless otherwise stated” excuse. PoP).
    What about s/he ?

  66. stimarco says:

    @1956 (and others):

    There’s no need to invent a new pronoun or jump through hoops with other pronouns instead. We already have a suitable one:

    “…even if they complete(d) two full terms in office”.

  67. Graham H says:

    @stimarco – absolutely; far less clumsy; even if the purists claim it’s a plural pronoun applied to a singular subject, they are out of date…

  68. Anonymous says:

    For a reality check on “driverless” cars I recommend this article to all interested LR readers

  69. stimarco says:


    “I’m just saying that ‘in five years we can throw away all humans and get computers to design an optimal system from scratch’ doesn’t and won’t hold up”

    I have never made such a claim. I merely pointed out that computers can create timetables. I said nothing about what data would need to be provided to them first. Given that there is a lot of fixed infrastructure for any guided system, that infrastructure’s physical properties would indeed be one such dataset the computer’s algorithms would need to work with.

    As others have pointed out, however, computers have been generating routing data for multiple transport modes for years now. There a companies that sell product doing nothing else but that. We call them “GPS” systems, but the GPS aspect is just a single datapoint: the network’s physical properties – be it a road network, rail network, bus network, an airport logistics system, or what-have-you – provides the key constraints. The vehicles and they’re performance characteristics provide other constraints. Other requirements, such as minimum service levels for each station, avoiding having vehicles running around in a circle for long periods without switching to the other direction, and so on, would also add additional constraints.

    I’d have thought the above went without saying given this website’s main subject area.

    Believe it or not, we already all the above right now, using computers. Logistics companies wouldn’t be able to function today without such tools.

    And – as I pointed out before – we’re not talking about the technology of tomorrow or next week. We’re talking about what will be available in 2020 and later. That’s a minimum of six years way.

    To put that into context: Apple’s first iPad didn’t appear until April 2010. That’s less than four years ago. (Even their first iPhone won’t be seven years old until June this year.) Android had yet to be announced, let alone released. Even Windows Vista had only been out for a year or so.

    Six years is an eternity in the IT sector.

    Meanwhile, in the rail industry, HS2 didn’t get rolling until 2009, barely five years ago. Even the Overground’s takeover of the East London Line wasn’t opened until May 2010, and we’re already hearing about more enhancements of that network.

  70. Long Branch Mike says:

    I agree with Stimarco’s pronoun suggestion, as it’s in increasing use this side of the Atlantic:

    We already have a suitable one:
    “…even if they complete(d) two full terms in office”.

  71. @Stimarco, Pseudoanonymous et al

    I do now think we are arguing about detail whilst agreeing on the basic points. Just to add something else to the equation …

    Six years is an eternity in the IT sector.

    Which can work for you or against you when dealing with trains and signalling.

    Certainly things are improving all the time and to some extent that is nowadays assumed. So what is very challenging at the start of a project may not be so by the end. The contrast between installing ATO on the Jubilee Line and installing the same system on the Northern Line couldn’t be greater. Last weekend much of the Northern Line was advertised as being closed to upgrade the signalling to ATO including both central sections. In fact the line was open again running under ATO by 6.00 pm on Saturday. One would not have expected that on the Jubilee.

    Going back further there was a period where every new British Rail power signal box had a generously sized games room. The signal box was built to house the electronics required at the time of construction and by the time of commission this sized had been reduced leaving plenty of spare space.

    The way it can work against you is the technology quickly becomes obsolete. So the positively ancient control system on the Bakerloo Line has to replaced, delayed upgrade or no delayed upgrade, as it relies on the rudimentary personal computers available in the eighties. They think they have learnt their lesson on the Victoria Line and the localised non-critical control functions run on a computer on Windows 7. The hope and belief is that there will always be an upgrade path available. Whilst I would feel comfortable in thinking this would be there in ten years time and with TLC the equipment would last for a further few more years I would hesitate in believing it will still be there in 30 years time.

  72. marek says:

    There is room for more than one view on driverless cars, and Anonymous @ 19.11 is not necessarily right. There is a long and detailed essay in a recent New Yorker about Google’s self-driving car – – which is rather more optimistic and which I suspect many LR readers would find fascinating.

    One of the things which makes it interesting is that progress is not, on the whole, the stuff of dramatic discovery and great leaps forward; it is instead a process of endless incremental improvement, with no obvious reason in principle that that process should come to an end for a long time to come. It would be foolish to think that any of us will be able to buy a self-driving car five years from now, but I for one would not bet against being able to buy one fifty years from now (other than being well beyond the expiry of my life expectancy), and very possibly much sooner than that. So in the timescales being considered in this series of posts, there is time and scope for massive further change in what is possible.

    The future of cars does not, of course, directly translate in the future of trains. But if cars prove able to detect and respond to external stimuli to the level necessary to drive safely on crowded roads, equipping a train with the sensors and algorithms to work out whether it is safe to close its doors and start moving will seem a relatively easy problem.

    So I am a little bemused by platform edge doors and gap closing sliding panels. I understand why they need to be part of the thinking now, but the need for them, if any seems likely to be a very short term one. There is a telling detail in the New Yorker piece where the car already detects problems the human driver cannot see:

    Dolgov was riding through a wooded area one night when the car suddenly slowed to a crawl. “I was thinking, What the hell? It must be a bug,” he told me. “Then we noticed the deer walking along the shoulder.” The car, unlike its riders, could see in the dark.

    So to respond to Greg Tinsey’s point about the alert driver reacting to a child falling under a train, I think the time is not so far distant when we will all heave a sigh of relief that the train spots the problem, not depending on the fallible humanity of the driver.

    The problem – or one problem among many – is that the timing may not work. The next replacement cycle, particularly for the Piccadilly, may well just be too soon to reap the benefits. But investing in safety features likely to be made redundant by the next round of upgrades is not attractive either.

  73. Mark Townend says:


    I think what’s missing in road driving automation development is much discussion of an ‘infrastructure layer’. This, for want of a better analogy, would be a standardised signalling system for the infrastructure to talk to the vehicle, passing static and dynamic information about the road. For example the article referred to a difficulty in maintaining accurate digital maps used by robot driving systems. There is also dynamic data the car needs to pick up from the roadside such as authority to cross junctions, avoid temporary lane closures and negotiate alternate single line working etc.

    This is why in many respects, rail automation should be so much simpler in concept than free ranging rubber-tyred road vehicles, as the signalling control layer already exists and can take care of all these variables, whilst the physical rails and switches provide the steering guidance.

    I can’t agree with you on platform edge doors or barriers though. Even if trains were able to detect incursions onto the track and stop short in the majority of cases, the downtime whilst such incidents are cleared up is a major consideration and that justified their fitting on the Jubilee extension. Also they can make temporary surges in passenger demand easier to handle, as whilst crushing would still be a concern, the risk of people being physically pushed forward by crowds onto the tracks would be eliminated.

  74. marek says:

    @ Mark

    You may very well be right, but that suggests two arguments need to be separated. The starting point was that trains without drivers required there to be platform edge doors. My argument is that that will be justified only for a short period (if at all), because future trains will be no less safe than current trains.

    The argument that the doors are needed to deal with surges may well be right, but can’t have anything to do with whether the train has a driver or not. More staff on the platforms might help with that, staff on the train are irrelevant to that problem.

  75. The other Paul says:


    your comment reads a bit as if you are thinking of drivers as a sort of “resource” which can be pushed around at will…

    Sorry, but that’s exactly how the accountants and management types will view them, and me, and probably you and everybody in a job, whether we like it or not. This is the economic world we live in, people are “resource”, and many managers use exactly that word to describe them. This is also how the business case will consider them, and in terms of discussing the BCR I think it’s relevant to consider this in these terms rather than pretend it’s any other way.

    Industrial relations, and the politics that accompanies them are another matter, and this was why I hinted at the Piccadilly being easier for UTO on the basis that extra recruitment would be avoided, rather than the more thorny approach of redundancies or redeployments.


    you seem to have overlooked the fundamental trigger for this upgrade – the trains on the Piccadilly need replacing. If you haven’t addressed that issue then everything else is just moonshine.

    Sorry, but that’s simply not the case – you seem to have overlooked the fundamental point on my comment which is that UTO and train replacements are simply not that dependent on each other. Which is another way of saying the same thing!

    My point is that if UTO is decided to be a worthy project, for whatever reason, in pure financial terms it will wash its face better on a different line, whether the Piccadilly gets new trains or not.

    And I really don’t buy the argument that the present Vic or Jub trains can’t support UTO because they have the “wrong kind of doors” or for any other reason. New trains might be desirable, but in terms of a business case for UTO they’re fairly inconsequential – an analyst might in fact argue that overall risk of adopting UTO is reduced by having the doors in the most well understood and well-tested configuration, i.e. the current one. Also, with another 40-50 years asset life left in the Victoria Line trains it really doesn’t seem sensible to avoid the installation of PEDs on the basis that you might want to change the door configuration in 50 years time.

    Is UTO “inevitable” in your or my lifetime? I’m not sure, but I would argue, following a quick bit of mental arithmetic, that if you can literally take hundreds of drivers off the payroll and save hundreds of millions a year on a system that effectively runs at a huge taxpayer-funded loss, the cold, calculating accountancy types will find it irresistible. Politically it’s much more difficult, but just like the move to OPO/DOO, it feels to me like it’s something that will be slowly and gently rolled out in time.

  76. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ The Other Paul – your comment about LU running at a stonking loss is not strictly correct. Playing a game of accounting semantics then it is true that LU cannot fund its entire capital investment needs – that is funded by the taxpayer and borrowing. However the current business plan has LU forecast to make an operating margin of over £400m in 2013/14. The excess of core fare revenue over opex is more than £200m and nearly £200m is expected from secondary revenue. The renewal investment of £163m could be funded out of the margin but the big projects like line upgrades and station capacity can’t be. The operating margin is forecast to grow by £150m-£200m every year up to 2020/21. There are also some heroic assumptions about reducing operating costs and growing revenue (fare increases and patronage growth – an average of 6% increase each year) in the LU numbers. It will be interesting to see if TfL / LU are able to meet these predicted numbers.

    TfL Rail also sees a move from a small subsidy to an ever growing operating margin as a result of bouyant Overground revenue and the assumption of revenue streams from West Anglia, the Shenfield line and then Crossrail. By 2020/21 the operating margin will be circa £400m. As investment needs will be minimal by then TfL Rail is forecast to make a profit of around £340m. TfL doesn’t use the term “profit” but prefers net service expenditure and the business plan numbers are clear.

    I don’t propose to get drawn into the “which line is best for UTO” debate.

  77. stimarco says:

    (Damn, my last post is riddled with errors, for which I can only apologise. Oh for an Edit button!)


    I think the PEB* issue can be treated as separate, but there are a number of obstacles – curved platforms and their wide gaps being one; rolling stock changes being another.

    The latter is an engineering problem that is relatively easy to resolve: During the transitional phase, you temporarily remove the PEBs until all the old stock has gone. In the meantime, you take the opportunity to perform a full refurbishment / renewal of the PEB kit for all stations along the line, before testing them in their new arrangement prior to reinstallation.

    Extremely curved platforms are a headache, but there are plenty of existing engineering solutions for these. Straightening the platforms would be too expensive for all but a very few stations. Replacing the curved platforms at Embankment and Bank stations may be justified.

    Victoria’s sub-surface (i.e. District / Circle Line) platforms might be tricky given their shallow depth below ground and the original Metropolitan District Railway buildings above. Perhaps this might be better resolved by diverting the District into a new station below the mainline station concourse as part of the Crossrail 2 work. Cross-platform interchange could potentially be provided as a result.

    None of this would impact directly on UTO conversion, as existing rolling stock could be converted during scheduled refurbishment work.

    * “Platform Edge Barrier” – a generic term, given that we have no idea which specific technology will be chosen. I suspect we’ll see both full-height doors in underground stations, with shorter gates installed at busy open-air stations.

  78. Pseudonymous says:

    @stimarco Given how often you come back to PRTs, I do hope you’ve seen this:

  79. @JeffinLondon says:

    One would think automation is the way to go. Far safer than humans who might drift off, be having a bad day, etc.

    And making Tube driver strikes a thing of the past would be a very good thing. Closing London down for a day because a member was ‘wronged’ in some marginal way is a criminal act.

  80. Fandroid says:

    I suspect that PEBs will not be fitted (or at least not initially). There are plenty of ways of ensuring that the train-platform gap is clear before a train moves off. The big gain with having PEBs is in preventing jumpers and people being pushed onto the tracks as the train arrives. Unfortunately for them, drivers are left in the invidious position of not being able to do anything about that. It’s a separate issue, unrelated to UTO.

    I was reminded of this by a news item today concerning Network Rail meeting its interim target on level crossing closures. UTO can be installed for reasons of efficiency and capacity improvements. Platform barriers should be viewed as an entirely separate investment decision based safety enhancement and disruption reduction.

  81. Moleman says:


    How many strikes have been as a result of driver action? Most of the time it’s station and other staff. Going “driverless” will have an effect but fairly marginal in terms of industrial action.

    Oh, it isn’t a criminal act to strike nor should it be. Withdrawing labour is a legal right, not in despotic dictatorships of course which at least get the trains running on time.

  82. @TheOtherPaul

    Also, with another 40-50 years asset life left in the Victoria Line trains it really doesn’t seem sensible to avoid the installation of PEDs on the basis that you might want to change the door configuration in 50 years time.

    Lets look at this another way then. The decision was made, for what ever reason, NOT to install PEDs at the time of the Victoria Line upgrade. I would be interested to know why. Assuming that the decision was correct then, what has changed since then to justify putting them in now? This is a decision that is independent of the Piccadilly Line’s existence.

    Also with every year that passes the figures will look less good if one assumes they have to be replaced during the next upgrade with new trains in around 40-50 years time. Accountants typically amortise over 60 years on the railways. So its like having a 50 year lease on a leasehold house and knowing that every improvement you do will have to be written off in 50 years time.

  83. Greg Tingey says:

    And where will that £340million a year be spent on improvements?
    Or will the Treasury simply steal it, they way they did from the GPO for countless years?

    Sorry, no. How, otherwise do you get “management’s” attention, because they are determined to crap on someone, no matter what? It’s a chicken/egg problem, actually. Oh & withdrawing your labour is emphatically NOT a crime.

    I suspect your analysis of the problem as two separate ones may be correct.
    We’ll see!

  84. Mark Townend says:


    Perhaps the Victoria Line decision not to fit PEDs at the latest modernisation was was simply to avoid the cost and because they didn’t have to reassess the station safety as nothing really changed fundementally in the method of operation. There were no new stations, unlike JLE, where only new underground platforms were fitted. I wonder if new stations on the Northern Line extension are planned to have them.

  85. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Moleman – If PoP is correct that platform dispatchers will be required to ensure UTO trains are dispatched safely then you simply move the “industrial action muscle” from train drivers to station staff. As UTO train dispatch could be a safety critical role with an interface to the control system technology you probably can’t draft in staff from head office to do it as is the current practice when LU need “strike cover”. Therefore LU may give the RMT a greater ability to both shut stations and stop the train service than it presently has. While signallers / control room staff are typically RMT staff it is unusual to get station staff and signallers out on strike at the same time. If roles are merged to some extent in the future then it may be easier to halt the service. If I remember the safety rules correctly then if 3 stations in a row are closed then a line’s train service has to be suspended. So much for driverless trains being some sort of industrial relations panacea. Clearly I am using today’s rules and assumptions and LU may change a number of these to give itself greater operational flexibility in the future.

  86. Moleman says:


    Well quite, the UTO as a method of breaking the unions is a red herring. It should also be said that the RMT position that a “driver” is a non negotiable to run a safe service is also an ideological position rather that a logical one.

  87. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Walthastow Writer,


    I never said that – or I don’t think I did. I was simply responding to Mark Townend’s comments and saying instead of a Train Captain you would be better of having platform dispatchers and have the person on the train doing nothing except in extreme emergency – which was the opinion of Mike Horne.

    I don’t believe that train dispatchers would be necessary by default in true UTO operation though I can envisage a situation at certain stations where they would have the ability to override the automated procedure for dispatching trains.

    See earlier comment here where I tried, but obviously failed, to clarify this as I thought it could be misunderstood.

    Back to the staffing issue, you would still have to have section 12 (underground) stations staffed to to the minimum legal level which for some stations can be quite high although 2 per station is the absolute minimum under any circumstances. So yes the idea that this will take away Bob Crow’s supposed stranglehold is a bit of a myth. In any case that is industrial relations now. Who knows what they would be like in ten years time when Bob Crow may not be in his current position and may have even taken early retirement.

  88. ngh says:

    Re PoP 20 January 2014 at 20:01

    This one is always worth digging out to show how quickly things move on and how difficult it is to source spare parts for old electronics:

    And on the software side this recent programme on the UK Banks IT systems chunks of which go back to the 1960s:
    (Still available to listen again for most of 2014)

  89. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Mark Townend.

    I wonder if new stations on the Northern Line extension are planned to have them.

    I was told emphatically in an email by the Bank Station Capacity Upgrade scheme that the new platform at Bank southbound will NOT have PEDs.

    There is nothing I have seen in the TWO application for the Battersea extension that even mentions them.

  90. HTFB says:

    Is it really beyond the wit of humanity to design a platform edge barrier composed entirely of (say, two layers of) sliding panels which could open at the right points for any type of train?

  91. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – I doubt the DfT would “steal” a surplus from one part of TfL. The Treasury has already nicked hundreds of millions of pounds through grant reductions – £259m next year and £206m the year after. I was being careful to refer to certain elements of the business plan numbers. Clearly if TfL Rail does achieve that sort of surplus it will be used elsewhere in TfL – possibly to fund other projects or to pay debt interest or whatever. The business plan numbers don’t show how surpluses from one part of the business are used elsewhere in TfL although a consolidated TfL set of numbers is produced. To provide a contrast the bus network will require roundly £550m subsidy in each year of the plan to cover operations *and* investment.

  92. stimarco says:


    Actually, I’m more interested in the thoughts of people who have more experience with multiple transit systems, philosophies and technologies (like the chap behind Human Transit) than I do in a bunch of “artists” who think driving a pretend version of a Google self-driving car is somehow making a useful statement about anything other than “We have way too much time and money!”

    I mentioned PRT because they rely heavily on software do their thing. However, the only substantial PRT system I know of in the real world – and I’ve not seen it in person – is the ULTra installation at Heathrow’s T5. It’s been running very well apparently, but this is still a technology with lots of scope for growth. I can see PRT working best for orbital and local journeys in suburbia, where property densities are too low to justify heavy infrastructure. I can’t see PRT working in inner cities.

    But… I can imagine a hybrid PRT + mass transit network working well for both. (I’ll call it “FlexRT” to avoid confusion with existing systems.) Most of the R&D would be in the software side, so you could build the mass transit bits first and add PRT components later, as the software matures.

    Instead of trains terminating in a single unit at a single terminus, they’d split up into smaller trains, each heading out to multiple stations along branches. Reverse the process on return, reforming the small trains into one longer one, and you could neatly solve the “too many branches” problem of lines like the Metropolitan and District. Not by cutting off said branches, but by making more efficient use of them.

    This is what I’m getting at when I wax lyrical about the potential of computer automation. You’d still need people at the human-system interfaces, but the writing has been on the wall for train drivers since at least the late 1960s. Trains on the DLR and the Victoria lines are already robots, operating primarily under computer control. The drivers on the Victoria Line trains are purely decorative and do not, in fact, actually ‘drive’ the trains in any meaningful sense. They’re Train Captains in all but name.

    Look at the DLR, with its increasingly complex network and myriad (often flat) junctions: If computers can run all of that today, there’s no reason to assume they can’t do the same thing with the LU network. (Or even on mainline railways – though you’d want to remove any and all level crossings first.) And there isn’t a PED in sight.

  93. stimarco says:


    Yes. Not because what you suggest isn’t technically feasible – it is, as anyone who has ever used an office lift can see. The problems are that it would:

    (a) be spectacularly ugly;
    (b) require lots of expensive maintenance, and…
    (c) would be prone to trapping stray threads / straps / shoelaces, etc. when rearranging itself, making it potentially more dangerous than not installing it in the first place.

    I can think of quite a few systems that would provide equivalent levels of protection, but none would be pretty and all would be complex. When you consider the fact that, once rolling stock has been replaced, there’d be no need for most of that complexity, the value in adding all that machinery is clearly not there. It would literally be cheaper to insist on all stock calling at the station(s) have doors in the same places, regardless of their other physical attributes.

  94. peezedtee says:

    If driverless cars, PRTs, etc. are the future, what are the long-term prospects for the continuing existence of railways or other public transport?

  95. Mark Townend says:

    @peezedtee, 21 January 2014 at 12:58

    Perhaps as small free on demand feeder systems linking quickly to major transport interchanges, intelligent small shuttle vehicles of one kind or another could help boost mass transit ridership by effectively increasing catchment areas around stations. Slower modes like buses and taxis might have more to fear if ever any substantial urban grids were set up.

  96. peezedtee says:

    @Mark Townend
    I see. That sounds like a fairly local urban thing. But I was assuming that the Google driverless car project (being based in California) is meant to be about long-distance journeys as well. As also perhaps the reported developments by car manufacturers in Germany.
    If it becomes possible to use your laptop or read your papers while travelling in these things, might that not detract from rail’s “let us do the driving” selling point?

  97. Mark Townend says:

    There was an interesting difference in attitudes reflected in various articles linked. The traditional German auto manufacturers clearly seeing automation as a luxury add-on for motorway cruising to help sell top end cars to private individuals and business travellers, whilst Google talked openly more about significant overall fleet size reductions, and less direct ownership favouring shared or hired use on the wider road network and presumably with empties shuttling about too to help balance demand. Either could result in some mode shift if taken up widely but I’m not convinced widespread automation could squeeze significant extra capacity or average speed out of existing road networks although it would likely reduce variability in journey time. There is also the parking concern particularly in dense urban areas for which the Google share/hire approach could offer a robot valet to redistribute or park the empty. Where rail offers a journey time better than a typical rather than worst case road journey, rail could still have the edge, and that can be helped by small station based feeders operating over defined networks that can be properly surveyed and improved as necessary with commonly owned and maintained hired (or free transfer with a train ticket?) vehicles. I think the best opportunities for P/GRT applications outside airports are in linking a transit stations to a newly developed business park where the appropriate guideway or any dedicated/priority lanes needed can be designed in from the start.

  98. straphan says:

    A few points:

    – On the issue of platform-edge doors, I struggle to understand what the big deal is here. Despite serious teething problems, the driverless U3 line in Nuremburg appears to be doing just fine without PEDs in underground stations. Copenhagen has also managed to operate its driverless metro without PEDs at surface stations (but with PEDs at underground stations). I do not have safety statistics for these lines to hand, but I have equally not heard any huge press uproar about these routes being death machines or anything similar.

    – The fully automatic metro lines in Paris (M1, M14) do not have any form of station despatch staff. Dwell lengths are – as far as I know – pre-programmed and the values input into the system are no doubt the fruit of years of observation and research. I noticed all automated trains also have photoelectric cells in the doors to ensure they are free of obstruction when shutting (and no doubt to allow despatching before the pre-programmed time is up and there are no passengers boarding or alighting). The M1 retains some personnel at every other (or every 3rd) station which are supposed to assist with serious delays, security alerts, and evacuation.

    – Some have questioned how a UTO system can provide for safe evacuation of passengers from trains – or for clearing stranded trains. I do not see these as issues that cannot be overcome. As with Paris, there should be enough staff on-duty at stations which could assist with emergencies. Furthermore, In the day and age where army pilots can steer unmanned drones to kill people half the world away from their ‘offices’, I cannot see why a UTO-operated train could not physically couple to a stranded train while being operated manually by a ‘driver’ sitting in an office a few stations away staring at a CCTV feed.

    – A number of metro systems the world over utilise a system allowing for the automated reversal of trains even if a driver is still needed to operate them. Madrid is a good example. Madrid is also the largest application of Bombardier’s CityFlo 650 solution, which was recently dropped by TfL as the preferred option for the Sub-Surface Lines resignalling. Madrid – incidentally – also has one of Europe’s two truly circular metro lines (M6), which has CityFlo 650 installed.

    – On the issue of PRT, I think a PRT system is only one if it operates (at least part of the time) as an on-demand system, i.e. akin to a horizontal lift where you indicate where you want to go, and only stop at intermediate stops if there are other people are going the same way. The largest PRT system in the World that I know of is used to link different buildings of the University of West Virginia in Morgantown, WV: . According to Wikipedia, the system was opened in 1975, is 13.9km long, and runs as a public transport system with more-or-less fixed headways and stopping patterns in the peaks. In the off-peak the system switches to on-demand operation.

    Ultra PRT, who designed and operate the Heathrow T5 system, are also working on a larger system in Amritsar, Punjab state, India. See here for details: The system is supposed to be an 8km system with 7 stations and 200 vehicles and is due to open this year.

  99. Moleman says:


    If someone does decide to jump then a sensor system will not stop them and you will cause at least 40min?? disruption. That’s the key driver actually, the disruption from a jumper not the act itself.

    Having said that I do believe that a public metro operator has a duty to make its infrastructure less attractive to those in that frame of mind, not at any cost but there is some responsibility.

  100. timbeau says:

    @mark T
    “less direct ownership favouring shared or hired use on the wider road network and presumably with empties shuttling about too to help balance demand.”
    The drawback with this is always going to be the supply and demand imbalance. A clsoe analogy can be seen with the chronic difficulties the “Boris Bike” system has, with the distribution teams never able to keep up with replenishing busy docking stations to keep up with the demand for bikes (e.g at main line stations in the mornings, and city centre locations in the evenings) or, contrariwise, clearing stations of bikes to keep up with the people wanting to dock. You won’t tempt people out of their own cars until they can be guaranteed instant, or at least reliable, access to a public alternative.

  101. Mark Townend says:


    That’s the real beauty of automation, if truly unattended operation can be achieved empty cars could pick up another fare at the drop off, or shuttle to another stop where there is demand, or expected to be demand, or a storage yard awaiting another job, or to a service depot etc. I don’t know how to redistribute Boris bikes, unless their base station racks could be formed of automated trolleys that could self distribute via the same automated driving system!

  102. straphan says:

    @Moleman: I fully understand that, but if we are to install PEDs on surface platforms that are completely exposed to the elements (and there are plenty of those around the network!), then you stand to have even worse delays given how often said doors will malfunction…

    The key is how quick the reaction to a ‘jumper’ is. If it is reasonably fast (implying staffing every or every other station with a ‘first-response’ person/team), then not installing PEDs makes sense on the whole. A UTO system with platform-edge sensors will still be safer than today’s arrangements, as today the system does not shut down automatically when there is a trespasser/jumper, and instead relies on the actions of members of the public or the driver.

  103. Fandroid says:

    I look forward to the fun days when those still driving their own cars get terminal attacks of road rage due to all those empty driverless cars filling the roads up as they gaily redistribute themselves at the behest of someone far away with smartphone!

  104. Greg Tingey says:

    Redistributing vehicles?
    START here …
    | From a recent “Ian Visits” posting ]

  105. timbeau says:

    @’Mark Townend
    Boris Bikes don’t redistribute themselves, but there is a team of men in vans which take them from full stations back to empty ones. The are unable to keep up with demand however, and I doubt that things would be much better if the bikes could do it automatically.

    It happens already with so-called “empty” taxis clogging up the roads (and, for reasons I’ve never had adequately explained) particularly bus lanes..

  106. Castlebar says:

    @ timbeau

    Re Boris Bikes

    Is the following true, in whole or part?

    In the mornings, most Boris Bikes are used for journeys from A to B
    This means that the racks at A are emptied as the racks at B are filled
    Men in vans ‘re-distribute’ them back to A
    This means that in the evenings there are more bikes at A than at B
    More bikes are then needed at B than at A when people want to go home
    Men in vans ‘re-distribute’ them back to B from where they were recently taken to A

    How many men and vans are involved in this?

    No doubt all this is helping to reduce unemployment figures

  107. ngh says:

    Re Castlebar 22 January 2014 at 08:40
    Pretty much true.
    Redistribution uses 25 towing vehicles (electric golf cart /prius /van) with big trailers (for 24? bikes) and 60 employees.

  108. Castlebar says:

    @ ngh

    Thank you!

    So 60 employees, let us say average £20,000 per year each, (incl. statutory NIC & Pension contributions) = £1,200,000
    Plus vehicles, replacements, frames, etc etc etc + + +.

    Wow! Value for money ??

  109. Greg Tingey says:

    Not using electric tow-carts any more, but specially fitted-out “5-ton” lorries
    See Ian Visits for more info

  110. Twopenny Tube says:

    Greg Tingey 19th Jan: “We managed perfectly well, without all the verbal bullying from 1863 until about 2003.”
    Re the issue of platform edges and sliding doors. Cries of “Mind the doors”, “Stand clear of the doors”, “Mind the gap”, and so on, were features of tube travel well before 2003. I particularly remember a rich and sonorous voice at Liverpool Street Central Line in the 70s, unaided by a megaphone or electronic gadget. I still hear that voice in my mind, as much as any favourite songs and singers of the era.

  111. Fandroid says:

    Slightly hilarious instance of ‘Mind the Gap’. It was recently heard booming out on the empty closed platforms at Embankment as my train slowly passed through without stopping.

  112. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Castlebar – a big problem with the cycle hire scheme, from what I’ve read, is that the initial scheme design tried to avoid equipping main line rail termini with racks because the modelling showed demand would overwhelm supply. However even the racks a few minutes walk away from stations are depleted by commuters who then ride bikes to racks (docking stations) near their offices. This creates the need to redistribute bikes as there is no peak flow back to the stations until late afternoon. Worse TfL then bowed to pressure at places like Waterloo and created large bike racks which are obviously used too thus increasing the need to redistribute bikes.

    I’ve just had a quick look at the “live cycle hire map” and even mid morning there are few bikes to pick up near Waterloo, Kings Cross or Euston but loads of empty racks. In Holborn there are loads of bikes but few empty racks to deposit a bike. This lack of certainty that there will be a bike to collect and a rack to leave it at is one reason why I’ve never bothered with the scheme. At least a combination of buses and my legs is almost guaranteed to get me to a destination in Zone 1 in a predicatable fashion without faffing around trying to find empty bike racks (which may be in the opposite direction to my destination).

    The Cycle Hire scheme is a nice concept but it costs far too much money, is underused (compared to forecasts) and Serco have had their knuckles wrapped for shoddy performance. Still didn’t stop them getting a 2 year contract extension. The less said about the Barclays aspect the better. Personally I’d scrap the scheme and would rather see investment in secure cycle parking provision and cycle lanes. I’m not sure any of the politicians have a strategy to get the scheme working more effectively and at less subsidy per hire than at present.

  113. @Twopenny Tube,

    We managed perfectly well, without all the verbal bullying from 1863 until about 2003.
    Yes but Greg never lets the facts get in the way of his endemic moan. I must have got bored before reading that bit and it slipped through the censor process because we have told Greg to stop going on about this. We all know his views on the subject and they don’t need repeating.

    Just to be incredibly boring and factual:

    The Underground group published a poster clearly directed at staff actually urging them to “Hurry On, Please!” with the first paragraph stating “The train service cannot be hurried unless the passengers are hurried”. If you have “The Piccadilly Line” by Desmond Croome (Capital Transport) it is on page 21. So what Greg calls bullying was clearly company policy before the creation of the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933.

    In the 1920s London Underground employed a “platform hustler” at major stations whereby a siren sounded after a preset time (25-30 seconds) if the train hadn’t departed. I think the modern announcements far preferable.

    Also, not to hand but I know I have heard about it and seen pictures, in the 1930s they used gramophones that were automatically engaged to make announcements such as mind the gap.

    I think next time Greg mentions this I will have to delete that comment and his five previous ones and keep upping the number until he gets the message.

  114. peezedtee says:

    To be fair to Greg, in this case he seened to be talking about the endlessly repetitive Dalek-like announcements inside the trains, which are as he says relatively new, not the announcements on the platforms which we have all been used to for many decades.

  115. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Oh well, I suppose it is a slight variation on the platform announcements theme. I’ll let him off. This time. But of course they are only happening now because they can. I am sure if they could have got the gramphone system to work on a moving train in the 1930s they would have done it then. The mentality (good or bad) that means that they want to give us lots of announcements hasn’t changed.

    I suspect in 1863 staff were supposed to shout out this information. Passenger Service Vehicle regulations in the 1970s stated that conductors were to “announce” every stop. So all iBus announcements do, for example, is put in to practice what was supposed to have happened in the past anyway.

  116. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Is it just me or have others spotted the incedible irony of Greg moaning about meaningless repetitive announcements repetitively on this site?

  117. timbeau says:

    @ Castlebar
    “Men in vans ‘re-distribute’ them back to A – this means that in the evenings there are more bikes at A than at B”
    Not quite – they usually stop before the end of the morning rush hour, so that there are spaces at the main line stations and bikes available in the City.
    I use the scheme most days, mainly beacause there is no reasonable alternative for the journey in question. About four times out of five I can find a bike (otherwise I walk) and about the same proportion of times I can get rid of it at one of the three stations within 200 yards of my destination – but I have had to try up to ten.
    Why we (or at least the call centre staff) can’t be told where the vans are is beyond my understanding.

    “So all iBus announcements do, for example, is put in to practice what was supposed to have happened in the past anyway”
    Conductors weren’t also required, after every stop, to announce which route the bus was operating and what its destination was. “No, really? So those big friendly letters and numbers on the front of the bus were true!” Even a totally blind person needs to ask what bus it is before boarding it.

  118. Malcolm says:

    So to deal with the announcements, useful to tourists and strangers, but irritating to regulars, what we need is some machine which shuts out expected announcements, but lets through anything unexpected (or highly pertinent, like one’s own name).

    Wait, isn’t that exactly what the human brain has been tuned by thousands of years of evolution to exactly do?

  119. peezedtee says:

    I find the “next stop” announcements on buses quite useful because one cannot always see the illuminated display. Anyway, neither tube nor bus announcements are anything like as irritating and pointless as those on some mainline trains, as many commentators keep pointing out in a variety of organs. Southeastern’s Javelins are among the worst. Before and/or after every single stop you are told not to leave your things unattended, to report anything suspicious to a member of staff, to take all your belongings with you on leaving the train, and more in similar vein. On a journey from Faversham to St Pancras you have to listen to all this absurd rigmarole repeated at least 10 times.

  120. Graham H says:

    @PZT – and all completely unnecessary. When SWT management was challenged about the volume of intrusive/stupid announcements (which sometimes occupied the entire transit time between Waterloo and Queenstown Road), their first reaction was that it was a legal requirement; when further challenged on the grounds that other TOCs were quieter, and in any case, some SWT guards switched off the recordings, they caved in and we are left largely in peace.

  121. Anonymous Cow says:

    On the subject of announcements, I had a DLR train yesterday morning with a slight issue with its announcements – “This train, this train is for Woolwich Arsenal”. It also announced that we had arrived at “Canning Town Town”. Perhaps a little childish but I was amused.

    If I’m travelling outside my normal routes, I find announcements can be useful. On the Tube platforms are well lit and clearly signed, and there’s in-car maps to judge which station’s next – but on mainline trains at small stations there’s often poor lighting and there’s definitely no map, so announcements can be vital.

    And if I had a quid for every time I’ve been unsure where I am (or which stop is which) on a bus, I wouldn’t be rich but I’d definitely go spoil myself with a few presents to myself!

  122. Twopenny Tube says:

    Sometimes, as The Likely Lads found, the only thing to look forward to is the past.
    Board of Trade Inspector, Col. York, in a report cited by Barker and Robbins (Vol.2 p. 45), commenting on the newly opened Central London Railway, in 1900:

    “A guard will be stationed on every gangway and it will be his (sic) duty, among other matters, to call out the names of the stations, to open and close the side gates, and to prevent any passengers from standing upon the gangway during the time the train is in motion.”

    Despite this level of supervision, it seems according reports to the CLR Board, again cited by Barker and Robbins (p.47), that people were taking too long to get in and out of trains. “The prevailing impression seems to be that they are walking slowly out of church or assisting at a funeral.”

  123. ngh says:

    Re Twopenny Tube 22 January 2014 at 16:41
    with ATO/UTO, count down timers similar to those that have been appearing on many TfL controlled route’s pedestrian lights?

    “arriving at Piccadily Circus in 10, 9 8. 7,6,5,4,3,2,1”?
    “doors closing in …”

  124. Ian J says:

    @HTFB: Is it really beyond the wit of humanity to design a platform edge barrier composed entirely of (say, two layers of) sliding panels which could open at the right points for any type of train

    There’s a working prototype in service in Japan. I don’t know how successful the trial has been.

  125. Graham Feakins says:

    Southern trains had some loud and unnecessary on-board announcements so about 4 years ago I asked a pal at Porterbrook to have them at least turned down (Selhurst-based trains at the time). He did and they were.

    Straphan mentions the driverless U3 line in Nuremburg; perhaps of interest is that the route is shared with driver-operated trains on U2, which may account for the lack of platform doors. A short clip from the front of a U3 train is here:

  126. Greg Tingey says:

    As I’ve already said ( & PoP – please don’t do that, as you are doing exactly what you reprimand me for, so Pot = Kettle! ) [Stuff that Greg has stated endless times before and is all subjective deleted. PoP]
    I actually wonder, if, before long, significant hearing loss & tinnitus will start to show up amongst LUL platform staff ??

    Or, one day we will get a $REAL_EMERGENCY … & no-one will move or take the slightest notice, simply because … I’m sure you can work it out.


  127. Castlebar (Contra Crayonista Popular Front) says:

    “………………Or, one day we will get a $REAL_EMERGENCY … & no-one will move or take the slightest notice, simply because … I’m sure you can work it out.”

    I’d agree with that. Or, they’re so ‘absorbed’ with their “walkman” or by ‘textin’, they don’t hear a damned thing however many times you repeat any announcement

  128. superlambanana says:

    In case of a ‘real emergency’ staff are needed to go round and chivvy unresponsive passengers anyway, because you can’t assume there are no deaf passengers on the platform when the announcement is made.

  129. Fandroid says:

    Graham Feakins.

    Your info on Nuremberg U-Bahn is out of date. I have visited the city four times in the last 3 years and I can confirm that both lines U2 and U3 have been driverless in that period, and there are no platform-edge doors and no visible station staff either. I have never seen a staff presence on the trains.

    Wikipedia is out of date on this. However it does provide a very interesting piece on the safety systems and the decision not to have platform edge doors. The main reason given for the latter was that it would have caused huge service disruption to implement, and as Graham F suggests, the presence of driver-controlled trains (presumably a previous model) meant that consistent stopping positions could not be guaranteed for those.

    That service disruption issue is one that LUL will have to think about very carefully for the Piccadilly. Being a much more modern system, and not stuck down very deep small holes, it would have been a lot easier to install those doors in Nuremberg than it ever could be in London.

  130. Greg Tingey says:

    There was some (hopefully useful) stuff I put in before the ($RANT) bit started & it vanished – HTML fault?
    And, since it WAS a rant & because PoP is not being consistent, this time it should have been allowed. (I think)

  131. Anonymous says:

    Well the DLR comes top here, in a ranking that looks pretty much spot-on to me as a passenger…

    (Particularly like the comment on the District: “Think of it less like a Tube line, more like a really long bus, and suddenly it all seems a bit better.”)

  132. straphan says:

    Regarding the moving automatic PED at Shin-Tokorozawa station, Wikipedia even has a picture of it:

    In terms of the plethora of safety announcements, I suggest you try Transpennine Express – an automated voice barking out the whole list of stations (when you get on a Liverpool service at Leeds there are a few to go!) plus a billion apparently vital safety notices. Frustrating.

    Regarding iBus announcements, this is a typical trainspotter/busspotter moan. Just because you always know what bus you are on and where you want to get off at does not mean everyone around you does. I have yet to hear anyone outside those ‘in the know’ complain about the system. The only thing I would improve is the way route numbers are read – three-digit numbers should be read as such, not each digit individually (e.g. five hundred twenty-one rather than five-two-one). After all, who wouldn’t like to commute every day on the ‘Two-two-two (pause) to (pause) Uxbridge’?

  133. KilburnKid says:

    Not to go all crayonista but I’m starting to get a feeling that the Bakerloo’s future lies in it terminating at Queen’s Park but only on 2 conditions

    1. there is an extension south beyond Elephant and Castle.
    2. the reopening of primrose hill station and the creation of new Overground pathways east in addition to terminating at Euston

    With the second condition met there could be anywhere between 6-8 TPH running into QP thus removing the need for the Bakerloo to run north

  134. timbeau says:

    @Kilburn Kid
    Rename Primrose Hill as Chalk Farm and you’ve still got an interchange between the Northern Line and the Watford DC (“Harlequin”) Line (as well as the Vic at High & I).

    But is there room for more trains east of Camden Road?

  135. KilburnKid says:

    @timbeau I think that will be determined by HS2

  136. Taz says:

    Ian J 19 January 2014 at 23:33 Incidentally automated turn-around of trains in Paris also happens at the southern end of Line 13, showing that unattended operation of trains in non-revenue service (eg. the Victoria Line depot moves) could be introduced separately to full UTO.
    The current Piccadilly Line 1973 trains were planned to reverse automatically in the many sidings used by the line when they were introduced, but I presume that the sums didn’t add up. This at the time of the Central Line FACT trials. Their replacements due in 2012 were also planned to do the same by 2015 until the collapse of Tube Lines. The current S stock trains were to move to and from depots unstaffed under the Bombardier system, now abandoned, by 2018. However, the current TfL promise that drivers can continue to drive if they wish suggests that any changeover to UTO will take maybe forty years!

  137. Fandroid says:

    @straphan. Hear hear about iBus announcements. Their presence on many continental city bus systems has given me the confidence to use the buses, safe in the knowledge that I won’t get off too early nor get carried too far, especially when those bus systems also provide online maps which clearly name every stop.

    Just try the same trick in most provincial British towns after dark on rainy evenings!

  138. Malcolm says:

    Straphan makes an interesting point about the pronunciation of bus route numbers. Although one often hears mention of, say, a “bus on route twenty-four”, I have never heard a three-digit number pronounced by a human in such a way. “I got a one three four bus today” sounds convincing, but never “I got a one hundred and thirty-four bus today”. Of course robots are not required to always follow human speaking conventions, indeed we sometimes prefer them not to, so we can tell them apart. But I think in the case of bus route numbers, they mostly do – with the addition of telling pauses between the digits.

    I must get out more.

  139. Graham H says:

    @Fandroid – it’s alright: many provincial cities and probably nearly every provincial town don’t have after dark bus services…

  140. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Straphan / Malcolm – I-Bus does not use a robot voice though. It is the voice of Emma Hignett and she has recorded all of the stop names and route numbers although I suspect there are sometimes bits of her recordings “stuck together” to form some phrases or names. On the pronunciation of route numbers I can’t recall hearing anyone use the “combined” approach that Straphan prefers. On my local services we don’t have many high numbered routes but I call the 123 “one two three” rather than “one hundered and twenty three”. Similarly the 230 is the “two thirty” and 257 is “two five seven”. I know I-Bus uses “one two three” for the 123 but I can’t recall what is said for the other two routes as I use them infrequenty. I shall have to pay attention next time I do.

  141. Malcolm says:

    My use of the term robot was not meant to exclude recordings, whether or not cut and pasted. To me, Emma’s voice, triggered by some on-board electronics, is a robot speaking, whereas Stephen Hawking is a real person, however dalek-like he might sound, and whatever the technology he might happen to need in order to speak.

  142. Fandroid says:

    Rambling Off Topic !!! Robots can be confused by and annoy the locals. The female voice on SWT pronounces Micheldever as ‘Micheldevver’ and the male voice pronounces it ‘Micheldeever’ (or possibly the other way round!). Us ‘ampshire folk are very particular. We pronounce the village name ‘Micheldevver’ and perversely, call the river Dever, after which it is named, ‘the Deever’. No wonder the robots are confused.

    I vaguely remember the announcements on Arriva Trains Wales for Llandudno and Llandudno Junction being mildly hilarious. One is pronounced in a beautifully Welsh way, the other one by some struggling English monoglot.

  143. Graham H says:

    @Fandroid – but on the Portsmouth line, you can tell whether we have a Fratton or a Wimbledon guard – the latter seem to think we have a station at Izalmeer

  144. Milton Clevedon says:

    @Graham H and others
    The automated female adviser on SWT diesel trains is widely known as Doris. Sometimes however her sister is on – Sonya. This is because the Salisbury staff consider she gets Sonya nerves.

  145. Fandroid says:

    @Graham H.

    Izalmeer – is that in the Netherlands?

  146. Graham H says:

    Neither is it a sea of disinfectant… (But anything goes on SWT – for some days, my regular train home was shown as terminating at Goring-by-sea)

  147. straphan says:

    As far as I know iBus is programmed to pronounce two-digit bus routes as whole numbers (e.g. fourty-three not four-three, seventeen not one-seven), but three-digit routes as separate digits (e.g. two-two-two instead of two hundred twenty-two, four-three-six instead of four hundred thirty-six).

    I suppose the whole numbers issue is another bout of ‘continentalism’ creeping into my viewpoint again – both of the other languages I speak pronounce three-digit route numbers without splitting them into constituent digits.

    And while we’re on the subject of station announcements, can someone please correct the Network Rail announcement lady? She pronounces the ‘gate’ in ‘Harrogate’ as if it were an actual gate! One then wonders why the good people of Yorkshire tend to have a less-than-warm attitude towards their countrymen from down South…

  148. timbeau says:

    It seems to be conventional to read three-digit numbers individually unless they have some quantitative significance (a hundred and twenty six mph, or pounds), rather than just as a label (the A-one-two-six road, bus number one-two-six, or possibly one-twenty-six)
    But it always seems odd to me when people say, for example, the “A Five Seven” road.

    You can sometimes tell i bus is a robot, albeit using real speech stitched together, by some curious inflections.
    King Edward STREET – the usual stress would be on “Edward”, not “Street”, unless the previous item in the list had been King Edward-something-else: which presumably it was when thevoice files were being made, but not when you’re travelling by bus.

    Conversely, the guard on an Epsom line train will recite “Raynes PARK, MOTspur Park, WORCester Park…., but the talking ceiling will say Raynes PARK, Motspur PARK, Worcester PARK (suggesting that whoever recorded the names went along the routes via New Malden and Tolworth before tackling the Epsom line)

  149. timbeau says:

    “another bout of ‘continentalism’ ”
    “two-two-two instead of two hundred twenty-two”
    Not to mention Americanisms……

    I haven’t used it for a while but I’m fairly sure the announcer calls route 100 as “one hundred”, not “one zero zero”

  150. Fandroid says:

    Aahh!! The romance!! “one-six-eight to (pause) Hampstead Heath”

  151. Greg Tingey says:

    Best of all, is when the robot gets its knickers in a twist & goes backwards, or similar …
    So, on a Chingford – LST train, leaving WHC: “This is a Chingford service, the next stop is Wood St” & leaving Clapton … the next station is St James’ St … etc ….

  152. timbeau says:

    a very common experience on the SWT roundabout services, when the train knows which way round it’s supposed to be going, but can’t tell whether it’s on the Windsor or Main and therefore whether it’s coming or going (“the next station is Queenstown Road: please mind the gap”, when in fact we have just passed it at speed with four tracks between us and the platform! – QTR only has platforms on the Windsor lines, so although rounders pass it twice on the “common core” between Wloo and Clapham Junction, they only call once.

  153. stimarco says:

    The problem is that the poor voice artists recording all the data are clearly not being given any information about context – or, indeed, any useful direction at all. I suspect the only instruction the artists are given is along the lines of, “Just read the list, dear!”

    Without context, the artist has no clue how what they’re reading out will actually be used. And it’s not just the UK either: there are godawful Passenger Information Systems everywhere. It’s a lot worse in countries like Italy and France, where large numbers of tourists require announcements to be provided in at least two languages (usually the national language + English).

    So, the voice artist comes into the recording studio, gets shut into a tiny voiceover booth barely larger than a cupboard for most of the day, and sits there reading out the usual stock phrases (“Stand well away from the doors please, this train is about to depart!”, “Please take all your belongings with you!”, etc.)

    And then they get to plough through a very, very long list of station names. Often with no hints about pronunciation. No such voice artist can possibly be familiar with how all station names are pronounced by locals, so it’s really the producer’s job to provide such details. (It’s not widely known, but most professional actors and voiceover artists are trained to read the phonetic alphabet – those weird symbols you see in dictionaries; using this alphabet, an expert actor or voice artist can appear to speak any language or dialect.)

    You can buy 90GB – enough to store entire weeks of audio at a suitable quality – of solid-state storage for well under a £100 – and that’s retail. Bulk pricing is typically much less. So you can easily record every station name individually, without the slicing and dicing needed to save those precious bytes of the limited storage space common back in the late ’90s and early ’00s.

    I used to work in the computer games industry, where the exact same techniques are used. The lack of direction and preparation for the voice artists is totally inexcusable today, as are the awkward pauses and gaps in the final result. There’s just no reason for either.

  154. Anon5 says:

    iBus pronounces Plaistow (in East London and Plaistow Green, Bromley) as Plays-toe. This is how my northern friends pronounce it. As any local tell you it’s Plar-stoe.

    For a few weeks the platform 1 announcements at Beckenham Junction pronounced Bermondsey as Ber-monn-sey.

  155. Fandroid says:

    They’re very useful those robots. I’ve learnt a few (fairly useless) phrases of Polish from the Warsaw trams!

    My great gripe with the standard British human-delivered announcements are that they seem to bend over backwards to avoid saying the plain English “the next station is…”. I complained to Crosscountry about their guards saying “the next calling point is..”; pointing out that no English phrase book would include that odd combination and the dictionary defines “calling” as “vocation” !

  156. Graham H says:

    We’re fast getting into Fraffly Well spoken territory – Sinjun’s Wood and Simples, anyone…?

  157. The other Paul says:


    The decision was made, for what ever reason, NOT to install PEDs at the time of the Victoria Line upgrade. I would be interested to know why

    The premise for installing PEDs in this discussion is that they are necessary to support UTO. As such, the cost savings from UTO more than adequately fund the necessary PEDs. Without UTO however, installing PEDs on an existing line would seem to me to have a rather poor BCR. Thus they were not included in the Victoria Line project, which didn’t implement UTO.

    You have unwittingly made a circular argument: UTO requires and can fund the PEDs. The absence of PEDs in the absence of UTO can’t be an argument against installing UTO with the necessary PEDs! 🙂

  158. Pedantic of Purley says:


    As suggested by others, PEDs may be not an absolute requirement for UTO but it could be that LU has decided that they are an essential requirement for them if they to choose to have UTO. Your logic in suggesting that I have unwittingly created a circular argument is clearly invalid. Why have PEDs on the Jubilee Line Extension and Crossrail but not the Battersea Extension or the new platform at Bank? UTO does not come into it.

    What I find slightly surprising about the Victoria Line Upgrade was that they had already decided when planning it to run at least 33tph and aim for 36tph. I would have thought the benefit in reduced lost time due to so many people due to “person under a train” would have been sufficient justification at the time for PEDs.

    My personal theory is that these benefits weren’t considered at the time or they just didn’t want to make the PPP contract even more complicated and expensive.

    Personally, I think if the Victoria Line Upgrade happened today without UTO they would have installed PEDs for the reduced passenger disruption reason alone given how busy the line is and the relatively few number platforms that would need to be converted (33). However to do this retrospectively would not only be disruptive, it would have a limited life because the next generation of trains for that line will almost certainly have the doors in a different position.

    Incidentally, I have read somewhere that the Battersea Extension will have passive provision for PEDs. Make of that what you will.

  159. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ The Other Paul – you seem convinced that PEDs deliver such benefits that they would pay for themselves on the Vic Line. How do you know? Do you have access to the numbers for the capital cost / project risk, maintenance costs and the benefits?

    I am a bit sceptical that firm numbers exist simply because there are all sorts of unresolved issues around the platform train interface and the asset condition of platform structures across the network. If LU opt for half height barriers at open stations then that technology is unproven in a UK operating environment which brings risks of its own.

  160. timbeau says:

    “The Other Paul – you seem convinced that PEDs deliver such benefits that they would pay for themselves on the Vic Line”
    I don’t think so – I understood him to say that if PEDs are a sine qua non for UTO, then the cost of installing them can be (indeed should be) set against the savings made by UTO in determining the BCR.
    Installing PEDs, or at least passive provision for them, on new stations seems to be sensible future-proofing if it is not ruinously expensive so I would not be that surprised to see them on the NLE unless new rolling stock is already on the horizon. But installing them on existing platforms is another matter: the platform edges were never designed to take anything heavier than a passenger’s feet. And three of the Vic Line platforms are over 100 years old.
    (Talking of future-proofing, looking at the diagram for High&I, in view of later developments it was most fortunate that the new Northern City tunnel built during the Victoria Line’s construction was built to main line gauge, despite the NCL line having used tube stock for the previous 25 years?)

  161. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Talking of future-proofing, looking at the diagram for High&I, in view of later developments it was most fortunate that the new Northern City tunnel built during the Victoria Line’s construction was built to main line gauge…

    Well that is one interpretation. Even at the time of planning and constructing the Victoria Line the intention was to use the Northern City Line for its original purpose of through trains from north of Finsbury Park. This is one reason why it was thought acceptable to take over the Northern City Line tunnels at Finsbury Park and temporarily terminate the Northern City Lines at Drayton Park.

    It was not so much foresight in planning as a delay in implementing the scheme which some had hoped would immediately follow on from Victoria Line construction.

  162. Milton Clevedon says:

    @ PoP
    26 January 2014 at 20:56
    Indeed, after the abandonment of the Northern Heights project in the early 1950s, the scheme to extend the Northern City from Drayton Park to Finsbury Park HL remained part of the early VL planning, and was then abandoned in its turn as part of a VL project economy drive. Otherwise the Northern City (whether tube or main line) would have ended up using the 1935-40 New Works station widening built as steelwork on the East side of Finsbury Park.

  163. timbeau says:

    @PoP and Milton
    fortunate then that the original plan for larger size tunnels survived the economy drive

  164. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Given that the alternative would have been to keep the Hotel and York Road Curve in use as well keep more platforms in use at King’s Cross, which even then would have been recognised as occupying valuable real estate, as well as increased unnecessary train running mileage and, as an incidental point, a continuing worse service for passengers, I think it would have been a real no-brainer even in those cost-cutting days.

    I can’t imagine the cost saving would have been great even if possible. Smaller tunnels over a relatively short distance but with the additional problem of going from a large to small tunnel underground. I would imagine suddenly going from a large to a small tunnel when the train is moving at reasonable speed would produce considerable problems when considering air flow. Possibly the mitigating works would exceed the cost saving of smaller tunnels in the first place.

  165. The other Paul says:

    @PoP @WW
    As timbeau has pointed out, my point is that the BCR of PEDs is favourable if installed as part of a much larger savings-generating UTO project. This doesn’t require any special access to the numbers, just some simple maths and publicly available information – to spell it out: 200 drivers each costing £50k pa = £10m. Cost of PEDs at £1m per face (As quoted for JLE) for 30 faces =£30m, therefore even if only a third of the cost of the UTO project is the PEDs, it all pays for itself in as little as 10 years. Of course this is simplistic, drivers cost more than £50k a year, there are probably not exactly 200 of them, and some extra staff would need to be retained/recruited. PEDs may cost more (or less) now than they did 15-20 years ago when the JLE was built. But fundamentally the sums are pretty straightforward and will surely be the crux of the UTO business case if PEDs are required.

    What the BCR is/was for installing PEDs without UTO, on the JLE, Crossrail or future projects, is something completely different and I can’t imagine it’s anything as straightforward and tangible as a cost saving. I seem to remember the JLE project saying that the primary justification for PEDs was to shelter the platforms from tunnel wind gusts, rather than for anything else. I would imagine that whatever the benefits are, the BCR is more difficult for short extensions and new platforms where the costs are disproportionately higher because the trains and signalling still need the same upgrades even though the benefits are only realised on a very small number of platforms. Thus the passive provision for Battersea kind of makes sense…

  166. The other Paul says:

    …and going back to my original point, those sums and the points made above by WW and PoP are what’s making me think that the BCR for UTO on the Piccadilly is far less robust than it would be for the Victoria. If the asset condition and technical challenges on the Victoria are going to push those PED costs up then surely the much older, bendier and lengthier Piccadilly is going be a lot worse, and a lot riskier.

  167. Pedantic of Purley says:


    I think we have got to the stage where nothing anyone says on either side is going to change the opinion of the other side. I think the arguments have already entered repeat mode.

    As far as I can tell, you are making a different set of assumptions from me and Walthamstow Writer and with that different set of assumptions it is not entirely surprising that you come to different conclusions to us.

    You are seem to be assuming that drivers (or other staff on the train) will definitely no longer be there. I think you are also assuming either that the existing stock on the Victoria Line can be converted to UTO or that the stock can be shuffled between lines even though no other line is signalled by the same signalling system as the Victoria Line.

    As Walthamstow Writer has pointed out, without access to the actual costs etc. involved both sizes can only speculate based on their assumptions. I am convinced tackling the Piccadilly Line first is the logical decision to make and I am sure you are equally convinced it is not. I have travelled the length of Ligne 1 on the the Paris Metro including the very curved platforms at Bastille and have come to the conclusion that the curved platforms of the Piccadilly Line are not that much of a problem. You believe that they are more of a issue which is quite understandable.

    We will never know who is right. All we can do is wait and see how successful or otherwise the Piccadilly Line upgrade will be.

  168. Milton Clevedon says:

    27 January 2014 at 10:23
    Southbound Vic Line trains go quite fast from a large (ex GN&C) tunnel into small diameter tunnel south of Finsbury Park, and it doesn’t feel too uncomfortable.

  169. Greg Tingey says:

    At or by a crossover tunnel junction, IIRC?
    Which would ease the pressure problem considerably.

  170. Graham H says:

    @the other Paul – “just some simple maths” – not quite as simple as you say – the sums involved need to be discounted properly over the project life. Given that at a 6% TDR (probably on the high side these days), future costs halve about every 12 years, you might find the payback period is rather longer.

  171. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Milton Clevedon,

    But weren’t there reports when the Victoria Line opened of people complaining about “ears popping” when travelling southbound from Finsbury Park?

  172. Milton Clevedon says:

    @PoP @GT
    Presumably there is no special draught relief south of Finsbury Park, which is what PoP suggested might be essential. So is it essential?

    The piston effect of a tube train sudddenly entering a tube-diameter tunnel, should apply regardless of the size of the previous (larger) bore, if there were no draught relief forwards for some long distance. You get a very similar effect at other locations eg on the Piccadilly, descending from Barons Court eastbound.

  173. Walthamstow Writer says:

    For those who might be interested I have come across some Hong Kong Legislative Council papers about installing platform doors / half barriers at MTR / former KCRC stations. While they are a couple of years old they do highlight some of the issues and benefits associated with the installation of the equipment.

    I was aware that the original MTR lines had been retrofitted but I see that the Ma On Shan line now has half height gates and works are beginning to retrofit HK’s oldest rail line (East Rail) from Kowloon to the border with mainland China. New lines will have the equipment from day one. Some of the project newsletters have photos of the installation work as well as a specially provided “test bed” installation site provided to deal with the complex work on the East Rail route where work is just beginning. The thing that slightly surprised me was the very long duration to get all the work done – many years given the work is done in overnight engineering works only. I have only skim read one of the papers but the main points do support PoP’s article about the need to do the work in a co-ordinated way alongside other investment in signalling and, for London, rolling stock. I suspect HK has more commonality on door positions for its trains than London has.

  174. Walthamstow Writer says:

    A follow on from the previous post – more up to date papers on current MTR PED / barrier works.

  175. stimarco says:

    @Pedantic of Purley:

    I expect the ventilation systems have been improved since then to reduce the sudden pressure changes, but in any case, the crossovers between the Picc and Vic lines weren’t actually opened with the station, but were completed a little later. This may have been the reason for the reports of ear-popping, as I doubt it was worth adding mitigation measures for such a short period.

  176. Graham Feakins says:

    What nobody seems to have considered (unless I missed it) is that most traditional tube platforms are not very wide. To install PED’s will of necessity eat into that already narrow space, thus rendering the possibility expensive (by somehow widening the platforms) or plain impractical.

    BTW, the most noticeable tube tunnel pressure effect I knew was on the Central Line entering the westbound tunnel at speed between Leyton and Stratford.

  177. Taz says:

    @ Graham Feakins 29 January 2014 at 01:17 What nobody seems to have considered (unless I missed it) is that most traditional tube platforms are not very wide. To install PED’s will of necessity eat into that already narrow space, thus rendering the possibility expensive (by somehow widening the platforms) or plain impractical. BTW, the most noticeable tube tunnel pressure effect I knew was on the Central Line entering the westbound tunnel at speed between Leyton and Stratford.

    Passengers currently keep back behind the yellow line, or somewhere around there, for fear of falling or being struck by a train. This is most noticeable from the cab view when driving into crowded platforms. That is the same area that PEDs would use I presume. So no loss of standing space, and with safety people might even stand closer than they currently do. It will also be safer to allow more people onto platforms at very busy times. Is the Central Line pressure wave on passing Old Ford Fan Shaft between Stratford and Mile End?

  178. Taz says:

    @ Taz 29 January 2014 at 03:15 “Passengers currently keep back behind the yellow line …”
    I’m sure there are better videos, but see London on the Move 1:35 from 1970 on the early Victoria Line before yellow lines had been invented.

  179. Greg Tingey says:

    It’s immediately on entering the tunnel on “diving” from Leyton.
    Noticeable, even in “standard” stock, back in the 1950’s!

  180. Steven Taylor says:

    Re comments about `pressure waves` entering tube tunnels at speed. The worst cases I remember were on the Piccadilly eastbound from Barons Court (BC) and especially southbound from Arnos Grove coming off the viaduct on quite a downward grade.
    The speed limit eastbound on the Picc at BC is now 25 mph. So it would appear that passengers should not get so much ear popping as the speed is lower.

  181. Boriswatch says:

    “iBus pronounces Plaistow (in East London and Plaistow Green, Bromley) as Plays-toe”

    Edensor Road in Chiswick was pronounced ‘Ee-den-sore’ for a while on iBus but quite quickly changed to the correct ‘Enser’, like the Derbyshire village it’s named after (Duke of Devonshire/Chatsworth link, dontchaknow).

    Actual people living here tend to be less accurate than iBus!

  182. Malcolm says:

    In the absence of an “Academie Anglaise”, there is no “correct” pronunciation for a road name. Or rather, the correct pronunciation is the most widespread. The fact that it might be named after a remote place with a different pronunciation is irrelevant. Grenoble Gardens, for instance, in Palmers Green, has the stress on the GREN bit, even though the inhabitants of the so-named alpine city pronounce it according to the French persuasion.

  183. Castlebar (Fulwell Chord U. K. Intensify Timetable!) says:

    @ Boriswatch

    We have a Plaistow here in West Sussex, and incomers pronounce it as do Londoners
    But locally we hear plASS-toe, and PLARCEtoe as well from longer residents

    Many local Sussex names were based on the now almost extinct Sussex dialect which I remember was very strong, and distinct from Hampshire’s
    But Steyning is still pronounced “Stenning”, and Ardingly (like all Sussex -ly endings should be) is still pronounced ArdingLEYE -as in the word ‘eye’)

  184. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Indeed. I once went to a talk on iBus (very sad, I know). The speaker basically said that whatever the locals wanted in terms of pronunciation is what they intended to provide. He said that as the voice recording lady was on the London Buses staff they could often correct it and have it automatically downloaded to the buses overnight.

    He gave an example of a very French sounding stop which, unknown to the iBus team, was actually named after an Englishman who pronounced his name the way the English would and so the locals did so as well. This got lots of complaints so they changed the announcement. Wish I could remember the name.

  185. Fandroid says:

    So is it Marleebone (as heard on the Bakerloo Line) or Marrylebone?

  186. Long Branch Mike says:


    Not having heard the word, I thought Marylebone was a French pronunciation: Mary-Le-Bon(n)e, albeit with an incorrect gender definite article…

    Should it not revert to its’ original orthographe française – Marie-La-Bonne? 😉

    (Apologies for possible misuse of n-length dash, I am willing to be corrected by lurking grammasites).

  187. Pedantic of Purley says:

    The basic rule for Marylebone and Holborn, as any cockney fule kno, is that the faster you can pronounce it and the fewer syllables you can use the more likely it is that you pronounce it as the locals do. At the very minimum your pronunciation should pass the foreigner test which requires a foreigner to be absolutely none the wiser as to where you are referring to when you state the name of the place.

  188. Anonymous says:

    @PoP 14:26 – was the talk on iBus automated/pre-recorded?

  189. Fandroid says:

    When returning by train to my childhood home of Gomshall, it always cheered me to hear the Guildford station announcements pronounce it proper, ie ‘Gumshawl’. (Or as my Derbyshire born friend would say ‘Goomshaw’).

  190. timbeau says:

    the Boileau Arms on Castelnau (in Barnes) perhaps? (Apperently pronounced Boiler Arms, and Castle-no (or -now)

    “whatever the locals wanted in terms of pronunciation is what they intended to provide. ”
    Surely the locals know where they are – it’s the strangers who need to understand the announcements!

  191. Steven Taylor says:

    Your comment re `Boiler Arms` brought back memories for me – many a happy hour or 2 spent in that pub 40 years ago.
    We always pronounced Castelnau as Castle-nor. But it was always the Boiler Arms as you say.

  192. Greg Tingey says:

    There are other ways of confusing locals with pub names.
    The King of Prussia in Stratford High St, f’rinstance.
    Been officially named the Edward VII since 1914 – guess what most of the locals (still) call it?

  193. NG says:

    On the Isle of Dogs, the initial version for Maconochies Road (Stop code: 57058. Bus Stop G. Serving routes: 135, D7, N550) was akin to “Mac’n’Cheese”.

    This sounded so much fun and tastier than the tinned beef stew associated with the erstwhile factory at that place, that we now routinely mutter Mac’n’cheese when the corrected version plays (Macon’akeys).

  194. Castle Bar over S says:

    Twickenham Green’s “Blucher”

    is pronounced Blookher by people who use the pub, and Bloosherr by those who pretend they do.

  195. peezedtee says:

    The people who actually live in Marylebone call it Mar-li-bunn. At least the ones I know do.

  196. Malcolm says:

    Is there a disjunct between the station and the district? I get the impression that the Y seems generally to disappear from the name of the district in the mouths of locals (what happens to the other vowels varying a bit), but that the station, perhaps because its name is uttered more by Aylesburyites and (formerly) master cutlers, tends to keep all its vowels.

  197. The other Paul says:

    @PoP @WW and others
    The original point I wanted to make was that, in financial terms, the standalone business case for UTO on the Victoria or Jubilee lines must be stronger than it would be for the Piccadilly. This is because the cost must be proportional to track mileage and number of stations, plus the complexity of the work involved, but the benefit would seem to be proportional to train mileage.

    Of course this statement – intentionally – ignores the impact of other recent and planned projects. So if the recent Victoria Line train or signalling upgrades really preclude UTO, or add significant costs, then that clearly makes a difference. But these are all assumptions, whichever way you make them. Project planning has to involve evaluating things in isolation first and factoring in dependencies later; otherwise projects are started with so many dependencies they never get anywhere.

    FWIW I’m not convinced that UTO will happen anywhere on the tube any time soon.

    @Graham H
    NPVs and all that eh? I’ve not worked with such things recently but I would assume that, in the current climate a public sector body such as TfL would have fairly cheap access to capital and so would use a discount rate of perhaps 3% or 4%. I’d also have thought that a business case based on wage cost saving (as I presented it) would assume a likely future wage cost inflation rate for the NPV calculation, and this would have the effect of partially offsetting the discount rate.

    But even if my maths is completely off, I think the relationship between the numbers is such that the only significant elements are what I flagged above – a cost more or less proportional to track mileage and number of stations, and a benefit more or less proportional to train mileage. Provided those elements stack up, the other factors will just affect how many years it takes for the investment to pay off.

  198. timbeau says:

    @the other Paul
    If those were the only factors it would suggest that a long low frequency line would have a similar BCR to a short high frequency one – train mileage is a function of both frequency and track mileage.
    But of course part of the cost should relate to the number of trains which need to be fitted with the necessary kit. This is proportional to the train mileage, so the BCR of equipping the rolling stock (i.e leaving aside the ttrack costs) seems to be independant of the number of trains, and thus the required train mileage. This mileage-independant factor means that the total BCR cannot simply be reduced to train miles/track miles x some number: it’s train miles / (track miles + train miles) – using appropraite units – and this increases as the track miles reduce. This makes some sort of sense: as it implies that for a given train mileage, automating a short high frequency line has a better BCR than a long low frequency one. Thus, as one would expect, automating the Drain has a better return than the West Highland Line, even though both may run the same amount of rolling stock, operating at similar speeds, and covering the same daily mileage.

  199. Harsha says:

    A big motivation for UTOs is improved reliability.

    When incidents take place on the tube and service controllers have to figure out how to recover the service — a prime consideration is the drivers. Drivers can only drive for a certain amount of time continuously, and in a day. They need to be taken to their relief points. A lot of the decisions on what services to cancel etc are taken by service controllers not because of what service is necessary for passengers, but what can be feasibly operated with driver-related constraints. The biggest advantage with UTOs is that one does not need to worry about any of this.

  200. Greg Tingey says:

    UTO reliability?
    And when the unit breaks down & needs manual driving to nurse it back to the depot?

  201. Snowy says:

    And so the procurement process starts for the new trains, note the press release states capable of full automation, not that it will be initially.

  202. Note also that the press release did not even venture to suggest dates for introduction. I get the impression the Tube Improvement Plan publicity is being resurrected with the emphasis in what will be done (eventually) whilst keeping extremely quiet about timescales. Its all very well mentioning the population increasing by 2030 and the implication that this will alleviate the problem by then but I cannot see how, except by some miracle, more than a couple of lines will have been upgraded by 2030.

  203. Snowy says:

    But of course the unions are up in arms already. As you say no timescale, no mention of platform edge doors etc so I agree, likely a long way off yet.

  204. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PoP – it is all about creating a sense of momentum and of “doing something” despite the financial uncertainty TfL faces. The impression that four line upgrades are going to be done is somewhat misleading given we know only the Piccadilly Line is funded. The lack of comment about the extra trains for the Northern and Jubilee lines rather suggests to me that this “big” announcement is a distraction tactic so the procurement of conventional trains slips by under the radar at some point. And yes I forgot to take my anti cynicism tablets this morning.

  205. ngh says:

    10 trains for the W&C? where are they going to put them all!

  206. Littlejohn says:

    @ngh. Maybe somebody has a plan to extend the W&C? Any ideas, anyone? 🙂 

  207. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Littlejohn

    Is that an invitation to open the crayon boxes?

  208. Littlejohn says:

    Not from me. There is though a serious point. Why does the W&C need new 10 trains?

  209. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Littlejohn

    It doesn’t.

    I smell politics

  210. Chris L says:

    Double the frequency for the W&C

  211. Fandroid says:

    Perhaps, oh sceptical ones, they are going to increase the frequency and turn-around rate on the W&C to increase overall capacity. After all, many an armchair pundit on here has said that the W&C is a very obvious candidate as a pilot for full UTO. Moving trains in and out of the depot and the manoeuvres at the termini should all be good proving grounds for the system before it is tried on a grown-up Tube Line.

  212. Rich says:

    Is there an inherent problem with routinely stabling trains outside of depots? The current W&C has 5 trains stabled in the Waterloo depot overnight, I believe. Presumably then there is easily space for 9 trains on the system (with an additional train overnighting at each platform). That leaves just one more train to either find space for, or not procure when the contract is cutback.

    How would new articulated trains be delivered to the W&C?

  213. Malcolm says:

    From what I remember reading, the constraint on the W&C relates to passenger dispersion at Bank. No point in having longer or more frequent trains if you can’t get the platforms clear.

    I suggest the caveat “E&OE” is called for. In other words, everything in this document is correct except for the bits which aren’t.

  214. Long Branch Mike (London Brum Manchester) says:


    Isn’t the new Walbrook Bank Station entrance/exit supposed to resolve this issue? Or did they not model higher frequency W&C trains?

  215. Castlebar 1 says:


    Doubling the number of rains is the solution to a different problem to the one being answered

  216. Milton Clevedon says:

    @ Castlebar 1
    28 February 2014 at 16:47
    “Doubling the number of rains is the solution to a different problem to the one being answered”

    Sounds like the WC is being ‘flooded’ with trains…?

  217. Anonymous says:

    @Castlebar 1 28 February 2014 at 16:47

    “Doubling the number of rains is the solution to a different problem to the one being answered”

    But it might increase TfL’s liquidity.

  218. Castlebar 1 says:

    Well, it is called “The Drain”

    and my own liquidity has certainly increased this afternoon

  219. ngh says:


    Re Malcolm

    Egress from Bank should be helped by the new W&C entrance though how much is another matter. This should be known before any actual confirmation of the numbers. If not time to start digging another entrance at the Mansion House Station end 😉

    My thinking with 10 trains was difficulties with track /tunnel maintenance if you have unit stabled in a tunnel at night and gridlock if a unit breaks down.

    As an abstract thought may be it is not 10 trains but the equivalent thereof?
    The shorter articulated cars proposed may allow the equivalent of an extra 1/2 car per train so 8/ 9 slightly longer actual units? This would align with the 50% increase in capacity also mentioned.

  220. Walthamstow Writer says:

    As people have mentioned Bank it is worth noting that the builders on the Bloomberg site are experiencing site problems. This means that construction work on the new W&C exit is now delayed by an indertiminate amount of time and TfL postponed contract award for implementation. Clearly it won’t impact any future line upgrade given the vastly different timescales but worth noting.

    Quote from latest Investment Report.

    The developer (who is constructing the station box on LU’s behalf at a considerably lower cost than LU could deliver independently) is suffering engineering challenges on the development and has recently advised of a substantial delay to their programme. The programme remains ill defined. LU has instigated a schedule risk review and a peer review which is due to start imminently. The uncertainty around the delays and the potential for further delays makes the eventual impact on the completion date for the scheme uncertain. This has led to the deferral of the award of the Implementation Contract.

  221. Graham H says:

    @Rich – stabling trains in platforms is not a problem if they are secure at night. It would presumably be possible to crane in a body with one bogie and set it down on an accommodation bogie. What isn’t so clear is whether the depot can be easily modified to allow an entire train to be lifted at once.

  222. stimarco says:

    Of course, it might just be a typo and the actual figure is 10 new cars, not trains. Though even that seems a bit off; I could have sworn they were running 4-car trains, so 8 makes more sense.

    Also, didn’t the W&C get some new-ish stock not so long ago? Are they having reliability issues?

  223. Fandroid says:

    The Board paper that the TfL announcement links to says:

    “Waterloo & City line: a 50 per cent increase in line capacity can be achieved through remodelling of the track layout at Waterloo, an increased fleet size of new generation trains and re-signalling to enable a 30tph peak service level by 2032”

    Mr Wiki tells me that 10 units of 2-car 1992 stock were provided for the W&C Line. So perhaps, the procurement is just for a like-for-like replacement, but with slightly greater capacity due to having full size connections. Then the rest of the 50% capacity increase is gained from tweakery with the layout change at Waterloo plus some other efficiency increase due to adoption of UTO. There seems to be a flaw in the numbers here somewhere. Is 10 units an increased fleet size? Perhaps Mr Wiki is wrong (never!). Are the units longer? I give up

  224. timbeau says:

    ten 2-car units is five trains , which is what the Drain has now. But the numbers for the other lines definitely mean complete trains (unless the numbers for all lines relate to units rather than complete trains).
    I also don’t see where you can keep ten trains overnight: if there are five in the depot and one in each of the four platforms, the tenth must be kept in a tunnel – which I suppose isn’t a problem if it can be started up in the morning with no-one on board. But how do you get going? the train in the arrival platform at Waterloo can’t move because all the depot sidings are full. And none of the trains in the depot can move because the departure platform at Waterloo is occupied.

  225. Greg Tingey says:

    Could another unit be squoze in @ Waterloo, if they are remodelling the track layout there, as they claim?
    One wonders.

  226. stimarco says:


    It just hit me: It’s so obvious!

    They clearly intend to just fill both tunnels and platforms with the trains, lined up end-to-end and coupled to each other. Naturally, the new trains will be of the ‘walk through’ design, so passengers just walk through them all until they end up at their destination! No need for drivers or cabs, so TfL can meet their “driverless trains” directive and, as the trains won’t be moving at all, there are massive savings to be had in running costs, maintenance and only the most basic UTO features would be needed.

    Come to think of it, the UTO could be handled by Siemens’ “AutomatischenBahnenZistemMitLongenNamenUntRandomNummeren24626526-v1.2 (Build 42)” that comes with three free ‘sampler’ commands: “BITTE:StoppenZeTrain”, “BITTE:OpenZeDoors” and “BITTE:ReallyLoudAnnouncement” (Additional “pro” commands are available as in-app purchases, including the “GregTingey Pro Pack” – a snip at just €29999 + VAT – that lets you disable that third command.)

  227. @stimarco

    Also, didn’t the W&C get some new-ish stock not so long ago?

    Nope, same old 1992 stock. It got a very thorough mid-life refurbish when Metronet ? (remember them) upgraded the line. 20% increase in capacity is down to presuming 100% availability of stock at certain times of day.

    They clearly intend to just fill both tunnels and platforms with the trains, lined up end-to-end and coupled to each other.

    I seem to remember you once described the line as a glorified people-mover. Don’t underestimate its importance or its length (nearly one and a half miles).


    There is nothing to prevent the train in Waterloo departures leaving under your scenario (or anything stopping a train departing Bank). The worrying thing is if a train departs but subsequently it is found that another train is immobile. Presumably the first train has to return to the original platform. But what happens if that platform is subsequently reoccupied? It all gets messy as you have to systematically reverse every event that has happened since the start of service.


    One of the reasons that LU aren’t in any rush to upgrade the W&C is that it would involve upgrading and expanding the depot at a cost of several millions of pounds, or maybe tens of millions of pounds, so presumably this would include significant extra siding space.

    I know technically you could put trains in platforms overnight but the fear of one failing and the chaos that would ensue (see above) makes them nervous about it. I would imagine stabling in either of the Waterloo platforms would be particularly risky as a train failure would mean no service at all whereas a failure to start a train stabled at Bank would at worse lead to a degraded service.

  228. Anonymous says:

    Baah! Just commented re the drain on the picc upgrade article, only to discover the conversation’s here:

    W&C: But why not call it 2.5 trains then (relative to the rest of the order)? It’s either a mistake or incredibly ambitious..

    I can just about imagine an eight train (peak) W&C in a full auto future – with a hot spare and one in maintenance making up the ten perhaps – but ten in service would surely be too many. If it suspends – and when the Drain goes wrong, it goes wrong very quickly – you could have every platform full and three trains stuck in tunnel each way, that’d be unpleasant…Plus the stabling nightmare: For ten trains you’d need to restore 4 road and electrify 8 road, and you’d still be outstabling in every platform every night!

    I can’t see 10 working even with UTO, PED’s and a safe means of evac (overhead traction?) …but I also can’t see how they could type 10 and mean 5??

    PoP – a train is currently stabled in Wlo Arrivals plat 3 nights a week

  229. Anonymous says:

    Also there is one at train stabled at Bank (alternating platform) every night – though favouring pl7 in the current timetable to assist new exit work happening alongside pl8.

    The full five train arrangement for the terminally curious:
    One at Bank (makes first passenger w/b)
    One on 3 road (maintenance road – occasionally 2 road* (pit). 1 is half road (turntable)
    Three out of the following four, in rotation to allow track access: 5 road, 6 road, 7 road, WLO Arrivals.

    4 road now longer exists, the drivers step back room and various bits and bobs in its place. There is also unelectrified 8 road, used for equipment storage/craning stuff down (it is open to the elements above, just east of lower marsh st).

    *I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to have a train on 3 road and 2 road at the same time.

  230. Anonymous says:

    Finally, current five train peak is approx 22tph (every 2 3/4 min) achieved in part by stepping back by one train at Bank and two trains at Waterloo.

  231. Taz says:

    30tph compared to current 22tph is 36% increase, so extra 12% to make 50% is due to new trains which are probably longer to use the full platforms (previous trains were longer), and have more internal space due to lower floors allowing standing closer to doors and within corridors between cars. 10 new trains is apparently rounding to the nearest ten, like other lines shown. If current 22tph needs 5 trains, then 30tph needs 7. Could they relay the former lift road and stable in that area, perhaps with additional sidings? Recent minutes mentioned that the timing of the W&C upgrade was uncertain, perhaps to delay for a fully auto demo line?
    The Central Line 25% increase in capacity with 33tph by 2030 seems doubtful since the current trains fill the platforms so new ones little longer, and line currently claim 34tph (but only for 30 minutes in one direction!).

  232. Mike says:

    So, summarising from the Board paper and the press release:
    Bakerloo, 40 trains, 25% increase in capacity, 27tph, by 2033
    Central, 100 trains, 25% increase, 33tph, by 2030
    Piccadilly, 100 trains, 60% increase, at least 33tph, by 2025
    W&C, increase to 10 trains, 50% increase, 30tph, by 2032.

    So by the time the Bakerloo is done, its stock will be as old as 1962 stock would be now (if it still existed). That’s pretty vintage!

  233. Taz says:

    @ Mike 1 March 2014 at 04:44 – Previously posted with no comments received on Upgrading the Piccadilly: Calling Time on Mind the Gap? @Taz 17 February 2014 at 05:06
    Comment 17 January 2014 above gives latest proposed line upgrade years. Given the time to develop a new type of tube train, and then a programme to introduce those based on line priorities, it appears that current Piccadilly Line trains must last until around fifty years old and Bakerloo Line trains until near their sixtieth year. Is it realistic to expect to maintain current services with the current fleets for all that time, whilst demand continues to grow? The recent experience with the Metropolitan Line fleet mainly serving around fifty years was not typical. The line is the least demanding of its trains with long stretches of country between many of its stations. There was also a large spare train holding for much of its life, and only half-length trains operated outside the peaks for the first half of its life.

    The Piccadilly Line trains have performed well, and that line has lots of outer-London stretches with well-spread stations, so perhaps they can be expected to continue for another ten years. But the Bakerloo Line trains have to continue for around another twenty years with intense in-town use on a twisting route with a small spare trains holding. The recent depot collision resulted in a revised timetable to save one train, so how will they cope with diminishing performance and increasing maintenance requirements for another twenty years? No fleet has ever survived for such a time; maybe only a few trains on light duties. One can only hope that they have retained a large spare parts holding from the recently withdrawn Victoria Line trains, which were of similar design.

  234. timbeau says:

    “Bakerloo, 40 trains, 25% increase in capacity, 27tph, by 2033
    So by the time the Bakerloo is done, its stock will be as old as 1962 stock would be now (if it still existed). That’s pretty vintage!”

    I think you’ve miscalculated – in 2033 the 1972 stock would be about sixty years old: as old as the first Routemasters are now, or the oldest examples of Standard (pre-1938) stock on the isle of Wight.

    It is possible of course that the trains will be delivered sooner, future-proofed for later signalling upgrades which will deliver the 27tph and 25% capacity increase.

  235. Malcolm says:

    Err, some confusion about the Island. The present trains there are 1938 stock: they are as you say over 60 years old. The first lot of tube trains there were indeed standard (pre-38) stock, but they have been replaced.

  236. timbeau says:

    Sorry – what I meant was the age the Standard stock reached when it was withdrawn in the 1980s – as you say, the 1938 stock is already much older than that.

  237. Greg Tingey says:

    Back in the day, when the Bullied/Southern units were used, both platforms @ Bank were occupied, alternately, throughout the day.
    IF the passenger-crowding at the exits can be handled, would this contribute to being (relatively) easy to achieve 30tph?
    Since you would no longer have to have only one train @ Bank at a time – which gives you one extra train in service ….

  238. timbeau says:

    I assume the reason they only use one platform at Bank at any given time is because the rate-determining process is elsewhere – probably platform occupancy at Waterloo, or occupancy in the turnback siding. I did read that turnrounds at Bank are slightly quicker from the left hand platform because it has a clear run out, whilst from the other platform trains have to negotiate the scissors crossing. (It makes no difference on arrival, because speed is limited on approach to either platform by “Moorgate Control”)

  239. Mark Townend says:

    @timbeau, 1 March 2014 at 18:37

    You’re right the limiting factor is the turnback at Waterloo. That arrangement with one way platforms and a headshunt simply cannot process the same headway as a classic twin terminal with scissors. It would be possible however to employ an extra train in service so there’s always one laying over in one of the Bank platforms and that would allow trains to load up more gradually, perhaps desirable especially in the evening peaks. If Waterloo was modified to be a mirror image of Bank its possible a more frequent service could be run, although I don’t know where the depot would go. Please note this is not an extension proposal!

  240. timbeau says:

    “If Waterloo was modified to be a mirror image of Bank its possible a more frequent service could be run, although I don’t know where the depot would go. ”

    A mirror image implies a scissors crossing at the Bank end of Waterloo – which would not affect the depot at all. The problem would be the side platforms – passengers just missing one train would have to dash through the subways to the other, rather than simply cross the platform as at Bank. And an island platform would require removing the columns between the tracks – which are supporting the main station above.
    Reversing in one platform would allow quicker turnrounds (or save one train), leaving the other platform surplus to requirements – but pointing straight at Aldwych.

  241. Mike says:

    Tup at Timbeau – thanks for the correction: ran out of fingers!

    And your comment raises the question – what will replace the 38 stock on the IoW?

  242. Mark Townend says:

    It might be possible to rebuild the Waterloo W&C terminal to create a twin platform island configuration by moving each track to the opposite side of its respective arch and knocking through many pedestrian sized passageways between them. If the junction cavern at the Bank end of the station was completed first, the station could operate with a single platform alone during the work alternating from one to the other as the work progressed. It’s probably not practical though as insufficient space would be available for new access passageways from the levels above with sufficient circulating space for the contents of multiple simultaneous 12-car arrivals!

  243. BrizCommuter says:

    @ Mark Townend
    Quote “You’re right the limiting factor is the turnback at Waterloo. That arrangement with one way platforms and a headshunt simply cannot process the same headway as a classic twin terminal with scissors.”

    A Waterloo style reversing in sidings turnback is only a limitation if the speed limits in and out of the siding are slow, or you spend ages “tipping out” the train in the arrival platform. Both Moscow and Paris Metros reverse 38tph in sidings, instead of platforms. Thus a more optimal track layout into and out of the sidings at Waterloo may allow for a significant increase in tph.

  244. Mark Townend says:

    @BrizCommuter, 1 March 2014 at 22:14

    Even if you had two fully signalled sidings used alternately with a fast run in (not possible with the length available I think) the tipping all out and loading all in at a terminal like Waterloo also has a large impact on reoccupation time compared to a suburban turnback where a higher service level may terminate but passenger numbers are significantly lower than maximum train capacity. At least with a classic twin platform terminal the loading and unloading operations can partly overlap, and such an arrangement gets better utilisation out of the rolling stock, eliminating the dead time running in and out of the sidings on every trip.

  245. Greg Tingey says:

    Let’s see if I can get this to work …
    Taken from “Quail” & Anon’s description:

    2 ______________                                    Platform 25 dep
    (4) _ . _ . _ . _ . _ _______________ /_______________________
    5_____________/ /                                  Platform 26 arr
    8_________________/ ( IN open air at outer end for lift )
    Roads 2 & 3 are the depot.

    This is plainly hopelessly inefficient, isn’t it?

    Even in the space available, this ought to be possible, surely?:
    (4) _ . _ . _ . _ . _ . ____/__\__/____________________________
    5_______________/ /

    Or even (just showing part)

    (4) _ . _ . _ . _ . _ . /___\__/__________________
    5_______________/ /

    Or some combination of the above??

  246. Greg Tingey says:

    Oops – please note the platforms are actually (& should be shown as) at the extreme right of the “picture” – the “translation” form “Word” to your window eats blankspace, apparently

    [Yes multiple spaces are automatically replaced by a single space. You need to use hard spaces rather than common-or-garden spaces or mess around with awkward code. Sorted out on this occasion but these kind of diagrams don’t tend to work well. PoP]

  247. Mark Townend says:

    There’s a simsig simulation available for the drain with a nice diagram:

  248. timbeau says:

    Sorry, Greg, but it really is very tight down there. Having been down on platforms 25 and 26 many times, i can assure you that There is a very short distance between the platforms and the sidings – I think only No 5 road has a direct connection to both platforms, and there is no room for more complex point work to allow, for example, a train in No 6 road to access platform 25 (the departure platform).

  249. Mark Townend says:

    Its possible platform 26 (arrival) could be connected through the buffer-stop to siding roads 6 and 7 via a double slip connection. That could give a parallel move from p26 to s6 or s7 at the same time as from s5 to p25 (departure)

  250. Greg Tingey says:

    err … timbeau
    Did you see my post, 1st March @ 10.27 hrs?
    I remember using the old Bullied stock, quite a bit – &, yes it is very cramped down there, but still wondering if a (very) careful re-arrangement might be possible, as MT also suggests?

  251. Anonymous says:

    @timbeau and Mark Townend

    Trains can move from 6rd and 7rd straight into departures, and both 6 road and 7 road can be used for reversing (say if there is a train stalled on 5 road) but neither is currently ideal (walkways, and too few/many trainstops).

    3 (&2) road are only connected to departures. On weekdays you can see a train go out of service onto 6 or 7 at 10:32 then at 10:46 a train from 6 or 7 run OOS into departures, just to reverse back onto 3 for maintenance (to general bemusement of unfamiliar passengers). If you’re stood at the depot end you’ll even see the shutters come up and the depot staff plunge the train in.

  252. Anonymous says:

    If you could do away with the overruns (sand drags) beyond arrivals and before departures you gain a little space for a more rational layout, possible/legal after full automation??

  253. Anonymous says:

    Oops, just reread MT’s post, he suggested the very same thing!

  254. Taz says:

    Posted to Piccadilly Line thread @ Taz 5 March 2014 at 22:35
    “There would be a further review of the proposed timing of the Waterloo and City line upgrade to see if doing it ahead of the Piccadilly line upgrade would decrease the overall risks in the programme. It was agreed that the train procurement exercise would include provision for an evolutionary as well as a revolutionary design.” TfL Finance and Policy Committee meeting on 23 January 2014
    They already discarded the idea of a W&C demo line before! Not much of a trial, little mileage, and cramped site. But still a crucial part of central London if troubles arises. Would put back Picc by a year or two.
    Without revolutionary design of articulated cars with open ends, can they deliver weight and energy savings to allow air conditioning and extra capacity? Perhaps the evolutionary design is just to prove that they can’t!

  255. Taz says:

    Does the plan for only 40 trains for the Bakerloo suggest that they are looking at an Elephant – Queens Park shuttle only with empty workings to and from depot? That would simplify auto-working. The PPP upgrades promised 42 trains originally. The Picc plan is for S7 to work empty to and from Ealing Depot, and S7 already work empty to/from Wembley sidings so there are precedents.

  256. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Taz – well that concept for the Bakerloo line upgrade would certainly simplify matters in terms of the technical and safety issues of passenger ATO / UTO on Network Rail metals. I know Queens Park is effectively NR metals but something has to be sorted out there regardless. Removing the Bakerloo passenger service north of Queens Park has some interesting implications for the nature of the Watford Overground service plus our old friends – capacity at Euston and the line round to Camden Road. I do think, though, that removing the Bakerloo line service to Harrow would run into tremendous political problems though. I can’t see local councillors, Assembly Members and MPs along the line being understanding never mind supportive of an upgrade which demonstrably worsened services.

  257. Greg Tingey says:

    On the actual topic (!)
    Thanks to Ian Visits ….
    Unfortunately political ideology seems to be advancing against engineering reality, again.
    “Driverless trains are the answer” – what was the question, again?
    Oh dear

  258. Taz says:

    When the Watford service ended the Bakerloo became an Elephant – Queens Park shuttle apart from depot trips for Stonebridge Park until the Harrow siding was relaid. A shuttle would avoid the compromise height platforms which won’t meet disability regulations for any upgrade.

  259. Greg Tingey says:

    Certainly Harrow – Queen’s Park needs a service a lot better than one every 20 minutes.
    Quite frankly, it should be every 15 mins all the way to Watford, & double that inside Harrow.
    Problem – no turn-around room @ Euston – so where do you turn or send those trains beyond QPW ??

  260. Fandroid says:

    Does the existing ATO on the Vic and Jubilee lines extend to the depots? One big advantage that’s declared for the full UTO systems elsewhere is that disruptions and greater demand can be responded to swiftly by the control centre, which includes moving trains in and out of depots.

    Does the DLR shift ‘out-of-service’ trains around the network with no staff member on board? Experience there would point to the advantage of not having a staff member sitting at the front.

    I’m not really sure otherwise what the advantage is in moving the on-board person around, except possibly to patrol the interior of the train during off-peak periods, especially late at night in the outer fringes.

  261. Steven Taylor says:

    About 20 years ago, I had a cab-ride into Northumberland Park depot, and the train was driven manually from Seven Sisters into the depot. I seem to remember the driver saying there was no ATO from the junctions at Seven Sisters.
    Probably a current VIC driver can clarify this, as my recollections it was 20 years ago.

  262. Steven Taylor says:

    My above comment should really state that the train was driven manually after the junctions at Seven Sisters.

  263. @Taz, Greg,

    I happened to be thinking on the same lines very recently. What prompted me was the thought that as time went on one or two (or more) Bakerloo Line trains could become unmaintainable. What would one do then?

    On the basis that London Overground should offer a product that everywhere complies with TfL’s own aspirations and have at least a train every 15 minutes I would have thought Euston-Watford Junc should be aimed for though I am not familiar with Euston and any potential issues there. That though suggests around £10million for two extra 5-car trains although if there isn’t the demand presumably shorter trains could be run but then you don’t have a homogeneous fleet. One also needs depot space.

    One then has an issue of providing a better service between Harrow & Wealdstone and Queen’s Park. This would presumably be by means of a shuttle provided by London Overground and would also require extra trains and depot space. At a guess a 4tph service would suffice meaning 4 trains and probably a spare, depot space and whatever work necessary to provide suitable reversing facilities at Queen’s Park. So probably around £25-30m.

    If the schemes were practical then putting the two together is probably of the order of £40 million. Not cheap but if it enables you to survive without replacement Bakerloo Line trains when otherwise you couldn’t then probably money well spent.

    The advantage is you get 4tph to Watford Junction and the current 20 minute frequency really is an anomaly. You get a slightly less frequent service between Harrow & Wealdstone and Queen’s Park but a more consistent one. Bakerloo passengers north of Queen’s Park would have to change at Queen’s Park and I don’t know how convenient that can be made. If it is just cross-platform then it should be no great hardship and better than a reduced service.

    Also, should it be necessary in the next two decades to provide 24tph in the peaks on the Bakerloo Line and one still had all, or nearly all, the 1972 stock trains currently in service, this would be one strategy to enable that to be achieved. Currently the Bakerloo Line is only running 22tph in the peaks.

  264. Snowy says:

    Currently the change from Bakerloo to Overground at Queens Park is cross platform except during peaks when can be either cross platform or a trip up & down a flight of stairs, plan could therefore be workable.

  265. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Steven Taylor,

    You are correct. That is how it was. I can assure you that today it is entirely different and the ATO changeover is just before the entrance to the Victoria Line tunnels at the exit from Northumberland Park depot. Furthermore both lines are bi-directional these days and the automatic route setting just chooses the more appropriate line for the manoeuvre in question.

    When they get to 36tph in a couple of years time with around 43 trains in service by around 7.00 a.m. it will be helpful to have both tunnels bidirectional just to get all the trains into service in the morning. And if you are bidirectional in tunnels it is generally a good idea to have full ATO. This does mean that the drivers very rarely actually drive the train at all – except at very slow speed in the depot.

  266. Steven Taylor says:

    Thanks for the update.

  267. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PoP – with regard to your Bakerloo Line master plan then I expect that dscoping and derisking the upgrade plans north of Queens Park would save hundreds of millions of pounds in terms of design, construction and technical / operational risk. That would easily justify incremental investment in an amended London Overground service that had 4 tph Euston – Watford and (crayons in hand) 4 tph Harrow to Camden Rd via P******* H***. I recognise there are potential issues with HS2 / HS1 link around Camden Rd but a slightly constructed Camden Rd and repairs to the oos rail bridges could possibly allow for a Harrow & Wealdstone to reverse. The other suggestion doing the rounds is that TfL may order a new design of 4 car train for GOBLIN / West Anglia / Watford DCs to free up 378s for the rest of the Overground. Whenever those orders are placed it would be possible to secure options for further fleet expansion.

    I accept we are a long way off anything being done to the Bakerloo line but a scenario that pulls together an amended Overground service pattern and a revised upgraded Bakerloo Line is plausible. Some targeted investment to give a more rational service frequency on the Watford Line without overburdening Euston and which resolves the platform train interface issues is a big win. If TfL / DfT sprinkled some extra step free access works on the top that might allay the inevitable moans about enforced interchange at Queens Park.

    I’ve often pondered how on earth LU could ever upgrade the Bakerloo to fully automatic operation and still have the Overground service and deal with compromise platform heights. I never got to a satisfactory solution. However I also never got to the point of assuming *no* Bakerloo Line service north of Q Park which shows how your brain can get stuck with assumptions based around the status quo.

  268. Steven Taylor says:

    Bakerloo passengers north of Queen’s Park would have to change at Queen’s Park and I don’t know how convenient that can be made. If it is just cross-platform then it should be no great hardship and better than a reduced service.
    The change from the Bakerloo to the Overground is just cross platform. I have often done this, as currently, a large proportion of Bakerloo trains terminate at Queens Park.

    Re the suggestion of only running Bakerloo trains to Queens Park, which I read as a suggestion several years ago, what would happen to Stonebridge Park depot. Would this be retained. With less Bakerloo trains in service, I cannot imagine Lambeth North depot would be able to cope.

  269. mr_jrt says:

    The LO Bakerloo question is an interesting one. Upping the DC lines to 4tph would attract far more custom than 5 car trains will, it’s the service frequency that’s the killer, but IIRC, that can’t happen until they resignal north of Harrow and Wealdstone, as when the current equipment was put in to replace the old LNER kit it was done to provide a much reduced level of capacity than it had previously. Anyone with hard facts on that either way, I’d be interested to hear.

    Long ago (2007, maybe?) I asked TfL if there would be platform height issues with the Bakerloo running back to Watford Junction, as with the Croxley Rail link there would be no grandfather rights for compromise-height platforms at Watford High Street (Watford Junction has enough platforms to give each service two dedicated ones at the correct height). They replied that they didn’t see an issue, which I found interesting. Basically at the time I was musing if it would be worth widening the cutting the station sits in and moving the junction north of Watford High Street (the bridge the road sits on needs urgent replacing as it has a severe weight restriction), and giving each service it’s own platforms. I suspect you’d more likely see one of them simply run through on cost grounds were it an issue though. With the abandonment of the Bakerloo plan there isn’t an issue any more as obviously LO’s and the Met’s rolling stock are the same size.

    Personally, my ideal “vision” is the ELL projected from H&I via Primrose Hill to the DC lines. 12 tph H&I to Willesden Junction, 8tph to Harrow and Wealdstone, and 4tph to Watford Junction. You’d almost certainly have to reinstate the 2nd bay at Willesden Junction though (or even better, convert them into 4 through platforms perhaps?) – DC all the way, and no need to waste capacity at Euston.

  270. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Steven Taylor,

    Yes you would have to retain Stonebridge Park. But the point is that the trains could run out of service there and it would only be a few journeys. The problem with compromise height platforms would disappear.

    If the Bakerloo ever were to run unstaffed trains then this would be undoubtedly be a problem – especially if the trains didn’t even have a cab. I would imagine it would be very expensive to equip the signalling on the line just to accept a combination of UTO out-of-service and DOO in-service stock from Queen’s Park to Stonebridge Park depot.

    Finding sites for depots, especially for Underground lines that are pretty well entirely underground – as the Bakerloo would be if cut back to Queen’s Park – is a real problem.

  271. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Mr JRT – you do like the “grand vision” don’t you? I cannot see any justification for extending 12 tph of ELL services and quadrupling the Overground from Highbury to Camden Rd. I know there are freight loops but you are talking about vast expense to meet no obvious need. In my “medium sized” vision I did try to keep frequencies and modification scope under some sort of control. Trying to run such a high frequency via Primrose Hill would surely make any freight movements almost impossible and I can’t see TfL wanting more freights sent via Gospel Oak (via NLL or via GOBLIN routes).

  272. Steven Taylor says:

    @Walthamstow Writer
    I cannot see any justification for extending 12 tph of ELL services and quadrupling the Overground from Highbury to Camden Rd.
    I seem to recollect that about 5 years ago, there was funding to quadruple all the way to Camden Road, plus re-instatement of the 2 out-of-use platforms at this station. I think the money was re-directed elsewhere.
    I seem to remember that this was so a Camden Road-Stratford shuttle could be instigated.

  273. Greg Tingey says:

    Mr JRT
    Err LMSR signalling surely??
    Or even LNWR signalling ??

  274. @Steven Taylor,

    I think you are correct. Yes TfL did successfully argue the case that the money could be spent more effectively (not penny-pinching by the DfT as Greg suggested a few days ago).

    As far as I am aware, the Camden Road – Stratford shuttle was only intended to provide an 8tph service. By using the money elsewhere TfL have managed to ensure that not only do we have 8tph Camden Road -Stratford in the peak today (well not today because today is Sunday) but that they do not terminate and instead continue somewhere useful.

    My suspicion is that one of the problems with reinstatement of four tracking is the tight clearances and I suspect there is a feeling of do it properly or don’t do it at all. As an alternative there is talk in this NR document of “Reinstate Primrose Hill station and 3 tracks at Camden Rd (North London Line)” but then there is a lot of other stuff in there that I think is just daft (e.g. reinstate Bakerloo to Watford Junction).

  275. Fandroid says:

    @PoP. Your NR doc link leads to a ‘page not found’ message.

    [Sorry now fixed. PoP]

  276. Steven Taylor says:

    Owing to engineering work, you can actually travel direct today from Willesden Junction to Stratford via Primrose Hill.

  277. Mike says:

    Fandroid (& PoP) – delete the ” at the end of the URL and the link works – it’s

    [Thanks. This comment will self destruct in six hours. PoP]

  278. Anonymous says:

    Splitting the Bakerloo into a tube line and some kind of BakerlooPlus™ Overground line could only be considered if Queens Park could take the strain. This is potentially a problem if there is a frequency imbalance.

    In the AM the imbalance is the correct way round (southbound train arrives, people can transfer to a Bakerloo train immediately). In the PM peak however there could be a problem, particularly if the tube gets very frequent and the Overground lags behind. How bad is Queens Park in the evenings at present?

    I think this would be one of the key considerations if any split were to occur.

  279. mr_jrt says:

    Quite! I was going for “old pre-BR kit” and wasn’t concentrating. Never did work out why the GCR was given to the LNER and not the LMS…

    @Walthamstow Writer
    I’m consistently informed that the NLL is rammed in the peaks, and that the DC lines will be evicted in any Euston rebuild. Those are the problems I’m trying to solve. The ELL works on a 4pth pattern for each branch, and there are 3 turnback points along the DC lines that can accommodate 2 roads to handle service enhancements – Willesden Junction, Harrow and Wealdstone and of course, Watford Junction.

    Freight is, as always, the elephant in the room. The way I see it, if the freight is mixed in with LO on the NLL between Stratford and Highbury and Islington anyway, then continuing this to Willesden Junction is little different pathing-wise if the Goblin will have no through services to Willesden.

    If the NLL cannot for some reason handle them being mixed over that distance, then yes, in lieu of alternatives you have to send it over the Goblin route, and that leaves the lines between Camden and Stratford clear for LO. Some service differentiation might be useful too – perhaps say run the NLL fast between Camden Road, H&I and Dalston Kingsland…which might also incidentally help pathing freights as it’s the stop-starting inertia that causes issues.

  280. Anonymous says:

    Is this a argument to rebuild Queen Park? To allow cross platform interchange? This would probably allow the Bakerloo to head to OOC if you did a Stratford like the Central by putting it back in tunnel?

  281. Snowy says:

    It looks like that document was drafted to prove the benefits of HS2 rather than the incremental steps. They seem to think that Euston platform utilisation was a limiting step that could be fixed by removing the Overground services to free up platform space. The reason to extend Bakerloo services I would suggest appears to be to provide a central London option for the intermediate stations to make up for Overground diversion.

    Obviously with HS2 & the enhanced Euston (as it was originally planned) they did not need extra platform capacity thus the Overground & Bakerloo option does not feature in options D-F. Whilst Euston redevelopment remains up in the air I wonder if these plans are quietly being explored pending the forthcoming HS2 economy announcement. Of course other options to increase platform utilisation have already been suggested here before, quicker turn arounds for example.

  282. @Anonymous 11:17
    Would this be any worse than what happens now? Example: Bakerloo Line user is at Oxford Circus and wants to go to Kensal Green. They either wait on the platform at Oxford Circus for the occasional direct train (worst scenario of all as they are on a crowded central London platform) or they take the first train and change at Queen’s Park.

    @Anonymous 12:39

    I hesitated to suggest this as being too fanciful but you did – so … if one diverted the Bakerloo Line from Queen’s Park to Old Oak Common one could build a complete depot in the basement of one of the new buildings there as done at Westfield Shepherds Bush. OK, at Westfield the stabling point already existed but the same idea would apply.

  283. Anonymous says:

    @Pedantic of Purlay that would work as with White City and London Road depot. If your going to put it back into tunnel after Queen Park you may as well just turn it towards Kensal Town at the gas works to serve the development there then head one stop to OOC and on to Earling Broadway. Crossrail does not and should not stop here. It role is ‘express’ where the tube role is and should be ‘local’.

  284. Greg Tingey says:

    Never did work out why the GCR was given to the LNER and not the LMS…
    Because then the Midland would have gone to the LNER ….
    Which would have really reamed their small-engine policy … could have been fun!
    if the Goblin will have no through services to Willesden.
    Initially, yes, but long-term? I doubt it.

  285. mr_jrt says:

    @Anon 14:18
    The Bakerloo is one option, yes, but I think a superior option would be something involving the H&C and the short platforms at Bishops Road. Once the services that currently use these are shunted on to Crossrail (Heathrow Connect?) or cut short (Greenford Shuttles?), then the H&C can have all 4 of its platforms back. Using the central two as terminating roads you could operate a SSL service from a junction at Royal Oak using the Crossrail depot lines if that gets moved elsewhere to free up land for development (or indeed, gets shunted aside for a basement Bakerloo depot). That gets you to OOC, and it would be easy enough to get to Ealing Broadway using the Acton freight lines and terminate there. Alternatively, you could branch along the NNML and take over the Central line route.

    This service would be able to serve stations too close together for Crossrail to bother with, i.e. Paddington (NR, CR1, SSL, Bakerloo), Royal Oak (SSL), Westbourne Park (SSL), Kensal Gasworks, Wormwood Scrubs (WLL), OOC (NR, CR1, HS2, NLL?, Central?), Acton Mainline (I suspect this would be downgraded to a metro station and renamed appropriately), maybe a replacement for West Acton (which would enable the Central to drop this branch due to the interchange at OOC to North Acton), and finally Ealing Broadway (NR, CR1, Central, District).

    …or abandon Acton Mainline and just send the line to take over the Central branch as-is using the former goods formation to run 6 tracks though North Acton.


  286. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Mr JRT – My main response is simply about the scale of ambition. Many of your ideas are large scale with high tphs and often seem, to me at least, out of step with the demand that is on offer (or likely). I’m all for making sensible provision in investment schemes for growth but we rarely if ever can justify provision for 20 years in future (except for things like platform lengths on tunnelled schemes like Crossrail).

    Extending 12 tph of ELL trains to NW London just feels like overkill and would need considerable spend to achieve. Freight is and will continue to be a major issue for the Overground and TfL. Efforts by TfL to release unused freight paths on the NLL do not seem to have to fruition (yet). You have to ask why a commercially minded rail freight industry would ever give up rights to paths on a congested bit of railway. I can’t see why they would and do we really want TfL’s “wallet” being prised open by private companies at a time of budget cuts? That’s not an “easy sell” for TfL.

    I was just proposing a modest and deliverable (?) scheme that would give a good level of Overground service north of South Hampstead to Harrow that would allow the Bakerloo Line not to run beyond Queens Park. It also gives a marginally better service (4 tph) to Euston and to Watford (assuming a service into Euston will continue). I am not up to date on the current prognosis for Euston capacity r.e. Overground. I think a 8tph service from South Hampstead to Harrow and Wealdstone with 4 tph either side to Watford / Euston / Camden Rd would be an attractive enough proposition. The main disbenefit in my scheme would be the need to change trains at Queens Park and Camden Road with the latter location potentially being troublesome for w/b journeys.

  287. timbeau says:

    AS has been said, if automation precludes the Bakerloo going beyond Queens Park, a new depot is needed somewhere. Sharing Neasden is a possibility. But if a new extension is needed to a potential new site, why does it have to be at that end of the line? The distance from Elephant to Peckham is similar to the distance between Queens Park and OOC.

  288. Steven Taylor says:

    Re Queens Park cross platform interchange. Please refer to my post `8 March 2014 at 19:50`. This station has cross platform interchange now.
    My view is this station currently is a pleasant place to interchange, with its roof covering all 4 platforms.

  289. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Greg T 15:03 who said “JRT
    Never did work out why the GCR was given to the LNER and not the LMS…
    Because then the Midland would have gone to the LNER ….”

    The answer is very seemples

    The northern end was of the line was based in Sheffield. That is indisputably LNER territory not LMS. And MILEAGES were from Sheffield which explains some of the Mile posts around “200” near Neasden last time I looked which was about 10 years ago

  290. Malcolm says:

    I don’t see what the zero mileage point has to do with anything. London underground is said to measure everything from the buffer stops at Ongar. I always supposed that GC->LNER was a tiny gesture towards the notion of rail/rail competition (which notion raised its head slightly in a more recent reorganisation of railways in Britain). Obviously a bit muddled, because the main effect of the grouping was to eliminate most competition (except London-Scotland). But GC->LNER did allow a little bit of competition back (London to Leicester/Nottingham and also perhaps Manchester).

    There’s probably not many of the relevant civil servants around now to ask…

  291. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Malcolm

    …and I don’t see what your comment has anything to do with……

    “Never did work out why the GCR was given to the LNER and not the LMS…”
    or anything to do withthe London Underground
    or anything to do with Ongar

    I have given mr_jrt an answer to his comment posted at 12:15. If truly, you “don’t see what the zero mileage point has to do with anything”, in relation to my explanation to him, regarding the GC and LNER, I’m not the person to explain it any further.

  292. Graham H says:

    @Malcolm – although I was not around on 1.1.48, I can assure you that (a) the department of Transport wouldn’t have troubled itself on the way in which BR organised itself at that date, and (b) no one gave any thought to competition between regions at all… It would have been seen as simply an internal matter for the BTC/BRB

  293. Malcolm says:

    @castlebar Sorry if my comment struck you as rude. I await with interest any enlightenment which anyone can give me about the relevance of a zero mileage point to regional/company allocation issues. Or not, if no one finds the matter interesting enough to comment on, or if it is felt that I am missing something too obvious to bother with.

    @Graham H I thought I had just about ceased to confuse myself about which things happened in 23 and in which in 48, and now your comment has got me muddling them again. I agree that the secular-fluctuating level of expectation of rail/rail competition would indeed have been at a low point in 1948, but I am less clear about the situation in 1923, which was the moment (I think) when the GC got allocated to whatever it got allocated to.

  294. timbeau says:

    @Graham H
    The Grouping that put the GCR in the LNER was in 1923, not 1948.

    “Sheffield… indisputably LNER territory not LMS”

    I for one would dispute that – the Midland Railway had a fairly major presence in that city.

  295. Graham H says:

    @timbeau/Malcolm – Sorry, um so mehr for the BTC and the MoT not to fret. (BTW, I don’t believe that the government in 1923 was at all concerned to promote competition – on the contrary, the whole point was to produce reasonably robust entities that could finance the renewal of their assets – otherwise, we might have had some very different structures.)

  296. Anonymous 11:17 says:

    Indeed, of course it must happen now to a large extent. The point I wish to raise is about future frequency: post-modernisation the Bakerloo should surely be capable of a much higher frequency, which TfL would hopefully be keen to exploit. Unless the Overground vamps up to match it, the induced demand could plausibly be enough to cause problems.

    Indeed, even if the BakerlooPlus (as I will now insist on calling it) Watford DCs did undergo a concurrent frequency boost there remains a significant residual risk of severe overcrowding in the event of disruption – cross platform interchanges offer very little reaction time when things break as the platforms fill up almost straight away. This problem is very much worse when you are obliged to completely empty a new train every 90 seconds.

    Or you could be right and I could be making a mountain out of this.

  297. Malcolm says:

    @Graham yes of course you are right overall about the point of the 1923 grouping, certainly as far as I can tell from all I have read. I just wondered if the GC “anomaly” (if that’s what it was) might have arisen from some slight competition-freakery stirring the pot a little bit, against the overall trend of the operation. Or little traces still visible until recently (well, what I call recently) of some long dead personal rivalries in government or the railway companies.

    Or perhaps castlebar is right and it was just a natural grouping. It never seemed like that to me, because of the way the company (and later regional) topology was so muddled in London, with Marylebone further west than Euston. But maybe that’s a north-Londoner’s viewpoint.

  298. timbeau says:

    “But maybe that’s a north-Londoner’s viewpoint.”
    The GCR’s most extensive network was in Lincolnshire, including Immingham Docks. This may have made its integration with the LNER more natural than may appear from a purely London perspective.

    In the same way, from a Scottish highland perspective, the NBR would not seem a very good fit with the LNER either.

  299. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Anon 1117 – I think you may be overstating your concern about Queens Park overcrowding. The infrastructure at Queens Park and further north has never been very reliable and LU / Network Rail are past masters at splitting the service at Queens Park and / or running shuttles. I know the passengers suffer delays in such instances but I’ve never heard of Queens Park station platforms being overloaded in such cases (happy to be corrected though). A future scenario of a much more frequent Bakerloo coupled with an improved Overground service shouldn’t present too many issues. I note though that Network Rail’s vision of the future is reliant on the Bakerloo running to Watford and the DC service going to Camden Road. I wonder when the strategies will become aligned?

  300. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Malcolm 21:51

    Apology accepted

    There is a danger in thinking “London centric”. The GC never was and the line to Marylebone was an extension. So the mileage point started from the northern points of the network. As has been pointed out, the GC was Lincoln/Yorkshire based, so the bulk of it was more naturally interworked with the LNER, it really is easy to look at their own (GC’s) route network from a northern perspective and then see why the GC’s London terminus at Marylebone being west of the LMS’s at Euston was the anomaly.

    I wonder if the old GC mileages are still used at the London end, (does anybody know?). They were 10 or so years ago, even though the big chunk in the middle was well isolated from the original “0” point by then. But that really is an ‘aside’, and not the reason Marylebone went to the LNER.

  301. Fandroid says:

    @Castlebar 1.

    According to my current Trackatlas, Marylebone’s mileage is 205m 77ch, but from Harrow on the Hill the mileages revert to Metropolitan ones, only to change back to GC ones at Quainton Road, only to disappear in a puff of smoke at Calvert Junction! Clear as mud.

    The Trackatlas does try to explain mileage eccentricities. It also says that GCR mileages were measured from Manchester, London Road (Piccadilly to you and me).

  302. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Fandroid

    Thank you

    You state that “Marylebone’s mileage is 205m 77ch” which would explain why there were and possibly still are some 199/200 mileage posts on the Chiltern around the Neasden area.

    I thought they (the GC) measured from Sheffield, but I was wrong on that bit, sorry!

  303. Mark Townend says:

    I think the Watford DC lines could form another Crossrail branch along with the WCML slow line suburban services, so increasing the number of TPH using the proposed WCML connection. The WCML tracks would shuffle over between Wembley Central and Harlesden to make room for the DC lines to take over the current fast pair. The DC underpass at Wembley would be abandoned and a new grade separated junction created with the Willesden Relief underpass used by the slow line Crossrail and Southern services to cross the fasts. This would allow the Bakerloo to terminate at Wembley Central in a new pair of platforms on the slow side at the London end. The remainder of the DC lines going into Euston would be connected to the NLL via a new chord at Willesden Junction and would run via OOC to Hounslow. That chord would cut the existing connection between the low level platforms and the NLL, but this isn’t neccessary for passenger services any more and there are separate through lines around the back of the platfroms that carry the freight from WCML to the NLL. The Euston end of the DC lines could still be diverted to Camden Road and beyond if desired and assuming sufficient capacity. This scheme would only have one station shared between Bakerloo and OG services at Kensal Green. The stop could be withdrawn for one or the other line or the platforms reconstructed with sections suitable for each type of train. Ten cars out to Watford would need platform extensions clearly, most costly at Watford Junction itself where the throat junctions would need to be modified.

  304. Fandroid says:

    @Mark Townend. Your idea for Crossrail to take over the DC lines has that sort of ‘very sensible’ logic to it. The outer end of the DC lines would retain its direct connection to central London and gain connections to many other places in addition. The Bakerloo would generally no longer be carrying large numbers who wished to transfer at Queens Park, as most will have transferred their allegiance to Crossrail. The (slightly) disadvantaged would be those who wanted to travel in from beyond Wembley Central to stations between there and Euston. They would have a longish transfer at Wembley Central itself. Also, those from beyond Wembley Central who routinely transfer low to high level at Willesden Jn, will either have an extra transfer or the opportunity to get lost somewhere in Old Oak Common!

    I still somehow think it will be regarded as ‘too difficult’.

    Have you had a think about the tph required on various parts of the WCML Crossrail branches?

  305. Mark Townend says:


    In Lemmo’s article Old Oak Common: A Vision & Challenge For Crossrail (Part 1) he quotes the London & South East RUS:

    10tph semi-fast to (or via) Heathrow Airport
    6tph semi-fast on the GWML
    8tph via a new route to the WCML slow lines

    I think a total of 16tph along the GWML reliefs to the airport junction is over ambitious and unnecessary. With my scheme I would go for an equal split 12 each way to GWML and WCML. The 12tph WCML would consist of the 8tph identified in the RUS plus a further 4tph to Watford DC lines. I would expect the popularity of the DC services would increase drastically with the new central London connections available on Crossrail and the connections west to Heathrow and other Thames Valley destinations. The proposed Hounslow service from Euston/Camden Road would cut that Overground branch back to within a similar range from central London to the other OG branches, instead of the ‘abnormally long’ run out to Watford . Instead of going all the way to Hounslow, that could terminate at Kew Bridge for SWT and bus interchange, in a new facility constructed within the Lionel Road triangle. Alternatively a terminating facility would be required at Hounslow or the service could be extended through to Feltham, or Twickenham offering the possibility of taking the place of the historic SWT Hounslow Loop pattern. An ambitious option for terminating at Hounslow could see a new terminal in Inwood Park with exit onto Inwood Road and improved pedestrian access via Fairfields Road and Fair Street to the High Street. Most likely this would have to be sunk into a below ground station box with enhanced park and leisure facilities restored above.

  306. Mark Townend says:

    Bob Crow died early this morning –

  307. Anonymous says:

    What happens on an unstaffed train that catches fire at 08.30 on a Monday morning in a deep level tunnel ??

  308. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Anonymous 13:18

    That is exactly the (sort of) question Bob Crow tried without evident success, to get Boris to give a direct, structured answer to.

    It’s still a question that does require an answer, Boris.

  309. straphan says:

    The French seem to have found answers to such questions somehow…

  310. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Straphan – clearly the French and others have found answers to the fire question. I’d love to know the details of their solutions – through design, materials and processes. Brand new lines can design in fire suppression, fire retardence, evacuation shafts, fire hardened lifts, sophisticated tunnel ventilation and side walkways in tunnels. The Paris Metro also benefits from being largely two track allowing side by side train evacuation if required. London Underground has little of these facilities although rolling stock is highly fire retardent as are a lot of cables in tunnels and stations. Stations have had significant improvements post Kings Cross fire to reduce the risk of fire. While all of this helps I am unclear how LU will resolve the huge challenge of automatic operation in its existing deep tube lines with providing a safe and viable way of handling a “fire in tunnel” scenario (regardless of the scale of train loading).

    I have remarked before on using the VAL automatic Metro in Lille and being concerned that the doors between carriages were locked with no obvious form of release and the carriages being very plasticky in their construction. Clearly the materials may well be fire retardent but I was left wondering how the VAL would cope with a “fire in tunnel” event given the distinct lack of staff on the system and the high volumes of trains running at very short headways. There must be a plan to deal with such an event – would be interesting to know what it is.

  311. stimarco says:

    @Castlebar 1 and Anonymous (13:18):

    “Driverless” does NOT mean “unstaffed”: The DLR has tunnels. It also uses “driverless trains”, and has done since its opening. It manages just fine. Boris has no question to answer in this case.

    The only argument against driverless trains is that it means drivers won’t exist in the traditional sense: the LU network’s trains would have wandering “Train Captains” (or “Passenger Service Assistants”, according to taste) instead.

    Naturally, as such staff are just old-school train guards with a different label, that means their pay would be set accordingly – i.e. lower – and that is why the RMT and other unions don’t want driverless trains: they’d get less money from their members.

  312. Greg Tingey says:

    Because DLR “Train Captains” have to be able to take the train over, under manual control & physically drive the things!
    Used to happen quite a lot with the older electronics/control system.
    Doesn’t seem to be so frequent, now, but my sample size is totally unrepresentative.
    Anyone else got any relevant info on that?

  313. straphan says:

    @stimarco: what Boris wants to achieve is unattended train operation. This means the ability to operate trains without the need for staff of any kind to be present on board. Other than making industrial action far less likely (and crippling) than at present, the goal is also to make the service far more flexible and responsive to demand.

    @WW: As far as I know Paris Line 1 has staff on standby at each station (mostly ex-drivers), which would be ready to help with any evacuation. Clearly the first step in any evacuation situation would be to shut off the juice, thus providing an escape route to passengers. You would need some sort of system of temperature and smoke sensors in tunnels as well to detect fires and I assume the French metro systems already have these installed.

    I also find Boris’s pledges of reducing staffing at stations and getting rid of drivers contradictory. I can understand replacing drivers with standby crews at stations ready to help in the event of an evacuation. But de-staffing stations and trains indeed sounds like a recipe for disaster…

    Also, newly-built French automatic systems also have intermediate emergency exits on stretches, where the stations are further apart. Such intermediate exits are in place on the Jubilee Line extension, but I’m not sure if the legislation necessitating these already existed when the Victoria was built. I’m not sure what the longest distance is between deep-tube underground stations in London is, but my guess would be Finsbury Park – Seven Sisters. No clue if there are emergency exits from the tunnels there.

  314. AlisonW says:

    I would suggest to Greg et al that ‘train captains’ aren’t that useful in a tunnel. If you have someone to take over in an emergency they need to be able to access the controls! Unless you are going to have repeated sets of minimal controls (inc a front-facing camera) in each car (which, clearly, you really aren’t going to) then your emergency body needs to have access to the front of the train where the controls are. This either means a “driver” or someone walking along the line from the next station.

  315. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Alison W – it is possible to walk through from one DLR unit to another – there are centre doors in the front / rear of each car with a step required over the connecting couplings. A train captain in a rear unit can still reach the front of their train even in tunnel.

    @ Straphan – yes Seven Sisters to F Park is the longest stretch. The Vic Line does have several vent shafts between stations and I think there are escape stairs but not 100% certain. I don’t know if the ventilation upgrade works removed any escape capability.

  316. straphan says:

    @AlisonW: …or someone in a control centre who can see the feed from a front-mounted camera on the train?

    Obviously, in the event of an evacuation, there will still be the need for staff to descend into the tunnels to assist. Hence I think the Parisian solution of having teams sitting at stations on standby to jump into the tunnel as required.

  317. Fandroid says:

    Apparently well-thought-out emergency procedures can often fail when exposed to the first real (as opposed to simulated) test. I really don’t know if any of the UTO systems currently operating around the world has seriously been put to the test. @WW mentioned his misgivings about the intrinsic safety of the Lille VAL.

    The only fire I can think of on a driverless train in a tunnel was the Kaprun disaster in Austria in 2000. The trains were funicular (cable driven) in a steeply inclined tunnel. There were 155 deaths. In fact, there were members of staff, conductors, on the two passing trains involved, but the fire destroyed the communications with the control centre, so they were entirely on their own.

    The inclined tunnel created a chimney effect, so intensifying the fire and making the uphill escape route deadly due to fumes.

    Wikipedia summarises the event. Fire has always been one of the deadliest hazards faced by man, and it is far too easy to be lulled into a false sense of security simply because there hasn’t been a serious incident for a while. Having said that, the Channel Tunnel has had four fires in its lifetime, and there has been no loss of life, but there has always been staff on board their trains, and there is a purpose-built escape tunnel.

  318. timbeau says:

    “The DLR has tunnels.”
    Unike the Tube, the tunnels have walkways at the side. On a Tube train in a tunnel, the only way out is through the “M” door at each end.

  319. Castlebar 1 says:

    How does ” someone in a control centre who can see the feed from a front-mounted camera on the train?” see through flames and/or thick smoke?

    How does ” someone in a control centre who can see the feed from a front-mounted camera on the train?” if the camera has melted in the heat?

    How does ” someone in a control centre who can see the feed from a front-mounted camera on the train?” if all the power is off and can be seen or nothing works?

    Questions that need to be answered before decisions are made that could cause fatalities?

  320. Graham H says:

    @straphang – the requirement for escape shafts seems to have been introduced between the opening of the Victoria Line and the concluding design work for CrossRail central area (I recall it being greeted by older hands with the grumble – it’ll be fire-hardened lifts in them next).

  321. Anonymous says:

    remember chaps, that retaining a ‘driver’ is one single person. if there were a catastrophic fire with smoke a mahem, how useful would he be? most of the help would come from an adjacent station, would be little different to a driverless scenario. questions need to be answered but there is no fundamental reason why UTO could not work in london. ‘what ifs’ are great, we can all dream up horrific scenarios but look at the numbers. how many of those have actually happened on an an actual train and how useful was the single driver? one of the biggest challanges will be explaining how risk assesment works and how actually you cant design out all risk and that yes, actually a life has a value and you weigh up up how much resource to spend to maintain that life against running a service. its done on airlines, cruise ships and the car industry. life isnt actually priceless.

  322. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Anon 2242 – yes you are correct about risk assessment. Read plenty of them in my time as well as formal incident reports. Now I will simply say “think of the children” and we immediately get into the territory of irrational demands for perfect safety / protection / whatever. Clearly TfL / LU will do the “stone cold” logical assessment as expected of them and regulators will have to be convinced. You could explain risk assessment until you’re blue in the face to the public but if you kill and badly injure people, in an event that may have a tiny probability of occurrence, you are no longer into the territory of logic but one of emotion and demands for justice / such an incident never happening again. People stop listening to logic in such situations and if you keep peddling a seemingly uncaring line of argument (even if it’s correct) you’ll get lynched by the media and some politicians.

    I think we also need to note that when passengers are interviewed then they tend to prefer having a driver on board. They value having a skilled person who is trained to assist them during an incident. We can construct varying scenarios in which a driver may or may not be helpful in an incident. I doubt that will change passenger perceptions. We also need to remember that people have reasonably long memories and it wasn’t that long ago that LU was regularly leading people down tunnels because trains had conked out, signals failed, tunnel telephone wires ripped down etc etc. Drivers have assisted in all of those scenarios and people will question what would have happened in those cases without a driver being present. I agree *most* help comes down the tunnel from an adjacent station but people need reassurance in the mean time and controllers will value getting updates from the driver who is “on the spot”.

    I remember being told in a training course about one particular type of incident that can happen to tube trains in tunnels. The ramifications of that sort of incident still “haunt” me to this day and I would hate to be involved in such an event. I am not going to say what it is because the debate here would not be helpful. I say this as someone who is not unduly prone to making irrational safety demands nor do I lack understanding of how health and safety is handled on LU nor the commitment of thousands of people to deliver a safe service for Londoners. The fact remains that there are certain incident types that can, despite all the sensible precautions having been taken, have horrendous results (as Fandroid has shown in an earlier post). We must hope that someone, somewhere *is* thinking about these scenarios and trying to determine how you prevent / mitigate such scenarios. I still think public pressure will mean that staff are retained on trains even if they are not driving them.

  323. stimarco says:

    @Straphan, et al:

    “what Boris wants to achieve is unattended train operation.”

    Then Boris needs to talk to someone with a clue: you can never eliminate the human factor entirely from any system that has to interface with them. There’s no such thing as “100% foolproof”: the universe is too good at creating fools.

    Luckily, Boris wasn’t elected London’s Mayor Eternal. His time will (mercifully) pass.

    Furthermore, nothing I’ve heard from TfL suggests anything other than the Train Captain model, despite what Boris may want.

    As any “driverless” rolling stock would have the fancy walk-through design seen on the Overground and the SSR’s new S Stock, the problem of how to get to the controls is moot: it’s a lot easier to walk through such stock than with older stock.

    Even if the train is too packed with passengers to walk through it, the TC could just whip out a pocket train controller, unlock and plug it into the nearest socket and control the train from there. It’s 2014, not 1914. This isn’t exactly difficult. In theory, there’s no reason why you couldn’t drive a train with an iPad via a secure WiFi connection if you wanted to, though a physical controller with a lock and key and a cable would be easier to secure.

    As a self-driving train should have multiple redundant systems and failsafes, it should be sufficient to instruct the computer to move the train to the nearest safe station and stop there. If the platform is already occupied, the computers on both trains can be told to couple up, allowing passengers to walk straight through into the other train and out onto the station platform. Job done.

    I’m curious as to how having a driver sitting in a cab makes the slightest difference. A Train Captain is just an old-school train guard with some basic driving skills. The point about driverless trains isn’t about reducing staff so much as improving efficiency.

  324. Fandroid says:

    @stimarco. No mock-up or ‘artist’s impression’ I have seen for the New Tube has connecting gangways between trains. This is LUL not SWT. So, sadly, no ‘job done’.

  325. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Stimarco – just as well you’re in Italy. I don’t think I’d like to see the outcome of you presenting your views on the train driver’s skill set to a room full of LU drivers’ union reps. I really do think you are being unfair about the skills and experience that train drivers have.

  326. Greg Tingey says:

    Several comments (not just mine) seem to have vanished?
    Also, yesterday, for an hour or three, “L-R” went down completely & couldn’t be accessed.
    However …..
    OFF TOPIC ( Or maybe not )
    [snip PoP]
    Maybe this should have been on the “Bob Crow” thread, maybe not?
    [Well the fact that John Bull made the conscious decision to stop allowing posts on that thread should give you a clue as to why it was not allowed. It was contentious and not a transport-related story except in the wider sense that a transport organisation was involved. It is not what we are here for. PoP]

  327. stimarco says:


    Did I just imagine the old “Space Train” concept images for the Victoria Line then? If such designs were considered feasible back then, why not now? Almost every metro in Italy has walkthrough trains now, and London’s own District, Metropolitan, Circle, and Hammersmith & City have them too.

    Not that it matters: all the train captain needs is the ability to control the train. There’s no reason at all today for that to require an entire chunk of train to be walled-off from the passenger area.

  328. stimarco says:

    @Walthamstow Writer:

    I have no doubt that most of today’s Tube train drivers are very skilled at what they do, but I don’t see how that’s relevant to the needs of future services. Are you seriously suggesting that all other rolling stock across the entire LU network will require proper, full-on drivers, all the time, forever? Because I don’t.

    Jobs are redefined or replaced all the time. Ask any ex-coal miner, engine fireman, or blacksmith. Ironically, the DLR’s trains are manned only by guards – an inversion of the old Driver-Only Operation philosophy. Granted, the guards are also trained to drive the trains, but only under certain, very specific, and very limited, conditions.

    Ultimately, I can envisage a time when all* vehicles, from trains, buses to cars and taxis, are entirely computer controlled. And that will open up all sorts of integration possibilities. ATO isn’t the acme of automation: it’s only the first step. There are a few more to go, but once they arrive, there’ll be a complete revolution in public transport.

    Given the myriad problems we’ve seen and discussed all over this website, I’d say that can’t come soon enough: cities like London need revolutionary, not evolutionary, solutions.

    * (I’ve said this before: I’m not interesting in having any one mode ‘win’, because I don’t see this as a competition. As far as I’m concerned, an urban metro is conceptually no different from a horizontal passenger lift. Nobody’s demanding the return of human lift operators in case of elevator fires or other emergencies.)

  329. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Stimarco – I’m afraid I do not share your huge enthusiasm for all things technological. You are clearly extremely comfortable about the prospect of us relinquishing control to computers and fancy bits of clever technology. I actually don’t think the average motorists, of which there are tens of millions, will want to lose control of their vehicles. I also think passengers, be they on a bus or tube or train, will be reticent about the loss of someone being obviously “in charge and in control” of the vehicle on which they’re travelling. Note that I used the term “in charge” which means someone in authority in the vehicle which is rather different from having vast computer networks driving trains which is the present stage of evolution on LU. Do we all want to travel in some variant of a lift? I am not sure I do. I’m not a luddite but I just think we are decades away from the scale of automation you promote *and public acceptance of the same*.

    If nothing else where on earth is the funding going to come from to convert London’s road network and vehicles to run automatically without driver intervention? We can barely afford to run the current TfL bus network (if you swallow the official line) so how on earth is London going to find billions to automate it?

    You tend to leap towards revolutionary steps in transport provision and I’m afraid a lot of the time I just don’t see the steps in the same way. There will definitely be a lot of evolutionary change but we’re a very long time way from achieving the end result you envisage (IMO, of course).

  330. timbeau says:


    I think you are confusing walking through a train (as on a class 378 or S stock) with walking between trains. Tube (and DLR and class 319) trains do have end doors which could be used for that purpose, but it would not be advisable to allow passengers to use them without supervision as they require a step between the cabs.

    What fandroid is describing is a fully-enclosed gangway end like this.


  331. Rational Plan says:

    @walthamstow writer. If automated cars end up working, you won’t need to spend a penny on converting roads. It’s the private motorist who will buy these new automated cars. As long as they prove quite a bit safer than humans driving then lots of people will want one. There are lots of nervous drivers who would love to give up control.

    Consider all the more useful things you could do with that time! Texting friends, eating lunch, having a nap. As for buses, they could just end up with a low paid security guard on them, but on the other hand on most trains you are really on your own, if something bad was to happen, total and obvious surveillance within the bus may do, backed up bt rapid response from the BTP. To be honest bus drivers have not stopped any fights on buses in the present day. Some teenager who goes fully physical for you looking at them funny of objecting to their loud music or throwing chips at you girlfriends head (to quote one case) won’t stop them stabbing you to death.

    Who knows whether buses would go automatic, they would only do so if the automated car revolution really kicked and lots of people started to use automated taxis instead. Then the bus companies would really need to look at cutting costs and frankly eliminating staffing would make huge difference in running costs.

  332. Graham H says:

    @Rationalplan – “Then the bus companies would really need to look at cutting costs and frankly eliminating staffing would make huge difference in running costs.” Alas, if it were only that simple. Staff costs represent about 2/3 of the cost of running a bus at most; of that 2/3, a substantial amount is represented by maintenance and management staff, who will be needed whether the buses are automatic or not. If you then have to pay for some sort of on-bus security/ticket checker, who will probably be paid nearly as much as a driver, the savings vanish away. The bus industry is in a financial bind; it is, as the economists put it, a mature industry, technically and labour-wise, and the scope, if any, for further cost savings comes from a steady application of small measures such as greater fuel efficiency, and modular maintenance. No magic wand for them!

  333. Greg Tingey says:

    Rational Plan
    There is a repeated & persistent problem with fully-automated cars … which will “replace public transport, so buses & trains won’t be needed”
    Where are you going to park the things?
    We’ve been around that one, several times, already!

  334. Castlebar 1 says:

    “There is a repeated & persistent problem with fully-automated cars”

    The bigger problem is completely non-programmable pedestrians. These people amble/wander into the road when texting, and push their buggies into the road before they get to the edge of the kerb, then look both ways. This latter phenomenon happens particularly at pedestrian crossings where the buggy pusher assumes that all motorised traffic can stop at the split second the front wheels of the “little person carrier” leave the pavement.

    No vehicle programme can cater for the irresponsibility of people. We’ve seen (and discussed) that here in the past when discussing accidents that have already happened affecting trains. This is particularly evident at level crossings

  335. Graham H says:

    @GT – just for amusement, I once estimated that to park all the cars needed to replace NSE’s daily tribute to central London, we’d need to cover the entire area within the Circle line in a 6 storey car park….

  336. Milton Clevedon says:

    @ Graham H
    That was also the point of the 1964 Buchanan Report – to show what the consequences would be of full motorisation, not to advocate it! Surprisingly for a complex transport report, it was republished as a Penguin paperback, as it was that popular!

  337. Malcolm says:

    I was once, quite recently, advised by an otherwise-quite-apparently-sane experienced coach driver, that if the yellow lights were flashing at a barrier crossing, “[I’d] better get moving because otherwise [I’d] be held up for a good five minutes”.

  338. Graham H says:

    @MC – as a pretentious 16 year old, I read that Buchanan’s report, and I have to say that it is one of the few publications (no, I’m not going to list the others …) that have permanently changed my views on things.

    @Malcolm – it makes all the discussions about the value of life and time somewhat pointless (mind you, I recently did a study for the Japanese Development Bank on a rail project in India, which turned, inter alia, on the value of life there – the best estimate was about $300, which undermined the investment case, as you might expect.

  339. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ MC / GH – My degree thesis was on the Buchanan Report. As I got a decent degree I assume I didn’t write complete nonsense in assessing why planning for traffic in towns had failed.

  340. Rational Plan says:

    I am no believer in automatic cars replacing public transport and I am a skeptic about it allowing people to commute ever longer distances. I don’t believe they will be electrically powered either. But they will still have major impacts particularly in rural and semi urban areas

    That’s why public transport is here to stay in our larger towns and cities and certainly rail based services.

    For it to work it needs to be able to mix with non automated traffic and pedestrians etc. I suspect the biggest problems for the technology will be using non marked spaces and deciding how to park half on a curb and half on the road or parking on grass field at car boot sale. But then I suspect automated cars will still have steering wheels to let driver guide them in low speed non standard environments. The cars will still be able to stop them hitting anyone else though,

    But all this has yet to be proved yet, but if it works then and is cheap enough then it won’t be more than a decade before 90% of the vehicle fleet has changed over.

    Road accidents would largely disappear, many OAP’s could keep their cars. As long a car could not be driven manually maybe drink driving laws could be meaningless.

    If auto taxi’s also pan out then fewer people may own cars and only hire when they are needed, with the advantage of door to door service.

    Also there are many towns where Public transport has a tiny mode share. I live in Slough and Bus travel does not break 5% of journeys . Plenty to people catch trains to London or Reading but locally everyone drives, the buses are so expensive that they mainly cart around students and OAP’s, or Heathrow workers who have the bus passes subsidised.

    @ Graham H

    A Bus driver still constitutes a large percentage of the costs of running a service. I’m sure the bus companies would be willing to look at shaving 30% to 40% off their running costs.

    Taxi sharing exists in other countries. It’s not a huge leap of imagination to see automated mini buses.

    Many smaller cities could see traditional bus networks melt away or shrink to daytime services.

    But it all depends how the technology advances, but it seems far quicker than people thought 5 years ago.

  341. Graham H says:

    @Rational Plan – please read very carefully what I wrote. Staff costs are about 60-70% of the costs of running a bus service. Of that 60-70%, about half are the costs of staff who maintain the vehicles, and who manage or plan the service. So – drivers, costs amount to no more than 1/3 of the costs of running a bus. If each vehicle has some sort of “guard” or farechecker (bouncer?) to accompany it and you manage to pay them only 80% of what you would pay a driver, then arithmetically, you save only 1/5 of 1/3 of the cost of running a conventional bus.* My maths suggest that is 6.6% – not a lot, is it, and certainly not a deal breaker? (Add to that the fact that automatic buses will be no cheaper, and quite possibly slightly more expensive, to but than their manual counterparts and any cost advantage is wiped out).

    *You will see that I do not believe that automatic buses will be entirely free of staff. I don’t know whether you regularly use a bus service but if you do, you will have noticed the significant numbers of people who try and travel without paying, or who override; in the absence of personnel, how are frauds to be prevented from boarding? Barriers won’t do the trick – difficult to imagine on a bus and probably ineffective. Then there’s the problem of “other people” – not those who inhabit this forum, of course, but those who rob, puke over, and threaten their fellow passengers – difficult to believe, I know, but they do exist in some quantity. How are such folk to be dealt with by robo-bus? Or should we just not care – after all buses are famously known as “loser cruisers”?

    As to automated shared taxis – how many women would like to be forced to share with a stranger and no one else in sight, in a sealed environment?

  342. Rational Plan says:

    @ Graham H,

    It all depends, bus operators could shift over to high flat fares and offer lower prices if you remember to tap out of the bus. The bus could refuse to move until all fares were paid, Remembering the documentary on London Buses the bus drivers currently gets in the neck from other passengers if they don’t let non payers get away with it so the bus moves on. Passengers might have to confront the fare avoiders themselves or wait for the police to arrive.

    Automated systems might have advanced enough to recognise passengers as they get on.

  343. Long Branch Mike (London Brum Manchester) says:

    Ah, the technotopian belief that technology will save us…

  344. Graham H says:

    @Rational Plan – you’re not selling the idea… I do like the idea of the auto-road being clogged up with stationary vehicles all waiting for the police to arrive to sort out the fisticuffs between the malefactors and the other passengers. I also like the lone women trapped in their pods with molesters being comforted that the technology t will later enable them to be recognised after the event and caught – CCTV doesn’t seem to deter criminals much, does it?

  345. AlisonW says:

    A friend of mine (who is, as it happens, a Northern Line driver but wasn’t on that day) pointed me at this report:

    Looks like the ATO gave orders to two trains at once …

  346. Castlebar 1 says:

    Most newspapers would be content with “broken down train”,

    but for the Mail, it’s “stricken”

  347. Graham H says:

    @Castlebar1 – you must admit that “stricken” has poetic overtones – images of the train lying wallowing in stormy seas off a rocky coast whilst tragic sailors are washed overboard to the horror of their wives watching on the cliff edge.

  348. Castlebar 1 says:

    Ah yes

    The LUL Crayonista Line: Dawlish extension.

  349. Malcolm says:

    Never mind the stricken. And never mind the signalling fault. I would like to hear an explanation about the driver’s “inability to override”. That looks to me like the makings of some future disaster.

    (I suspect, nay hope, that the driver actually could have stopped the train, but didn’t do so because he knew that the only way he had of doing this would have stopped the whole line, trapping trains in tunnels for extended periods, causing general havoc and more risk of bad consequences than simply going with the flow).

  350. Mark Townend says:

    @Malcolm, 17 March 2014 at 20:56

    I think your supposition may be correct, the driver MUST have been able to overriden the ATO instructions by some means but that might have deleted all the subsequent orders and it might have taken several minutes for the control room to reissue a new set of validated instructions by which time the line would have ground to a halt. Worst still if the only way to override was an emergency stop that may have required an extended reset.

    As Pat Hansbury, Northern Line GM, said: “The safety system built into the signalling controls meant that the train was at all times kept at a controlled distance from the train ahead – pausing when the train in front stopped at each station then proceeding when it was safe to do so, this is a key feature of the signalling system.”

    ATO is always a separate system driving within the constraints set by the higher integrity ATP.

    @Castlebar 1, 17 March 2014 at 20:38

    Completely off topic but I’ve had my crayons out . . .

  351. stimarco says:

    @Walthamstow Writer:

    I’m actually broadly in agreement with you in terms of timescales – I’m certainly not expecting any of these changes to happen overnight. However, the comments I’ve read in response to my earlier post show a distressing tendency to apply current usage and business models to future technologies.

    Case in point…

    @Greg Tingey:

    “Where are you going to park the things?”

    You wouldn’t need to: the current model of privately owned vehicles is part of the problem. It’s a terribly inefficient use of any vehicle as they invariably end up sitting at the kerbside rusting and depreciating for hours.

    If you have a self-driving car, however, what you have is conceptually closer to a taxi or mini-cab, not a private vehicle. Instead of parking up until you need it again, the vehicle can just head off and transport other passengers, workmen, maintenance personnel, etc. depending on the vehicle type. And it can do so all day long, which is a much more efficient use of the vehicle. Yes, it cranks up the mileage, but even a modern internal combustion engine can run happily for half a million miles. That’s the equivalent of a return trip to the moon.

    Therefore, such vehicles are more likely to be owned by a “Transport Service Provider” (“TSP”), who would operate and maintain entire fleets of them, much as a bus operator does today. They’d also benefit from economies of scale, as cleaning, maintenance and the like would be done in-house on vehicles of only a handful of standard designs. (I predict we’ll see the road vehicle equivalent of train-spotters too. “Oh look! It’s a 2032 model FIAT Ottocento in the old Virgin Cars livery!)

    A mobile phone today already has GPS more or less as standard now, so calling up a vehicle would be much like calling one of those fancy taxi companies today: you open an app, or dial a number, and they work out where you are automatically by asking the phone for your location. Their computer then sends the nearest available vehicle to your position, and off you go. The only manual controls would be a big, red, emergency stop button. Any other communication would most likely be done either through an app, or through the on-board entertainment system.

    While the private car owner will probably still exist, they’ll be a niche market, like owners of “classic” and sports cars are today: You’ll still be able to drive your own vehicle on track days and the like, and there may even be “heritage roads” where people can drive their own vehicles too, just as we have heritage railways now.

    As always, the big challenge will be the transitional period. That’s always the hardest bit, but I think, for cities like London, it’s a bullet that will have to be bitten sooner rather than later.

    Note, too, that there’s no reason why these vehicles need to be limited to just a single passenger. You could opt to pay more and have the vehicle to yourself. Or you could choose to share with friends – there are already carpooling apps for such uses today. Or you could pay less and share with strangers on a driverless bus…

    Driverless ‘buses’ might be trains of single-seat units that couple and uncouple en route – and not just end to end, but potentially side-by-side as well – so don’t assume they’ll look just like a Borismaster without a cab. The compartmentalisation offered by the ‘train’ version also neatly sidesteps the passenger-on-passenger violence problem, because it simply wouldn’t be possible.


    I really need to get out more.

  352. Rational Plan says:

    @Graham H, what do you think happens now when it kicks off on a bus, the bus driver leaping into the middle of the fray? No he stays safely in his little cage. No, if it is hard to skip paying the fare then the system could work.

    Also women don’t get into lifts on their own or walk down streets at night or get on an on empty tube carriage now?

    I am not saying all this will happen, but it certainly could.

    But first we have to see a fully functional automated car, which could easily be 10 years away.

    Then it how big automated taxis can be. Obviously with no driver they can be quite a bit cheaper, but to be truly game changing then authorities would have to allow variable pricing, with fares higher at peak demand. During low demand times fares could easily fall to the level of non metropolitan bus fares,

    Where I live mini cabs are only twice the price of a bus fare and considering that cabs offer door to door service and ignore the need to catch multiple buses to get between some routes. It would not take much of a fall in prices for cabs, for the bus service to be devastated. I know of plenty rural places where cabs form real competition for buses if there are two travelers together.

    If does not progress any further than that then it will still have major effects on public transport.

  353. Ian J says:

    @Graham H: you will have noticed the significant numbers of people who try and travel without paying, or who override; in the absence of personnel, how are frauds to be prevented from boarding

    Presumably the same way they are on bendy-buses, on the DLR, at most National Rail stations, and on the Tube when the barriers are not staffed: in other words, they won’t be. But then why is fare enforcement (with all the delays that implies) considered part of the duties of a bus driver but not of drivers of other forms of public transport?

    I do agree though that automated cars and buses will not be the panacea some think they will be.

    @Rational Plan:
    It would not take much of a fall in prices for cabs, for the bus service to be devastated.

    A high proportion of the people travelling off-peak on buses in rural areas seem to be paying a fare of zero.

  354. Milton Clevedon says:

    @Castlebar 1
    17 March 2014 at 20:38

    A firm called London Transport
    Said ‘things don’t work as they ought’,
    So LOB guided them right
    To the Isle of Wight –
    To the perfect railway they sought.

    For Dawlish, try this:

  355. Ollyver says:

    Whilst I don’t think that automated cars can or should replace mass transit, I think the largest barrier to their private adoption is not technological but social.

    Many people are very, very dubious about driverless cars. I agree that any software has bugs, and will make mistakes that humans wouldn’t. But that’s assuming that the alternative to driverless cars is a perfect driver – and it’s not. It’s a tired person, a tipsy person, a person with 3 screaming kids, a person whose eyesight is failing but won’t admit it. And I trust the sensors on these cars to see me and react much quicker than any human. The problem, as @WalthomstowWriter said, is “public acceptance”. Rationally, I am very convinced that I would prefer 99% of drivers to be replaced by an automated system (myself included). But so many articles are written on this topic which can be summarised as:
    “This is the safest way to drive a car, for both passengers and pedestrians. There have been no accidents when the computer was driving. We can’t find anything wrong with it. … er… our readers won’t like that conclusion, so, Unspecified Doom”. Which of course does not help their readers to like it…

    In a city like London, I would envision their role in `public transport’ being something like Zipcar crossed with a taxi service, rather than a replacement for buses. Ontario could have driverless cars by 2025 – for those of us who hate to drive, a way of visiting rural England (after dark!) could be only a few decades away.

  356. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Milton, 07:20

    Although we are now well off piste
    An idea for each crayoniste, –
    “Your ridiculous maps
    are rubbish, perhaps
    and should now be forgotten at least”

  357. Milton Clevedon says:

    @ Castlebar 1
    Nice one!
    BTW, at least we don’t (yet) have train announcements saying your lifejacket is under your seat… (to be repeated ad nauseam).

  358. Greg Tingey says:

    Rational Plan
    Where I live mini cabs are only twice the price of a bus fare This ODES NOT APPLY in London …. so forget it (in London)
    And out-of-London (even by less than a kilometer) bus services are already decimated, or should I say non-ated (1/9th have been removed ) You try getting from Epping or Waltham Abbey to Waltham Cross late of a Saturday or worse, Sunday evening. [ And the buses can’t be relied on… twice now, I’ve has a 9-minute bust/train connection turn into a 30-second one, which meant a 29 minute wait @ WLC (eugh ) ]

    THANK YOU for the link.
    That enabled me to find what I was looking for & related materials.

    Oh, and DON’T GIVE THEM IDEAS (about life-jacket announcements)!

  359. Paying Guest says:

    @ Ollyver

    The automated car would offer huge social benefits to those of us living in rural areas. To be able to go to social events without having to nominate a designated driver would be a boon. It might even be the saving of many country pubs.

  360. Fandroid says:

    Lot’s of detail in that Mail story about the Northern Line train. My guess is that ‘stricken’ was a quote from the LUL PR lot, rather than the Mail’s imagination running riot. (No I don’t normally read it!). A strange contradiction appears: The first train was instructed to run to Kennington without stopping, but the LUL spokesperson said that the following train paused every time the previous one stopped. Why did it stop? There could have been a third train in front of the ‘stricken’ one, but I would guess that the fault at Old Street plus the evacuation would have created a fairly big gap in front of the ‘stricken’ one, so it’s unlikely that there would have been another train anywhere near in front.

    The safety of the passengers does not seem to have been compromised, just their journeys! ATO has been around for a long time, so its intrinsic safety should not be in question. However, in public transport H&S matters, a system of belt plus braces plus a piece of string is a fundamental requirement. In this case, the ‘belt’ broke, so it has to be sorted to restore the full level of protection.

  361. Malcolm says:

    Trains (generally empty) not stopping at particular stations often slow down to pass through. I don’t know if that applies under ATO, but it would seem probable. That might account for a bit of the above confusion.

  362. Rational Plan says:

    @ Ian J,

    Well that’s already proving a problem, the less than generous settlement for pensioners and the national bus pass scheme has lead to operators increasing fares for non subsidised passengers.

    If, automated taxis work and they fare level falls to the same as the subsidy level for buses, then there could be a bloodbath on non metropolitan bus services. I’m sure voters would appreciate door to door cab service for free, compared to bus once every two hours.

    On one hand the greater utility from door to door to service could drive up useage compared to a subsidised bus that only goes to certain places infrequently.
    This could still leave the system costing too much so different criteria might need to be applied, you could end up with the bus pass changing to allow you a certain number of free trips per day or week instead, or the national scheme could crumble and pensioners may just free travel in a certain number of nearby towns.

  363. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Rational Plan 10:01

    VERY relevant

    Pensioners are feeling unloved. State pensions not enough to live on whilst money is being thrown at 40% tax rate voters as “child care bribes” (so it seems to pensioners). A pensioner backlash is not an improbability if this continues. Bus/travel passes under threat to pay for bankers’ children to attend private nurseries?? Out in the rural Chilterns and the plastic countryside, let alone the real Loamshire countryside, no point in having bus passes if the buses have been reduced to once a week (on a Thursday) allowing you a full 95 minutes a week to savour the delights of Hemel Hempstead. Yet just a very few miles away in Harefield/Northwood, FREE travel on LU and all rail services as far as Croydon (even).

    Cheryl Gillan is on a winner with her anti HS2 stance.

  364. Anonymous 2 says:

    Castlebar 1

    So tell us how Cheryl does it: “cancel HS2 and spend more time in Hemel Hempstead”?

    Quite a transport policy!

  365. Graham H says:

    @Castlebar1 – the problem of paying for pensioners’ free travel has become very fraught ever since the concessionary fare pot was amalgamated with the bus revenue support pot way back in 1974. At the time, I opposed it because (a) I feared that the concessionary pot wasn’t going to be big enough over time with a growing number of pensioners, and (b) the then ragbag of concessions offered would be levelled up (as has happened) without more money being made available (as has also happened) – to the detriment of revenue support generally. However, Ministers were not then prepared to look beyond the end of their nose (which stretched Pinoccio-style as far as the next election). We are now in a very bad place where the survival of bus services outside the conurbations is more or less entirely dependent on the scale and level of concessionary travel. When (rather than if) the concessions are cut, then the rural bus service will collapse completely.

    BTW, the original rationale for concessionary fares was that they could be offered at marginal rates o/p because the buses would run empty anyway, cross-subsidised from the peak. The further assumption was that there would be a continuing network of rural/interurban services, so the benefit of cheap fares would apply fairly evenly across the country. In our fairly typical rural area, those assumptions are just plain wrong these days: there is no peak, apart from school travel, and broad swathes of the county have little or no buses at all. [Fortunately, we managed to head off at the pass a move by D/Education to tip their transport budget into the bus revenue support].

  366. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Anon 2

    I don’t know the answer. I don’t live there. But I do know that her constituents believe it, and that’s what counts with her and with them.

    To my Chiltonian friends and all their neighbours, if Lord Sutch stood as an anti-HS2 candidate, with no other political proposals, he would get elected (even though he is now dead). Cheryl Gillan knows that. They are not interested in the Ukraine, they are interested in stopping HS2. They see their state pensions being held back and their bus passes under threat, (even though I suspect many don’t use them), because of expensive ‘schemes’ and pre-election gifts/bribes. The bus pass issue is now in the frame. Some say it is something we can no longer afford. So the Chiltonians are saying the same about HS2, (which they will never be able to use). By giving away travel concessions, the unstoppable snowball has been pushed over the cliff, and one day it will become an avalanche smothering the political party that threatens to take it away. And pensioners are the least likely to accept “driverless” anything, especially if they consider their safety is in jeopardy just to save a bit of money for these other things. This is all going to be stirred into the great cake mix, and in a few years time, something politically inedible could have to be taken out of the oven before it catches fire.

  367. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ GH

    Thanks I’d started writing my 11:11 post before yours appeared. Yes, I am in total agreement. The idea was for pensioners to be able to:

    “They can travel free
    from A to B
    By not by swarm
    just to stay warm”
    Let’s look for “plan C”

    Plan C looks as if it is going to be unpalatable.

    St Patricks Day is almost over even in Hawaii
    So no more Limericks from me until next year

    (Unless provoked)

    PS With budget day tomorrow, any chance of “Health warnings” on the sides of crayon boxes?

  368. Castlebar 1 says:

    Perhaps it is relevant to mention here that Mrs Castlebar has relatives scattered around the area served by the Προαστιακός (the Athens suburban railway). Thus I have seen REAL overstaffing.

    If you saw how that is/was overstaffed, out in the Greek equivalent of Loamshire, you would come to appreciate how staffing costs here have already been cut to the bone. As an example, 8 staff at a rural station on a Sunday with 1 tph each way. “Driverless” anything at all HAS to save a limited amount of money, yes it does, but it is getting to a point when it is only a matter of time before something backfires. Anybody implementing such a system has to stay lucky all the time that there are no serious accidents or fatalities. They only have to be unlucky just the once, and their careers are finished.

    As GH very aptly says “Ministers were not then prepared to look beyond the end of their nose (which stretched Pinoccio(sic) -style as far as the next election)”,…… and I am worried that those who make the decisions re “driverless”, won’t be the ones who are around when the mess has to be cleared up.

  369. Milton Clevedon says:

    @Castlebar 1
    18 March 2014 at 11:11
    Reading this, I thought for one moment that you were suggesting Chiltonians might face the prospect of some low hanging fruitcake, but now realise my error, that such a vision describes more closely the fate of an undesirable crayonista, than the electoral outcome for a UKIP candidate in Chesham & Amersham.

  370. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham H – nicely put re concessionary travel. On the surface the scheme looks delightful if you have a free pass. However its operation and its effects are wretched and damaging. No point in having a pass if there are no services on which to use it and that is where we are headed. We need reform urgently and an honest debate with pensioners about the bus pass and its funding. Unfortunately no politician is brave enough to trigger that debate and ask pensioners if they were prefer a free pass and next to no buses or to pay an annual fee for their travel and stand the chance of having bus services on which to travel. There are other options to try to rein in the costs but I’ve just described one.

    London is a different case because of the regulated nature of service provision and the scale of funding but elsewhere there is the crisis you describe and it needs a solution. At some point I expect the Boroughs to howl about the Freedom Pass too but the political consequences in London would be dire for the Mayor and borough councillors.

  371. Fandroid says:

    Having been driven by some apparently suicidal/homicidal taxi drivers in the past (outside London), I would have absolutely no problem with automated driverless taxis, despite being in the OAP bracket these days.

    For concessionary bus passes, I think there is scope for some means testing here, with the rich ones like me (?) either paying an annual fee for a free pass (Senior Railcard with knobs on?) or being given a free pass that gives a 50% discount. The only condition that I would put on the latter is that it should be valid throughout the UK, not just in each individual country.

  372. Malcolm says:

    Well that question (free travel for pensioners OR an acceptable level of service) would maybe give a clear result, if someone gets bold enough to ask it.

    But I think the premise behind the question would benefit from a bit more investigation. I suspect (and my suspicion may be widely shared) that any annual charge for the pensioners’ bus pass would NOT necessarily result in a more acceptable level of service. There are too many other possible places this money would go to. It might disappear into the general national accounts, finishing up as a drop in some tax rate or other, to show that the party in charge cares about (whoever). If it was passed to bus companies, it might finish up in shareholders’ pockets, or it might be used to fit wifi, or pay drivers more, or provide biscuits for the staff canteen. It might end up as snazzier paint jobs, or more aggressive competition in towns.

    Of course, it could be used to provide a decent basic service for rural areas. But I’d like to hear more about some mechanism which could make this happen.

  373. Graham H says:

    @WW and Castlebar1 – Glad to have amused… the trouble is that I don’t have a glib answer as to what to do next. Pulling apart the concessionary and revenue support budgets will almost certainly disbenefit the latter as pensioners have more votes than other rural bus users. I’m less certain that restrictions on the concessions will save much money either, and if they do, they will simply shrink the combined pot, not release funds for general revenue support. So – no restoration of evening/Sunday services. The logical solution of giving the pensioners the cash instead of benefits in kind is also likely to be counterproductive, too, now, as some (quite a lot of?) pensioners won’t be spending their extra cash on buying the bus services that they previously enjoyed for nothing.

  374. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Malcolm – all perfectly fair observations about where the money could go. I would prefer to see hypothecation of funding for things like supported services, concessionary fares, bus support grant etc with separate and distinct budgets with *no* pooling. As Graham H has said the policy direction has been to pool all this funding so in some areas it will not be spent on public transport but will fund social care or education or whatever. Concessionary fares are a statutory obligation so that has to be paid but with far too many arguments about the level of reimbursement.

    I think it is perhaps unavoidable that some public funds end up as shareholder profits. Until we decide we want publicly owned transport operators that won’t change and I can’t see any mainstream party setting out to divest First Group, Stagecoach and Merkel Buses (Arriva) of their assets and businesses across the UK.

    The way to get rural buses back would be to tender their operation with a view to building patronage to improve their commercial sustainability. However that would need a national transport policy that had some level of cross party political consensus. This is so there would be agreement on policy and funding to allow enough time for people to change their travel patterns and use the new services / networks. It is pretty clear that it can take years to build bus patronage and people value stability in their transport arrangements. Ideally it would mesh with the rail network where feasible but it would be expensive.

    Much as it pains me to say it I can never see rational public transport provision becoming a matter of sufficient public / voter interest for it to matter to the politicians so my “vision” will never be delivered.

  375. Milton Clevedon says:

    The Boroughs are already very grumpy, and getting grumpier as the Overground/London Rail concessions expand so offering even more low cost rail travel funded by the local authorities, but the audible criticism is still mostly well mannered.

    The London Councils Leaders Committee meeting of 10th December 2013 says that (in relation to overall Borough finances in the Greater London area): “Analysis by London Councils shows that on the current trajectories for spending power (total income) and service demand, London local government could see a potential funding gap of £3.4bn by 2020 – a shortfall of 31 per cent.”
    Link here:

    (BTW, these minutes and the subsidiary committee documents should be required LRC commentariat reading, as well the usual dose of TfL board reports etc.)

    It should also be borne in mind that two London Councils policies, reconfirmed this February at the 25 Feb Executive meeting, are “Improving accessibility to Freedom Pass and Taxicard” and “Improving Freedom Pass take up”.

    So they are trying to increase the volume of concessionary travel, because of the beneficial outcomes for those users, even thought it then hits the Boroughs’ finances more. A rather different viewpoint, perhaps, to those of many authorities outside London with deregulated bus services, who are dramatically cutting services and thereby reducing pass benefits (with potential voting consequences).

    There is a fascinating report in the Transport & Environment Committee papers for 13th March 2014, which points to the foreseen housing pressures by borough by 2041. This is being used to inform the Mayor’s “London Infrastructure Investment Plan 2050” which should be published in draft shortly (on or about 27th March, just after the next TfL Board meeting on 26th March).

    The latest London Councils’ settlement and apportionment funding volumes for concessionary passes are set out in the Transport & Environment Committee report of 12th December 2013, item 12: .
    The costs are just over £345m in 2014/15, apportioned between Boroughs.

    Also in that meeting, item 7 covered latest developments on Crossrail and Crossrail 2, and has this to say about the concessionary fare issues for the Boroughs, of greater TfL involvement in national rail lines in the London area, and future funding of Crossrail 2 capital investment:

    “22. New railway routes and others devolved to TfL, such as West Anglia, will have major implications on borough budgets. Boroughs should have some protection against increased costs for Freedom Pass especially in relation to concession on services which go outside Greater London.

    “23. It is imperative that all local authorities benefitting from Crossrail 2 contribute to the funding of the final scheme, in particular authorities on the routes outside London. London Councils would welcome initial discussions with the Mayor and TfL on possible funding schemes, in particular revisiting any arrangements for the use of a Community Infrastructure Levy. Further, the funding boroughs receive from TfL for other programmes should be maintained and not compromised by any changes to TfL’s overall funding. Funds should not be diverted away from these areas to support Crossrail 2.”
    (link here:

    So there is plenty of fruitful – and even on-topic – reading available here.

  376. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ W.W.

    As I said recently on another thread

    A franchise winner once said, (after a few (large) G&Ts after a public meeting many years ago), “There is no money in ferrying three incontinent old biddies home from bingo. The value is in the land”

    His company didn’t have the franchise for very long, but where there were once bus garages, there are now either blocks of flats, (or a branch of Sainsburys) as a testimony to his business acumen.

  377. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Castlebar – Oh sure. That was one of the great defects of the NBC sale process – no property sales claw back provision which meant some bus companies were asset stripped by property companies who knew nothing about running buses (as your remarks highlight). Based on your examples I’d guess that your “bon viveur” companion was involved with whoever bought London Country South West where many garages were flogged off for vast sums while the bus service deteriorated. Thank goodness Metrobus spotted there was a need for a bus service in and around parts of West Sussex and Surrey. I would argue that money can be made from running buses but it is very hard to provide quality, value for money and maintain a decent reputation at the same time. Nearly always one or more of these factors is not present in the way it should be.

  378. Malcolm says:

    WW says “Much as it pains me to say it I can never see rational public transport provision becoming a matter of sufficient public / voter interest for it to matter to the politicians so my “vision” will never be delivered.

    Well I would sort of agree, except that we have a rather magnificent counter-example staring us in the face. London.

    Granted, things are not perfect there. But provision levels, organisedness, and indeed voter engagement, are streets ahead of the rest of the UK. Over the same years that rural bus provision has been dwindling, London has had many new routes, extensive night buses, etc. And, in a virtuous circle, ridership has soared.

    Of course it would not be easy, but certainly as far as buses are concerned, most of “the provinces” would be grateful for even a faint half-baked facsimile of what London gets.

  379. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ W.W.

    You make an interesting comment

    How well I remember Dorking and Leatherhead as a child…………..

  380. Greg Tingey says:

    Graham H
    When (rather than if) the concessions are cut, then the rural bus service will collapse completely. That will really cause ructions, won’t it?
    And which political party wants the hit from that –remembering that pensioners VOTE…

    Your later point about “shrinking the pot” is only too valid – we’ve all been cheated by too many politicians of all parties to swallow that one now (I hope)

    Well, the debate on this in London has already started _ & all politicians have been warned about taking it away (especially the rail bit) – they have taken note
    Later However that would need a national transport policy yes it would, wouldn’t it? (snark)

  381. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Malcolm – I am afraid I only sort of agree about the London example. Yes we are “spoilt” by our bus network in London when compared to almost all practice outside of London. It does, of course, depend on how you measure cost, benefit and view “value for money”. No council or PTE / ITA can afford the scale of spend that TfL has on buses. I agree they’re all envious of the scale of support but the environments are very different as are the policy objectives.

    I have done a lot of work on bus patronage numbers and trying to work out what has caused increases on particular routes. I have raked through 12 years of route and timetable history to try to find the influences on demand at a route level. The overarching influences are development in some areas, frequency increases, route extensions and capacity improvements. It is telling that the scale of improvement in routes has fallen off a cliff and fares have soared since 2008 and we even had a small fall in patronage in 2012/13. Yes usage has gone up tremendously but far too many people face intolerable conditions in the peak and there is NO policy direction to resolve this.

  382. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Walthamstow Writer,

    Yes usage has gone up tremendously but far too many people face intolerable conditions in the peak and there is NO policy direction to resolve this.

    Well yes true. Ken, when mayor, had the luxury option of improving bus services. I always understood this was recognised at the time as a short term fix because it was the only option that could have been implemented quickly. He also recognised the necessity, however unpopular they were, of high capacity buses able to carry many people even if not in great comfort – but Boris and the voters took rather an irrational exception to them as we know.

    I think that further improvements to cater for the subsequent increased use is now unrealistic in the peak to any great extent because of the lack of road space, lack of any political commitment to give buses further priority over other road users and of course lack of money. It goes back to buses not scaling particularly well when it comes to costs. Double the service and you pretty much have double the cost.

    I would actually go as far as to argue the only policy direction is an improvement in rail services, getting people on their bikes and walking. The improvement in rail services committed to so far is clearly going to be hopelessly inadequate given the revised population figures – actual and forecast.

    The additional problem that we have now is air quality issues and the fact that the only real leverage the mayor has is to concentrate on providing cleaner buses (and taxis) because of his reluctance to press for further very stiff legislation for private cars and commercial traffic. It doesn’t fit with the image Boris wishes to convey as someone who doesn’t clobber the motorist.

    So actually the policy direction is NOT to resolve this but divert bus investment to cleaner buses.

  383. Greg Tingey says:

    Trolleybuses, even?
    You didn’t mention Trams, I noticed ….

  384. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PoP – I could quibble with some of your facts but only at the edges so I won’t bother. I will simply say that if your assessment of planned rail development being wholly inadequate is correct (no reason to doubt it) then it is quite frankly bonkers to expect walking and cycling to somehow take up the slack. It may take up some in some areas but I don’t see cycling suddenly being “de rigeur” in Bexley, Harrow, Hillingdon, Havering, Bromley and Sutton across all age groups. I’m in a borough that’s won “mini Holland” funding and my assessment of the scheme is that it’s pretty poor and is likely to be a poor hotch potch of measures with a negative impact on bus passengers in key parts of the Borough. Last time I was in Holland I had this strange impression that cycling did not worsen the operation of public transport. Quite why TfL can’t mirror this concept I don’t know. There’s nothing in it to encourage me to get back on two wheels and I used to cycle extensively before it became “trendy”. All the boroughs want better bus services because they cannot see how else their areas can cope with growth and other pressures.

    I would add that the updated TfL business plan and budget has £100m for bus priority and £100m for “removal of pinch points” on the bus network – both over 10 years. I think TfL has been rather stung by pointed stakeholder criticism on the bus priority issue. Whether £20m pa on average is adequate is another debate altogether.

    Yes air quality is a significant issue but that’s what you get when “you fiddle while Rome chokes” as Boris has done. We have discussed at length in comments across various topics what options are available to “electrify” public transport in London but there is no sign of anyone grabbing those broad ideas and turning them into policy and fighting for funding.

    I think we can therefore conclude that current transport policy in London is pretty useless given it’s not going to achieve anything of any great merit given the demands that need to be met.

  385. Littlejohn says:

    PoP 18 March 2014 at 21:25. In what way did ‘Boris and the voters take rather an irrational exception’ to high capacity buses? Boris, as a Mayoral candidate, pledged to get rid of bendy buses – and he kept his promise. The voting majority agreed with him. If this means anyone is irrational it is surely those with a (minority) contrary view.

  386. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Because Boris claimed that Bendybuses were responsible for cyclists getting killed and were more dangerous to cyclists. On the first issue he could not produce a single instance of a cyclist being killed. On the second, although the number of cyclist collisions was higher than with conventional double deckers it was only slightly higher. When you took into account the fact that with bendy buses you needed fewer buses to carry the same number of passengers and the number of buses in service on a particular route was fewer, in fact the opposite was true.

    I am sorry but to me that decision making is irrational. The fact that people voted for the policy was, I believe, partly on the basis of this fixation of Boris that he claimed was true showed that the voters were concerned were incapable of forming a rational judgement themselves based on the evidence available and chose to go along with the Boris soundbite.

  387. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Littlejohn

    The voting majority agreed with him.

    Not at all.

    They simply preferred him to the alternative candidates that were on offer

  388. straphan says:

    We should also look at Boris’s replacement for bendies. If I remember correctly, the 38 was converted to double-decker operation with only a marginal increase in frequency. It also led to a return of the standard ‘you wait ages for a bus and three come along at once’ issue due to front-door boarding. Bear in mind the 38 alone carries about as many passengers each working day as the Sheffield Supertram network – yet nobody in Sheffield ever dreamt of checking peoples’ tickets as they get on the tram…

    Whilst we’re on that subject, Boris also claimed that bendies are a hotspot for anti-social behaviour due to widespread fare evasion. Whilst that may have been true, this could easily have been alleviated by employing more uniformed and plainclothes inspectors. The New Bus for London, touted as the ultimate replacement for bendies, allows entering through any door – thereby the problem does not go away.

    While on the subject of the NB4L, it also:
    – emits more pollutants than a standard hybrid bus (source: Boris Watch)
    – requires two people to operate it if people are to board or alight using the rear open platform (except Route 148 where I have yet to see an operative at the rear platform!)
    – does not provide the ‘hop on and off as you like’ facility that it was supposed to provide originally as operatives do not let passengers on or off between stops
    – costs a hell of a lot more than a standard double-decker
    – is, frankly, ugly (personal opinion).

  389. Littlejohn says:

    PoP. I have no desire to continue a dialogue that is hopelessly off- topic so I will restrict myself to observing that you have taken no account of the costs of these machines. The TfL assessment was that fare evasion alone cost an extra £7.4m a year, not counting the cost of an additional 150 Revenue Protection Officers and the actual and indirect costs to business of congestion caused by junctions being obstructed. I am sorry but to me the rationale for keeping these money pits is irrational

    Castlebar 1. It was PoP who initially lumped Boris and the voters together, I was just reflecting that.

    Straphan. The fact that replacements were insufficient is not in itself an argument for not replacing Bendy Buses; just an argument for doing the replacement better. I agree 100% about the NBfL – too heavy, too costly and the drift towards OPO rather negates the whole purpose anyway.

  390. Pedantic of Purley says:


    emits more pollutants than a standard hybrid bus
    to some extent true but, inevitably, it is a bit more complicated than this and by being selective as to the relative significance of various pollutants you can pretty much prove what you want to prove

    Apparently Route 148 will only ever have a single person crew so I think we can see where the policy of having a conductor is going

    does not provide the ‘hop on and off as you like’
    My more recent experience is that when the second person is present it does. In the early days there was the absurdity of the second person trying to prevent the hop on, hop off feature that he/she was employed to supervise.

    costs a hell of a lot more than a standard double-decker
    But not that much more than an equivalent hybrid double-decker. I hope I can cover the reasons for this in a future article

    I agree entirely about the issue of fare-evasion and anti-social behaviour. And find it an eye-opener that the 38 alone is as busy as Sheffield trams. Incredible.

  391. straphan says:

    @Littlejohn: What kind of argument is that? If you are proposing to get rid of something then what you propose to replace it with is necessarily part of that proposal. Even though bendies have not been directly replaced by the NBfL (mainly because bendies were replaced before the NBfL was ripe for series production), the NBfL was touted as a solution for routes that require higher capacity than traditional double-deckers could offer.

    Routes where bendy buses were replaced by double-deckers have had their frequencies slashed, have lower average speeds and have performed less reliably since their conversion due to bunching caused by extension of boarding times.

    Regarding fare evasion, I am amazed that in the UK planners still accept single-door boarding and on-board ticket checks as acceptable on bus routes which are both extremely busy (e.g. route 38 in London) and/or marketed as BRT (various busways outside of London). Yes, reveue was being lost due to all-door boarding. How much revenue is now lost due to slower and less reliable operation as a result of front-door boarding? How did the extra ticket inspectors contribute to a reduction of fare evasion (assuming they weren’t sitting on their bums their work must have had some impact!)?

    Coming back to the topic of the thread, this to me just illustrates the need to think about the aims of replacing one system or type of vehicle with another – something politicians never thought about when replacing bendies, and something the same politicians are not bothering to consider when thinking about replacing tube trains. To me, there is precious little difference between having an ATO railway with a member of staff sitting inside a cab and standing amongst passengers. That member of staff will still need to get paid, and the train will still not be able to move if the member of staff does not show up for work for whatever reason. Just getting rid of drivers’ cabs because Boris didn’t like Bob would generate costs disproportionate to the benefits this solution would offer. To me, the real choice should be between UTO or ATO with a standard train with cabs.

  392. @Littlejohn,

    Don’t get me wrong. I was pleased to see the bendy buses go – much for the reasons you state but also because I found them uncomfortable. The fare evasion issue really had not been thought through prior to introduction on suburban routes.

    Had Boris had just said “I want to get rid of them. They are horrible” then I would not have had an issue with that. My issue was the irrational, or at least flawed, basis he gave to get rid of them and the failure to appreciate that they did mop up crowds in a way no other bus could. On the latter there has really been no satisfactory replacement or alternative. It was not by chance that the 38 was one of the last routes to lose their (proper) routemasters.

    Hopefully there will be an opportunity in the future for a much fuller discussion of these issues.

  393. Coming back to the topic of the thread, this to me just illustrates the need to think about the aims of replacing one system or type of vehicle with another – something politicians never thought about when replacing bendies

    Posting have clearly crossed. Thank you straphan. That is one of the points I was trying to make.

  394. Graham Feakins says:

    @ straphan – Correction: Sheffield’s trams have conductors on board, who issue single, day and weekly tickets:

    and (not trying to get you a job in Sheffield!):

  395. straphan says:

    @Graham Feakins: I do not dispute the fact that Sheffield Supertrams have conductors on board – I am well aware of the fact.

    The point I was trying to make – obviously not clearly enough – is that Supertrams in Sheffield do not wait at stops until everyone has had their tickets checked. Buses on route 38 in London – do.

  396. Graham Feakins says:

    TfL Bus Route 38 – According to The Londonist, there were to be 72 (double-deck) buses to replace the 44 bendy buses on the route:

    Maybe fewer today as I understand the frequency has since been cut back.

  397. straphan says:

    @PoP: I promise this is absolutely the last post on buses in this thread.

    @Graham Feakins: According to there are currently 57 buses on route 38 in the peaks. The cutbacks were largely due to the fact, that double-deck buses kept bunching up due to boarding times, whereas their large number had a negative impact on traffic circulation in the West End. The huge numbers of buses resulted in half of them running half-empty and passengers still getting left behind at bus stops (yes, that is entirely possible!).

  398. Littlejohn says:

    Straphan. An entirely sensible argument. I said that ‘The fact that replacements were insufficient is not in itself an argument for not replacing Bendy Buses; just an argument for doing the replacement better’. If something needs to be replaced the fact that a replacement is defective is not an argument for doing nothing; it is only an argument for doing something better. It doesn’t suddenly make that original not need replacing.

  399. straphan says:

    @Littlejohn: Sorry, but if all available and realistic ‘Do-Something’ scenarios are worse than the ‘Do-Nothing’ (i.e. stay as is) scenario then ‘Do-Nothing’ is the best option. By your logic, it would have been perfectly fine if Boris had argued that bendy buses should be replaced them with bionic duckweed-powered automatically operated hoverpods, and then went on to replace them with standard diesel double-decker buses.

    Actually – substitute ‘bionic duckweed-powered automatically operated hoverpods’ with ‘New Bus for London’ and that is exactly what he did. Which is neither logical, nor ethical in my opinion.

  400. Fandroid says:

    And still those deluded transport authorities in Germany keep on buying more and more bendies! Will they never learn?

  401. timbeau says:

    Undoubtedly bendies were not the answer on some of the routes they were inflicted on, but on those with a large number of short distance passengers mainly using travelcards they were ideal. The 521 was perhaps the supreme example (and try getting a NBFL through the Strand underpass!)

    Thus far, only the 38 has seen both Hendy’s bendies and Boris’ Behemoths – and I read in LOTS that the 38 is to be fully converted to the latter, after the 10 (and presumably before the 8). Still none east of the Lea and only one route south of the Thames – and that one has no conductors: are they all retired taxi drivers, or maybe witches?

  402. Graham H says:

    @Fandroid – not to mention those risk-taking Swiss and daredevil Swedes – foreigners, every one! Bet they eat garlic, too.

  403. Anonymous 2 says:

    I think the 149 route was ideal for bendies.

    Apart from a wiggle around Stoke Newington, it’s a straight road between Edmonton Green and London Bridge.

  404. straphan says:

    @Fandroid and Graham H: It does have to be mentioned that most Continental European countries had their urban planning processes aided by plenty of tanks and bombs, which allowed them to widen their streets a little. Still, that doesn’t apply to Switzerland (which isn’t afraid of running bendy trolleybuses AND trams past some of its landmarks – google ‘Bern Zytglogge for example)…

    It must also be borne in mind that articulated buses were only made legal at the beginning of the 1960s and many road layouts were altered to allow bendy buses to operate (as I said above, the bombs and tanks helped…). London – in contrast – decided to introduce bendy buses without any serious alterations to road or junction layouts, which – to me – is a little half-baked.

  405. Graham H says:

    @straphan – indeed, the Swiss have introduced double-articulated trolleybuses – can’t imagine what Boris would make of them! BTW there are also a good many articulated buses and trolleybuses in those Central and Eastern European cities which managed to avoid being replanned a couple of times in the last war – eg Tallinn, Salzburg

  406. Walthamstow Writer says:

    If people are going to argue about bendy buses and conversions then please get the facts right.

    On the subject of cyclist deaths and bendy buses I’d go so far as to say that Boris lied about that. There is no objective verifiable evidence that supports his utterances on this topic and he has been asked about it many many times and has failed to provide facts. Readers can draw their own conclusions as to how “true” the Mayor has been on this topic.

    On the subject of route conversions then route 38 was grossly overbussed on conversion back to double decks. As this was the first route to do so it was perhaps inevitable that TfL would err on the side of caution given the demand that TfL would have been aware of. What seems to have happened is that people who may or may not have travelled for free on a bendy (I can’t prove this nor can TfL) have melted away. Patronage has fallen by 5m people a year comparing 2008 with 2012. How this relates to the vehicle type on the route is impossible for us to determine given how the economic situation also changed at this time. There may also have been other factors on the route that we are not privy to. I am afraid that I have never heard Straphan’s line of argument put forward as part of the decision making criteria for reducing the number of buses on route 38.

    The general trend on conversions to bendy bus and back to double decker was that TfL *reduced* the number of buses upon conversion *to* bendy bus. However almost every route subsequently gained extra buses because the reduced frequencies were inadequate for the demand. Some routes later saw off peak frequencies reduced (e.g. the 453) compared to those when the route converted to bendy buses. Going back to double decks the pattern of changes to PVRs was very big uplifts on early conversions and then later conversions saw more limited changes to frequencies and buses in use. The 38 has had the biggest cuts to its service and PVR while other routes have seen new double decks and then have these replaced by hybrids (route 29 is a prime example) but route 38 will follow when it gets NB4Ls in a few months time. Taking the initial post conversion numbers TfL ended up using 510 buses instead of 356 bendies. A “rough and ready” view of the capital cost of those new buses is £113m plus you have the loss carried by leasing companies and operators who ran the bendy buses at TfL’s demand. I’ve no numbers for what that loss might be but people who know the detail of the bus leasing industry have told me that this episode has had an effect on the view of “risk” associated with leasing buses on TfL routes. It is worth noting, of course, that the £113m capital cost is not borne by TfL directly and will be distributed over the life of the bus wherever it sees service with the operator group / leasing company. It does show, though, that the policy change is not “free” – the money had to be found by someone.

    Based on TfL numbers the post bendy bus service costs £270K more per annum (total contract cost over all former bendy bus routes pre and post conversion – source TfL numbers). This is a very small number and results from some big cost reductions on contracts run by Arriva – I’ve never seen an explanation as to why this should be the case.

    I understand why views are so polarised about bendy buses and I’m not going to kill this group by raking over them even more. I do feel, though, that a fixation on vehicle types or design is absolutely the wrong way to look at meeting the transport needs of bus passengers. Vehicles are a factor but they are not the sole consideration nor should they be. We need an intelligent debate about what to do with the bus network and how we want to pay for it. Unfortunately Lord Adonis’s recent week long jaunt on the buses has failed to advance the debate as he diagnosed some “issues” but failed to come up with any answers (especially the financial one).

  407. Anon5 says:

    I think London Overground counts as one factor in the reduction of bus journeys. Much of the 149 and 242 route through Dalston and Shoreditch runs parallel to a fast, frequent Overground service with tube frequencies in the core, not to mention interchanges with the Jubilee and Victoria lines. As the East London line helped put Overground on the map and raised rental and property prices in Dalston and Shoreditch so people have looked to Hackney, Homerton and Hackney Wick. Here people have embraced the North London line which also covers parts of the routes of the 38 and 242. Journeys on the NLL have rocketed thanks to the perception of the Overground, more frequent services, high capacity 378s (the rail network’s bendy!) and an increase in carriages since the dire Silverlink days.

    During rush hour around 2003 you could wait at Dalston for two or three 149s or 242s to pass before you could get on. Many had empty spaces upstairs but passengers refused to move up for fear of losing time at the key tube interchange of Liverpool Street. When the 149 became a bendy you could guarantee you’d get on the first bus. If a 149 and 242 arrived together (which they often did) you’d take the latter because you had the chance of a seat. The bendy rarely offered a seat but it whisked you down Kingsland Road fast enough.

    I don’t know the exact date the 149 returned to double decker operation but I imagine the blow was softened by the arrival of the Overground.

    And let’s not forget in that neck of the woods – ie Hackney – cycle journeys are way above the London average. I’m sure many people who would otherwise be on a 38, 242, 149 or Overground are now on two wheels.

  408. timbeau says:

    @anon 5
    “I don’t know the exact date the 149 returned to double decker operation ”

    Wikipedia has the dates for bendy introduction as follows:
    507, 521: 2 June 2002
    436: 8 February 2003
    453: 15 March 2003 (these two were new routes created alongside the introduction of the congestion charge – the 436 took over part of Routemaster-operated route 36)
    18: November 2003
    25, 149: 2004 (actual date unspecified)
    73: 4 September 2004
    12: 6 November 2004
    207: 9 April 2005
    38: 29 October 2005
    29: 14 January 2006

    As well as the 36/436, the 12 and 38 both went straight from Routemaster to bendy overnight, and the 73 had only a few months interlude.

    and withdrawal as follows:

    507: July 2009
    521: September 2009
    38: 14 November 2009 – as said by WW, the first bendy route to be converted to d-d
    149: 15 October 2010
    18: 12 November 2010
    25: 24 June 2011
    73: 2 September 2011
    453: 23 September 2011
    12: 4 November 2011
    436 10 November 2011
    29: 25 November 2011
    207: 9 December 2011

  409. Greg Tingey says:

    Of course the 38 USED to go to Chingford (Royal Forest Hotel), with the 38A going to Chingford Hatch.

  410. tog says:

    timbeau: As well as the 36/436, the 12 and 38 both went straight from Routemaster to bendy overnight, and the 73 had only a few months interlude.

    My recall is the 73 going from RM to Bendy with only a day’s gap (Sunday, when the route was run by regular double deckers).

  411. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ TOG – correct. No vehicle type interlude on the 73 between RM and Citaro G operation. There was a 4 month gap between contract renewal in May 2004 and bendies starting in Sept 2004 (source – Ian Armstrong’s London Bus Routes history website). I recall taking a commemorative RML ride from T’ham Garage to TCR on my morning commute rather than the Vic Line! I also got FRM1 home from Euston 🙂 That was quite a week for odd vehicle workings on various routes losing their Routemasters.

  412. timbeau says:

    My apologies – I misread Ian Armstrong’s listing, and was misled by the photo of a DLA between the RM and the artic – the DLA was illustrating that, like most RM routes, the 73 was OPO on Sundays – in this case since 1987.

  413. stimarco says:

    The 36 bus route never actually disappeared: it was simply cut back to New Cross and continued to use double deckers. (The related 136 bus route replaced the older 36B route to Grove Park some years earlier.)

    The 436 was an additional bus route that duplicated the old 36 service between Queen’s Park to Lewisham, while the “36”-numbered double deckers ran from Paddington to New Cross (sometimes turning back at Peckham). The 436 was always about adding capacity to a very popular route.

    Removing it was a bloody stupid move given the paucity of transport alternatives along that corridor. Even with the Citaro-G and the double-deckers sharing the duties, they struggled to cope with the demand. I dread to think what the situation is like now.

  414. straphan says:

    @stimarco: You’ll find the 436 is alive and well and running every 5-6 minutes in the peak between Lewisham and Paddington using 32 double-deckers allocated to New Cross garage (Go-Ahead)…

  415. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Stimarco – I am sorry to quibble but the 436 was not an additional service. I have gone back to the original TfL consultation document from 2002 that covered the major expansion and restructuring of many radial routes. It says clearly that the old route 36 ran in 3 sections – Lewisham to Victoria, Lewisham to Paddington and Queens Park – New Cross Gate. TfL restructured the service into two with the 36 doing Queens Park – NXG and the 436 doing Paddington – Lewisham. As you say TfL launched the 436 with bendy buses. It is now run with double deckers.

    There were slightly fewer buses per hour after the 2002/3 restructuring but, of course, the bendy buses had a larger capacity. Later on the 36 lost its Routemasters and was converted to low floor double deckers. Overall there are now 20 buses per hour on the common section of the 36/436 compared to 18 bph after the first phase of route restructuring. As an aside TfL are just about to axe a section of route 159 between Paddington Basin and Marble Arch without replacement. This leaves just one bus service (the 23) from the Trafalgar Sq / Picc Circus / Regent St corridor serving Paddington with the 7 helping out from Oxford Circus. The 15 is curtailed at Trafalgar Square at present.

  416. timbeau says:


    The 36, like many routes of old, used to run in overlapping sections with few, if any, buses going all the way. LT and more recently TfL have gradually formalised this by giving the different sections different numbers, e.g 37, 337, H37. Or 36/436. Often the spur for this was some significant change to one of the sections – conversion to OPO being a common one. The bendification of the southern part of route 36 was another

  417. Anon5 says:

    I had no idea about the same numbered routes being run in different sections. Does this mean you could be stood waiting at the start of a route and never get a bus to the end of the route? Did the timetables and bus maps show this or were you to assume the terminus was much closer than it actually was? Surely in those instances transfer tickets ought to have been brought in?

  418. Graham H says:

    @Anon5 -routes run in overlapping sections were quite common; I believe the worst offender was the 12 which nominally ran all the way from Park Royal to S Croydon at one time but actually had four overlapping sections and no through journeys (and possibly no through fares). I have never seen an explanation as to the origins of the practice, which seems to date from the ’20s. Possibly a reaction to growing congestion and reliability problems – my 1912 LGOC map certainly seems to show very long trunk routes (like the 12) run as through routes whereas by 1924, we had the Bassom system of suffixes for short workings.

  419. Mike says:

    Anon5: speaking from experience of the 12 (long ago!), the bus map itself didn’t show that routes were split but the route listing on the back of the map and timetables at stops did. The route was long with a long overlap, and very few people would have wanted to travel the full length from South Croydon to Park Royal (I think) – except for those of us out for a jaunt on a Red Rover, for whom ticketing was not an issue.

  420. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Anon5 and timbeau

    Perhaps the best example was the 655 trolleybus route and initially its 255 replacement
    It ran from Acton Bromyard Avenue to Clapham Junction, via Hanwell & Brentford(!!)

    I think there was only one complete through journey a day, southbound (or perhaps in this case anti-clockwise) and none at all the other way

  421. @Graham H,

    I can’t speak for the days when the 12 went to South Croydon as I worked on the route when it “only” went as far as Norwood Junction. Certainly the first bus of the day was Elmers End Garage to Harlesden. 04.54 book-on, leave the garage at 05.04, once on a “short” around the trading estate and then back to the garage if I remember correctly. Even that took well over four hours. I think there were some early Saturday turns doing Elmers End/Norwood Junction to East Acton (Du Cane Road).

    I suspect there may well have been through journeys on a Sunday on the full South Croydon – Harlesden route which would have been the exception and may back up the idea that running in sections was due to traffic causing unpredicable running time – Sunday being a very quiet day then.

    One of the advantages of running in sections is that they could vary depending on the day of the week. Four garages provided the ninety buses required for the service. Elmers End normally covered Norwood Junction – Oxford Circus but on Sundays we went as a far as Shepherds Bush. A Sunday shift was basically twice out to Shepherds Bush and back. It was a nice run. Inevitably stuck along the Bayswater Road with time to look at the pictures on the railings or even get off and buy an ice cream.

  422. Mike says:

    Anon5: sorry, I was wrong about the list of routes on the back of the bus map showing splits, at least for the 12 (serendipity that GH & I chose the same route!): eg the 1966 map just says “S. Croydon…[lots of places]…Shepherd’s Bush. Ext’d wkdays. [which then meant Mon-Sat] to Harlesden. Jnys. rush hrs. Harlesden and Park Royal”

    I’m sure I recall entries saying something like “Operates in two sections: A to C and B to D”, but can’t find an example.

  423. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Mike and others,

    Don’t remember that on bus maps but I have got a feeling that on the bus stops it would show first and last times, frequency and, if relevant, a note to the effect that the route was normally operated in sections.

  424. Graham H says:

    @PoP/Mike – haven’t been able to find a bus map which does show sectional working, although that essential vade mecum, now long gone, the Central Area bus timetable, did.

  425. Castlebar 1 says:


    I do remember it

    I’m looking for a bus map that shows the 655

  426. Castlebar 1 says:

    I have now found a 1956 map

    For route 12 it says >>

    In two sections: SOUTH CROYDON to OXFORD CIRCUS (daily), EAST DULWICH to HARLESDEN (weekdays) etc

  427. Castlebar 1 says:

    Same 1956 map

    Route 77 > >

    “In two sections:

  428. straphan says:

    Thank heavens they replaced all that with ‘families’ of routes (e.g. 36/436 or 63/363) – the old system would have been rather confusing for people…

  429. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ straphan

    There always were such ‘families’ of routes

    They had ‘A’ and ‘B’ suffixes, but had to be re-numbered when the Leyland Nationals etc came along with their three abreast roller blind numbers

  430. Graham H says:

    @straphan/castlebar1 – and it used to be even worse. The suffix system was introduced with the Bassom programme of route renumbering in 1924 (yet another example of the Met meddling in London bus operation to no good effect), with journeys that travelled the whole route being given a plain unsuffixed number, and any short workings a different suffix. At one time, some routes got up to F, may be even H. The bad luck was that the system was introduced when it was – the Year of the Wembley Exhibition – which meant that a lot of routes extended to the Exhibition grounds, but for that year only. The net result was that for many years, some routes, including the 12, were stuck with suffixes for the trunk route (the trunk having previously been a “short” on the full service to Wembley). LT abolished most of these where it could but some lingered on – famously the 406F to Epsom Races, and the 23C to Creekmouth but even humble routes like the 98 managed A to D at various times.

  431. Castlebar 1 says:

    And there was the 109B and the 109W depending on which bridge it took to the Embankment

  432. stimarco says:

    @Castlebar 1, et al:

    I sit corrected.

    I’ve just spent an enlightening time reading up the history of the 36 bus route. It dates back to 1911 (at which point it ran from West Kilburn to Bank) and, at one point, had no less than six short-working sections, suffixed A through F, during the 1920s.

    I wonder if such changes are one of the reasons why trams are so popular: at least you know their routes aren’t likely to change every few years.

  433. Milton Clevedon says:

    Um. The routes might, but the tracks won’t.

  434. As evidenced in Croydon.

  435. timbeau says:

    I can recall several routes that ran in sections in the late 1970s, the 37 was certainly one (then running Peckham to Richmond and Brixton(?) to Hounslow). The 207 was, I think, another – certainly a lot terminated at Bromyard Avenue from the west (escepially when I wanted to go to Shepherds Bush!) and at Hayes End coming from the east.
    As I recall, the information was not shown on bus maps but did appear on the timetables posted up at bus stops.

  436. timbeau says:

    Reading the other comments above, it appears that the overlapping section information sometimes appeared on bus maps, and sometimes (certainly in the late seventies) it didn’t.

  437. Castlebar (Continuity Contra Crayonista) says:

    Sorry timbeau, but you are now confusing short workings with routes that ran in sections. Short workings happened all the time, every day, on most routes. Routes that ran in sections are something entirely different.

    Many 207s never reached Uxbridge just as many 65s never reached Leatherhead
    Short workings were simply normal to cover the busiest sections of a route. About 50% of 55s (pre 1968) were Greenford – Northfields shuttles

  438. Fandroid says:

    We seem to have at least two threads discussing bus routes which started off behind railway articles! There must be a word for this phenomenon.

    But what the heck! I find all this route fiddling to be quite depressing. It’s operators playing with the things they have the freedom to play with without considering the greater public good. How on earth are they going to get drivers out of cars if they constantly muck around with the services? They are restricting their customer base to just the cognoscenti and those who have no other option. Pushing more targeted marketing, lobbying hard for road layout changes, reviewing bus design, fare policies and the whole customer offer. These are what need the real hard work, not just playing with bus schedules, route variations and games with numbers.

    Trams are forced to stick with the same routes (within very strict limits). Hard cheese for bus route fiddlers, but it does force the operators to look hard at what will really attract the customers.

  439. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Fandroid

    Yes, Beeching had such a word. It was “Bustitution”

    Ooops…………..I’ve mentioned Beeching again. That’ll be me finished!

  440. straphan says:

    @Fandroid: First of all, it’s not the operators who set the routes and timetables in London – it’s TfL.

    Second of all, trams in most of the UK are generally forced to stick with the same routes, but that’s only because of the fact, that most tram networks in the UK consist of one or two lines – hence there are only so many ways you can connect the dots.

    Manchester is slowly reaching a stage, where it is able to ‘play tunes’ with the network and which outer termini it connects direcly and how. Older, established networks in Continental Europe provide the flexibility to change routes almost as freely as if they were bus networks.

  441. Fandroid says:

    When I said ‘operators’ I meant those of the same mentality within TfL. Fiddle with the easy stuff, while leaving the hard stuff in the ‘too difficult’ tray. I admit that the problem is a lot worse out here my corner of the deregulated bus desert. Stagecoach do major route hacks every 12 months.

    Even if tram operators do fiddle with the routes somewhat, at least their customers know that they aren’t going to fly off round the corner where no tracks exist.

  442. Long Branch Mike 1 says:


    I’d say it was more of a case of bus crayonistaism – too easy to try out all the possible permutations…

  443. Graham H says:

    Of course, the politicians in the ’70s and again in the ’90s complained long and loud that LT/LRT was too conservative (Better – “hidebound” – as these were after all Conservative politicians) in its bus route planning. ” Why! – They said loudly – just look at the 11! Been going down the Kings Road to Fulham for a century…” This forgets, of course, that actually some traffic flows have remained pretty constant and the bus routes with them. If you look at the routes in existence by the first world war – basically those numbered below 60, nearly all of them are still recognisable today; same goes for many of the ex-trolley routes, albeit with some highly logical extensions (eg the 243 to Waterloo). It’s mainly in the outer area and around the central area termini that the fidget has gone on. A quick perusal of the February TLB* shows 5 route changes out of a portfolio of ~ 400 routes in total – not a great movement.

    @Fandroid – I sometimes suspect the reverse, in fact, when a long dead route number makes a re-appearance in the same location.

    * TLB for LBM = The London Bus, a monthly magazine published by the London Omnibus Traction Society

  444. Anon5 says:

    This is fascinating stuff. Thanks to all of you who replied to my questions about routes being run in sections. I understand a set number of short workings each hour – I’ve often growled at the N3 being split between those which terminate at Bromley North and Crystal, with many of the former curtailed at the latter without prior warning – but the idea of a majority of buses not running a full route seems madness in these days of shorter routes especially when transfers aren’t available. As for letter suffix, I remember the Routemasters on the 12 leaving Elmer’s End garage with the single decker Leyland 12A. I think the 194 was joined by the 194A, B and possibly C too.

  445. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham H – I hate to tell you that the “the 11 has always run down the Kings Road” scream from politicians is alive and well in 2014. I heard it just weeks ago. I think borough councillors seem to have an inbred hatred of any London wide service delivery and want to get their hands on it. They certainly want their hands on the buses. At the moment there’s very little money to do any changes. I was perusing some TLBs from 2002 recently and there were vast changes (largely frequency increases and new low floor buses) month after month. It’s virtually disappeared due to budgets.

    For those who wish to relive the old days of sectional timetables there is a decent collection of 1980s LT timetables that show sectional working in good detail on Flickr. Chupaman is the nom de photo for the collection of timetable scans. PoP can relive his days on route 12 running from Norwood Junction to Park Royal if he wishes.

  446. Greg Tingey says:

    Would that I could still get a 559 to “Woolwich Free Ferry”!

  447. timbeau says:

    ” I find all this route fiddling to be quite depressing. It’s operators playing with the things they have the freedom to play with without considering the greater public good.”
    If only! TfL have steadfastly refused to provide a bus service from Kingston to Twickenham along the direct route (Strawberry Vale and Crossdeep) but send the 281 in a long congested detour via Fulwell. The reason it goes that way? It is a replacement for trolleybus route 601, itself a replacement for a tram route – and there were never any tramlines laid along Strawberry Vale. The fact that this ceased to be a constraint in 1931 (conversion to trolleybus – London’s first) or possibly 1962 (when it was withdrawn, as London’s last trolleybus route) seems not to have come to their attention yet.

    Second example: the only buses which take the direct route from Waterloo to the City via Blackfriars Bridge are running “empty to depot”. All six bus routes (4, 26, 76, 172, 341, 521) take the circuitous and congested route via the Aldwych instead, and none of the three routes over Blackfrairs Bridge (45, 63, 100) serve Waterloo. I have had many excuses for not running one or two of these routes via both Blackfrairs Bridge and Waterloo vary from “there is no demand” (oh yes? see how many people walk, or Boris Bike, or use the Drain and then walk back towards St Pauls) to “the buses would get too busy” (both in the same letter!)

  448. Graham Feakins says:

    @ Anon5 – The 12A even had its own very short workings, as did the 12 before it, e.g. Croydon (Katharine Street) to Addiscombe (Black Horse) and East Croydon Station to Shirley Inn on the 194 (and even East Croydon Station to Addiscombe Road (Shirley Road) – a run of about a mile!). Before PoP’s time, the traditional 12 route was South Croydon Garage to Oxford Circus, running further to Harlesden on Sundays.

    One thing to realise is that, in London Transport days, there were Silver Badge and Gold Badge bus inspectors at their ‘stations’ on various parts of the routes who had the power to turn buses short or indeed to have them run further, beyond the booked turning point for the bus concerned in order to make up the service or fill a gap. There were of course some drivers who took umbridge at such a request (“Not my job, Mate”), despite a promise of booked overtime from the inspector, whilst others readily co-operated and thus remained in the good books of the Inspector to recompense another time. Such a tale could be told all over I daresay but my experiences came from the Croydon and Bromley area garages. The best of all of that was the fact that the Inspectors really did know the route, having driven the routes themselves and thus gained the experience first-hand. Dealing with cussing and devious crews was another experience altogether and, on a personal note, a close friend who was just such an inspector from Bromley has just passed away, so I can no longer urge him to relate any further tales which would form at least a chapter in a history of London Transport’s buses.

    My apologies that this continues the bus topic.

  449. alan blue mountains aust. says:

    This thread has totally derailed off topic

  450. Graham H says:

    @WW Thank you for the Chupman link (I had intended to scan in the paper part of my own collection of panels which covers 1968-to date, but life gets shorter, so I am so glad to have found someone else who has done it – just need the time to download them all now…). Now – about rural bus services in upcountry NSW…

  451. stimarco says:

    @alan blue mountains aust.

    I’m not sure “derailed” is the right word.

  452. alan blue mountains aust. says:

    Completly off track in my opinion

  453. Greg Tingey says:

    The only “tracks” in the Blue Mountains are dirt ones, aren’t they?

  454. CdBrux says:

    Greg: there is the worlds steepest railway in the Blue Mountains. I walked down and took the railway back up intending to take a few photo’s on the way up but in the end spent more time making sure I didn’t slide out of my seat!
    Sorry to derail the topic even further

  455. alan blue mountains aust. says:

    CdBrux – the scenic railway can be butt clenching in parts , there is an urban myth that if the cable breaks your fare will be refunded.
    Greg Tingey – Main western railway line runs through the Blue Mountains eventually connecting to Perth Western Australia, plus Great Western Highway and Bells line of road. Must admit, almost urban myth, do have kangaroos several times a week in my front and back yard . That is my contribution to off topic, cheers Alan

  456. Stationless says:

    I am just having a monster LR catch-up session, having been out of 3G range for several days – and it’s great. Much as I love the tube & NR topics, it is nice to have some bus threads (even if the threads have deviated off route somewhat). The answer to the problems of the 38 route is, of course, the line formally known as “Chelney” a.k.a. Crossrail 2.

  457. AlisonW says:

    On ATO, a driver friend of mine commented elsewhere yesterday “took train down to Morden in ATO shortly for the first time since it switched over from tripcock mode … soooo boring. I could feel myself nodding off – hadn’t realised how much I depended upon the tripcock section to keep me awake!”

    There were particular reasons on that occasion, but I’m wondering how common this issue might become as “drivers” become relegated to “sitters”.

  458. Graham H says:

    @CDBrux – are TfL that short of news, then? (Reminded of John Welsby’s dictum about WC upgrade ” announced every year; in a good year, twice”).

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