As we covered in our look at Crossrail’s upcoming off-peak service, when talking about frequencies on London Underground (LU) it is an almost inevitable fact that minds concentrate on the peak period services and the frequency of those services this is logical because, from the railwayman’s perspective, it is thought to determine the infrastructure and rolling stock required. It is also obvious that it is generally the peak period service that the long suffering commuter is interested in. However, the peak period only accounts for a relatively small portion of the day and only five days of the week. For other people, and there are many of them, it is the off-peak service that really matters. Despite that, whenever you see references to a frequency of service it is nearly always referring to the peak period.

In order to focus on Crossrail’s off-peak questions, we kept detailed discussion of off-peak elsewhere on the TfL network out of that piece. Here, we look at it in more detail.

The off-peak revolution on London Underground

As we mentioned in our article on Crossrail, something that appears surprising in modern rail planning is that various factors such as cost, infrastructure required and various other things are worked out by considering the three hour morning peak and then using standard multiplication factors for other times of the day. As we have also seen, such an approach may crudely work for typical National Rail type scenarios but, as we move more and more to a 24/7 style society, this is becoming less and less appropriate for a city such as London and the London Underground. The off-peak service increasingly needs to be seen as a separate issue from the outset and not just something that can be sorted out once the difficult scenario of the peaks has been solved.

Over the past few years we have had a noticeable, but patchy, improvement in peak hour frequency on various lines with further improvements due over the next few years. At the same time there has been quite a dramatic improvement in off-peak services. This is true for Monday-Friday and possibly even more so on Saturday.

The nature of Sunday services has changed significantly so that Sunday is not so much a quiet day but very similar to Saturday. For many lines the only thing different about Sunday is that the trains start later in the morning and finish slightly earlier at night. One characteristic of Sunday used to be that quite a few stations were closed. Nowadays the only remaining LU station that does close on a Sunday is Cannon Street. This is entirely for historical reasons and in recent years London Underground has come under quite a bit of pressure from both passengers and Southeastern Railway to end this outstanding anomaly. The situation does seem to be completely untenable given that Cannon Street National Rail station itself is nowadays open on Sunday.

It is generally the case that on the Underground we can consider the off-peak service as an entity, as the off-peak service on most lines is the same throughout most of the day and does not vary depending on what day of the week it is (there is one very notable exception to this). Even when there is a variation between days of the week it tends to be very slight.

The issue of running off-peak trains the entire length of the line

As Underground lines get upgraded the improved frequency of trains tends to be quite substantial. This is impressive in the peak but even more impressive when one looks at the off-peak service. This is especially true if one compares it with the situation that historically existed. A knock on effect of an off-peak increase in frequency is that, even if one wanted to, it becomes very difficult to terminate trains short of the ultimate terminus unless there is a suitable bay platform. This is because the time available to terminate a train is now insufficient in order to carry out the necessary procedures without delaying the following train. This is often true even if an exemption is given to the requirement to check that no-one is left aboard the train.

The difficulty of terminating an Underground train at a station other than the end of the line is less of an issue in the peak period because many peak period passenger journeys actually start at the outer ends of the line so the desire to terminate trains short of the end of the line is suppressed. Off-peak passenger demand tends to show a different pattern. The closer a station is to central London, the greater the number of off-peak passengers in relation to the peak period total. As the numbers tend to thin out with distance from central London there is the appearance of service over-provision at the extremities of some lines.

In fact, running trains off-peak all the way to the end of the line is not only to some extent unavoidable with the existing infrastructure, but it often turns out to be no bad thing. This is because the marginal cost of providing a good off-peak service is outweighed by the social benefit (time saving to passengers) and it takes surprisingly few people per train to produce a net benefit in the off-peak period.

There can be a point reached where the off-peak service provided to the end of the line is beyond anything that can be reasonably justified and Stanmore is a case that is often cited as an example. The over-provision of off-peak service to Stanmore happens because there is just nowhere practical to terminate the trains before they get to Stanmore – as described in great detail by Mike Horne.

How frequent should the off-peak service be?

In the past there was effectively no constraint on running the off-peak service and it was basically run as frequently as thought required. This was always presumed to be less than, or exceptionally equal to, the peak frequency. A notable exception to the notion of the peak frequency being as good as or better than the off-peak used to occur on the Circle Line in the days when it ran in a continuous circle. This was, however, entirely due to operating expediency and had nothing to do with passenger demand being greater in the off-peak.

We now have the situation where the peak service is effectively capped on most lines by what it is capable of providing. We also have many more off-peak travellers and the numbers are set to increase as the population of London increases. In addition to all that there is the expectation that travelling conditions off-peak are not as bad as in the peak with a reasonable expectation of a seat for longer journeys. Increasingly people also now often take the Underground for travel as part of their working day e.g. to visit clients. This takes place during the “inter-peak”. The inclusion of this group amongst the inter-peak passengers is particularly significant because, as we have mentioned before, the value of their time for benefit-cost analysis purposes is assessed as working time and not at the lower rate of leisure time.

We also need to be cognisant of the fact that the peak period is not necessarily sustainable. That is, it can be run at a high frequency for a short period of time but cannot be kept up indefinitely. Heat build up in the tunnels is one issue, but heat build up can also be an issue in electrical substations which may well have a higher “one hour rating” (which is their maximum electrical load) than their “continuous rating” (which is a load that can be maintained indefinitely). Other possible reasons why the peak frequency may not be achievable for an extended period include the need for a ‘breather’ to recover from any accumulated delays and the need to set aside some time in order to maintain the rolling stock.

Although the peak service may not be fully sustainable one has an incentive to provide a frequent service before and after the high peak to attract those who can be flexible as to exactly when they will make their journey. There is also the fact that drivers have to be employed for a full shift and one may as well run the trains as the staff are there anyway. Of course, if you do not have any staff on a train then this issue goes away but then if you do not have any staff on the train you have taken away one of the main costs in providing an off-peak service so the incentive to run a frequent service is all the greater.

As the restrictions to the provision of the service provided in the off-peak period start to creep close to the same restrictions that limit the peak service that can be provided we begin to encounter a few fundamental issues:

  • Should there be a difference in service in between the peak and off-peak hours? Or should London Underground be expected to run as many trains as they reasonably can for large parts of the day?
  • If it was decided that the peak frequency was desirable in the off-peak period but really was not sustainable then should a service be provided in the off-peak that was almost up to peak service levels but sustainable (say around 90% of the peak frequency)?
  • Should there be a distinction between the inter-peak and other off-peak periods?
  • If it would make sense to provide a more intense inter-peak frequency than at other off-peak times then would it make sense to effectively run a peak timetable all day from early morning to early evening Monday-Friday?

With the above in mind let us take a brief look at the individual lines and what off-peak service they provide, what plans there are in the future and any limits to growth.

The Subsurface Railway

It makes sense to consider the Subsurface Railway (SSR) comprising of the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines as a single entity. Because of its numerous branches and the operation around the circle, it is unusual in that the frequency into the suburbs tails off quite substantially and is considerably reduced compared to the north, east and southern sides of the circle – with apologies to geometrists who might find that statement rather puzzling.

If all goes according to the rather optimistic plan, bearing in mind the cancelling and planned re-letting of the signalling contract, then by December 2018 the greater part of “the circle” will be providing a 24tph off-peak service. This is 75% of the peak service and this 75% figure is almost replicated on the branches. For the Watford Junction branch it will be 100% and, exceptionally, between Whitechapel and Barking it is expected that it will only be around 56% of the peak service as it is presumed that peak-period Barking terminators will terminate at Tower Hill off-peak.

SSR off-peak

Off peak frequencies past, present and future on the Subsurface Railway between Baker Street and Aldgate.

There is one small improvement expected on the SSR by the end of this year – an increase of 3tph of the number of Metropolitan trains that will run off-peak between Baker Street and Aldgate The TfL draft budget rather enthusiastically describes this as “50 per cent more tph to Aldgate”. In reality though this is not a big deal. The overall frequency between Baker Street and Liverpool Street actually went down when the Circle Line was re-organised – by 3tph.

The proposed 3tph Baker Street – Aldgate improvement seems to be a very cautious move. It would seem more logical to increase the service by 6tph to make a total of 12tph to fit in with the 6tph on both the Circle and Hammersmith & City along the same track. This would provide a modest increase in service level above that of 2009 which would probably be in line with the increased number of passengers. Maybe a further 3tph improvement will happen in the not too distant future. Indeed one wonders if, once the S stock is delivered, the proposed 2018 SSR off-peak service could be delivered earlier as it should be possible to run the service without waiting for the signalling upgrade.

The SSR is home to a quirky short line that is the antithesis of normal operation and for all practical purposes only runs at the weekends. This is of course the Olympia shuttle. This does provide a very good example of why you cannot just plan your peak service and presume that it will be good enough just to provide a slightly reduced peak service at other times.

Bakerloo Line

The Bakerloo Line is a relatively quiet line. It does however serve the West End and its shops as well as Paddington which is a London terminus less characterised by peaks than most. Whilst one would not expect a great variation between peak and off-peak service it is surprising just how little a difference there is. The peak hour service is currently around 22tph and the off-peak is very similar at 20tph midday Monday – Friday and only marginally less on Sunday (around 18tph).

It is believed that there is no spare stock on the Bakerloo and it is also said that the current timetable has had to be hastily written because of a depot accident with one of the trains. One cannot really see the off-peak service getting better than it currently is for many years to come as it is generally desirable to have a slightly reduced service off-peak to allow for train maintenance during the day. This need for daytime maintenance is probably more true for the Bakerloo Line trains than for those on other lines due to the age of the trains and lack of any spare trains.

Central Line

The Central Line already runs a 24tph service off-peak which is currently as frequent as any line. Given that it is ATO (automatic train operation) it should be perfectly possible operationally to increase that to 27tph should there be a demand to do so but no plans to improve the service are known about. One of the reasons why LU might be reluctant to do so, even if the demand were there, is because the 1992 stock trains aren’t the most reliable and may already need a bit of tender loving care to get them to last until around 2030.

A further reason for not currently running or planning to run 27tph on the Central Line is that further off-peak frequency increases may depend on schemes implemented to cool the air in the Central Line tunnels. As a tube heat map published by TfL in 2009 shows, the Central Line has by far the worst problem of excess heat – the penalty of being one of the earliest deep tubes combined with a current day high frequency of trains.

Jubilee Line

The Jubilee Line has been overdue an improved off-peak service ever since the peak service was increased the 30tph. From May this year that will be rectified when the Jubilee line will catch up with today’s Central and Victoria Lines and run 24tph off-peak. Proposed improvements to the service do not stop there as it is proposed that peak frequencies will improve further from 2019. It is also the plan to improve the off-peak frequencies from 2019 as well and the Bond Street Station Cooling (BSSC) project board notes states that:

BSSC would be required for both 34tph and 36tph options since one of the main drivers for the increase in temperatures is the 27tph inter-peak service proposed for both scenarios.

This reference only refers to the “inter-peak” but given the way London’s population is increasing and the popularity of the Jubilee Line it would not be surprising if this applied to the weekends as well by the time the relevant timetable were implemented.

Northern Line

We have covered various aspects on the Northern Line on many occasions. The message has generally been that demand is there but the capacity isn’t and the crux of the problem is the junctions at Camden Town. Because of those junctions, even after ATO, LU will not quite be able to manage 24tph on each of the central sections in both directions in the peaks. The problem is that one would have thought both sections would justify 24tph apiece even in the off-peak – especially as the trains are only 6-cars long.

LU has not published its proposed off-peak frequency after the signalling upgrade is complete in 2014. It is currently around 15-16tph which does seem on the low side for a line that takes one to the heart of London’s West End or City. One can expect improvements but probably not up to the same frequency that is operated in the peak.

Piccadilly Line

The Piccadilly Line has an interesting and non-typical off-peak service. It also shows the limitations on a tube line. A few years ago a determined effort was made to improve the peak period service. The problem was that without ATO there really was no extra capacity to be had and it was eventually conceded that the service would run better if the over-optimistic attempt to improve the frequency was abandoned. Presumably this means that there are currently spare trains that cannot be utilised.

The current peak service on the Piccadilly Line is 24tph. The off-peak service is already 21tph and so is barely perceptibly different from the peak service. This would also tend to suggest that if the peak service was considerably improved it would still be full up. One can understand why London Underground are so keen to upgrade the Piccadilly Line.

What is particularly interesting about the Piccadilly line is that according to TfL’s latest draft Budget report:

During the off-peak period, new timetables will allow [...] and weekend services on the Piccadilly line will also increase. From May 2014 there will be 24tph on Saturdays between 12:00 and 19:00, compared to 21tph today.

Now that is quite surprising for a number of reasons:

  • This means that the Saturday afternoon service will be as frequent as the Monday-Friday peak service. Actually if it is strictly 24tph it would be very slightly higher than peak frequency (which manages 24 trains in an hour but not 24tph for those who understand the subtle difference)
  • The Piccadilly Line is going to run at maximum capacity for a continuous period of 7 hours which is probably unheard of for an Underground Line except, just possibly, during the Olympic Games
  • The implication is that the full capacity is needed for a normal Saturday, whatever that is, and there is no spare capacity to be had when needed for special events (such as our editor’s beloved Arsenal playing at home)

One reason why the Piccadilly off-peak service needs to be so frequent is that the Piccadilly Line serves Heathrow Airport which is no respecter of railway peak periods. It might be worth bearing in mind that in December 2019 when Crossrail is fully open one can expect that the Piccadilly peak service would still be 24tph and the off-peak at least 21tph. Indeed, given that it will run at 24tph for a substantial period on Saturday, it is not inconceivable that in the future the service on the Piccadilly Line will no longer distinguish between the peak and off-peaks and just run 24tph all day every day until relief finally comes in the form of the Piccadilly Line Upgrade in 2025 or possibly later. Given the same peak hour frequency and the fact that both the Piccadilly Line and Crossrail will serve Heathrow Airport, though admittedly with far fewer trains in Crossrail’s case, one wonders if the Piccadilly Line could actually provide a pointer to a reasonable level of off-peak service to be run on Crossrail.

The Victoria Line

When it comes to level of service provided today, it seems to be the Victoria Line that is consistently setting the standards. When looking at the current and future service on that line it is important to remember that, until the second half of 2011, the best service that could be provided in the peak period was around 27tph. And, if Mike Horne’s account on working on the line is to be believed, the service often pretty much fell apart when trying to run at that frequency with the old trains and the old signalling. In his account he wrote:

The Victoria Line that I knew and for quite a while worked on was a pig of a thing. It was being pushed well beyond the expectations set for it when it was built and was running a 2 – 2½ minute service, or about 27 trains an hour, in theory.

Now actually it wasn’t being pushed beyond the expectations set for it but it certainly is true it was pushed well beyond what it was sensibly capable of providing – but that’s another story for another day.

Today the Victoria Line runs 33tph in the peak and 24tph in the off-peak. In both cases a few of the trains only run northward as far as Seven Sisters.

If all goes according to plan, we know from the latest TfL project monitoring report that by April 2016 there will be a 27tph off-peak service along the entire length of the Victoria Line – that is roughly a train every 2¼ minutes. Or to look at it another way, in just over two years time Victoria Line will be running a service on a Sunday for most of the day along the full length of the line that less than three years ago was all it could manage in the Monday to Friday peaks – and then only as far north as Seven Sisters. Furthermore it will be running a better service off-peak than the busy Northern Line, also by then equipped with ATO, and the equally busy Piccadilly Line can run in the peaks.

Waterloo & City Line

Even the Waterloo & City Line has a better off-peak service than previously and now runs throughout the day on Saturdays. It is normally closed on Sundays but one wonders how long that will last. If one can justify opening on a Saturday it is difficult to see how the same argument cannot also be applied to justify a Sunday opening. Even if it could not be justified today, then surely as demand rises a tipping point will be reached.

To the future

It does seem to be the case that we are getting to the point on the London Underground where the off-peak service is barely distinguishable from the peak service. As demand continues to grow it is probable London Underground will need to ask themselves some fundamental questions as to what off-peak service they can and should be providing. In future passengers will expect their Underground train to turn up more or less straightaway for most of the day – even if it is Sunday – in the same way that they do during the peak period. In the off-peak period they will also expect to be able to get on the first train that comes.

It seems that there will be a further increase in off-peak frequency on various lines above that which was already known about. We have made the point before, but this goes to re-enforce the point that talk of driverless trains on the Underground is premature. For at least the next ten years the number of drivers needed is just going to go on rising. The Saturday off-peak frequency increase due to be implemented within the next two months will probably also make the idea of Unattended Train Operation even more attractive on the Piccadilly Line from 2025 due to the number of drivers that would otherwise be required throughout the day to operate the line.

Next, in the final piece of this short series on off-peak services, we will take a short look at off-peak frequency on the London Overground, a line where the needs of TfL must already interact with those of Network Rail and others. We shall also look at the off-peak service on the DLR.

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There are 114 comments on this article
  1. Castlebar 1 says:

    again, a very good article, well written with a lot of food for thought…..

  2. Chris says:

    The Piccadilly is a much less “peaky” railway than, for example, the Victoria or Central lines. Especially at the weekends, the hordes of tourists at Russell Square, Covent Garden, Knightsbridge and South Ken together with airport passengers, Eurostar passengers (and the odd commuter!) mean that the service is packed.

    Moreover, tourists are not as efficient at using all the space available as commuters, so the trains can appear packed while carrying fewer passengers!

  3. Greg Tingey says:

    Heat in the tunnels.
    Regenerative braking, now we have reliable solid-state electronics?
    Surely this will help alleviate the problems a bit.
    The sheer logistics of getting the staff, in place, on time, even with only one person per train must be very daunting. I can see why UTO is such a tempting target to aim for – and nothing at all to do with “bashing the eevul unions”. { Though I don’t doubt certain politicians would prefer to put it in that light – which is less than helpful. }.

    But, this sort of discussion reflects back on to the previous one … as to how the “Standard” will probably say: ” Why are Crossrail services so pathetic?” [ Or something like that ]
    Very Cross Rail ?

  4. straphan says:

    I think we also need to bear in mind the ‘third peak’, i.e. the period just before the end of the tube service, when everyone who’s not partying till dawn runs to the nearest tube station to avoid having to take a taxi/nightbus home. This phenomenon has not been catered for thus far, and I can vouch for the fact, that trains around 23:50-end of service are as packed as in the morning rush hour (but smell far worse…).

    The Piccadilly Line connects the most leisure destinations out of all tube lines:
    - South Kensington: museums
    - Knightsbridge: Hyde Park and Harrods
    - Hyde Park Corner: Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace
    - Green Park: Buckingham Palace
    - Piccadilly Circus: theatres, Chinatown and Leicester Square
    - Leicester Square: theatres and Chinatown (and Piccadilly Circus…)
    - Covent Garden: more theatres
    - Holborn and Russel Square: British Museum
    - Holloway Road and Arsenal: Arsenal FC

    Coupled with the steady stream of passengers coming from Heathrow and the need to provide some sort of service to Rayners Lane (as I mentioned before: 6tph isn’t much of a ‘tube’ frequency) it is little wonder that the Picc will be the first to do away with the peak/off-peak differentiation. Only once the maximum frequencies can be increased (good luck with pushing more passengers through those stations in Zone 1, by the way!) can there be a visible peak in the timetable again…

  5. Graham H says:

    Keep these fascinating articles coming! One issue not touched on here which is certainly becoming a noticeable on on the national services is the evening counter-peak. For example, on SWT, the inners are full to standing inbound from c1600 to at least c1900, and many of the outers are full in second class all the way from, say, Guildford. I would expect the same to be true of the outer parts of LU which are demographically similar to the SWT inners. Quite what the explanation is is not wholly clear; casual observation (always dangerous) suggests a high proportion of younger passengers, presumably going up to Town for a night out (and their return trips are then reflected in the enormous growth in the night bus network). Whatever the cause, the net result is to erode the classic peak flow structure further.

    On NR, these trips are not usually picked up in the counts.

  6. Milton Clevedon says:

    @Graham H
    Absolutely correct, there are two extra flows now occurring around the PM Peak:
    (1) more inbound 24/7ers, and
    (20 after 7PM outbound – whether because of people not wanting to use very full trains before then, or because they’re working late, or enjoying post-work drinking longer – many more in a peak-shoulder exit flow till at least 8PM and sometimes nearer 9PM.

    The standardised 3 hour AM peak estimates as a basis for total day flows are increasingly irrelevant to transport planning beyond defining an absolute max volume for station capacity design. (And that should exclude Persons with Reduced Mobility, they’re busiest in PM and evening and also Saturdays). At some stage I can foresee the AM peak being out-crowded by a shopping peak in some stations.

    Now guess what Crossrail has used for its all-day demand planning…? Sadly, you’re right. So another flawed basis there for offpeak demand and service planning.

  7. straphan says:

    @Milton Clevedon and Graham H: also bear in mind that many white-collar employees, both in the public and private sectors tend to work longer than the usual 9 to 5, particularly in London. We would therefore expect more people going to work earlier on the tube (especially since their commute tends to be shorter than for people coming in from outside London on National Rail), and more people going home beyond the typical 5-6pm ‘high peak’. Having had a look at SWT figures about a year ago, the busiest morning peak period was something more like 07:15 – 08:30.

  8. Fandroid says:

    @PoP. ‘when down’ in the para beneath the SSR Off-Peak Frequencies diagram should be ‘went down’.

  9. Anon5 says:

    I often wonder what proportion of people in London get home in time for the regional news compared to other parts of the UK.

  10. Castlebar 1 says:

    Milton’s comment has reminded me that when my sister-in-law worked in a City bank. back in the late 1950s, even on the odd occasion when all their cashing up balanced perfectly and they were then finished at 4:30, they were still kept locked in until 5p.m. before they could leave the building even if on all other evenings of the week they had been kept in until 6:30 or so (without overtime) until the error was found. So at 5p.m. and not even a minute before, there was a mass escape. That’s how things were in those days.

  11. DVD says:

    Very interesting. – although (and sorry to digress) as a southeast Londoner all this talk of tph in double figures makes me rather green with envy at those in the suburban fringes of the Tube compared with Southeastern National Rail services some of which get an off-peak frequency of 2 tph (evenings and all day Sunday) and 4 tph (weekdays and Saturday daytimes) – not distant suburbs, but stations in zone 3/4 – whose northern and western counterparts get so much more.

  12. Graham H says:

    @straphan – indeed, after 06.30 at Guildford, you cannot get a seat. And even in the 80s, whilst the Whitehall clerical staff went home VERY promptly at 16.30/17.00, the senior staff were usually there until 18.30 or later (depending on the Parliamentary business). No different for City folk. The 8 hour day is dead for many.

    @Castlebar – when I started in the City, the Bank of England staff were not allowed home until they had balanced the national accounts to within 6d (2 1/2p for New Men).

  13. NLW says:

    @Graham H In my early years at Midland Bank – we had to balance to the PENNY!

  14. REVUpminster says:

    When the five minute off-peak to Upminster was introduced the first though is great. The downside is the reduced turn round time at Upminster so late running trains (which is nearly all the trains) following the morning peak mean trains are reversed early. When it first started trains would be reversed at Dagenham East from the bay and the main platform and also into Barking sidings. The only trains that got to Upminster were the depot stablers so passengers waiting at Upminster, Upminster Bridge, Horchurch, and Elm Park could wait half an hour for a westbound train. Has the situation improved? Is it the reason there are still no train indicators at these stations?

  15. Milton Clevedon says:

    For those who really want to know, usage as % of total 24hr entry flow at Bank & Monument on a weekday in 2012, is ca. 1% +/- 0.1%, from 12:15 to 15:15, then the sequence is (total 24 hr entry flow 88,894):
    15:15-30 1.2%
    15:30-45 1.3%
    15:45-16:00 1.5%
    16:00-15 1.7%
    16:15-30 1.9%
    16:30-45 2.1%
    16:45-17:00 3.0%
    17:00-15 4.1%
    17:15-30 5.3%
    17:30-45 5.6%
    17:45-18:00 5.7%
    18:00-15 5.4%
    18:15-30 5.0%
    18:30-45 4.2%
    18:45-19:00 3.5%
    and just to show people are omnipresent later,
    19:00-15 2.9%
    19:15-30 2.4%
    19:30-45 1.9%
    19:45-20:00 1.6%, so still busier than 4pm.
    Looks like the Bank of England staff might be better at getting their 2½p’s worths sorted these days.

  16. Walthamstow Writer says:

    An interesting article. A few comment on various points.

    As a former long time user of the Picc Line and Leicester Square station I was always surprised to see legions of people *exiting* the station in the PM peak when you’d expect the flow to be inward. Of course that bit of town is now stupidly busy all the time – even earlyish M-F mornings are not as quiet as they used to be.

    Weekends are just daft on the Picc Line – IME the crowding is worse than the weekday peak in Zone 1. As already mentioned the concentration of attractions in Zone 1 pulls in residents from the suburbs but then you get clobbered at Kings Cross with people off the trains and then a mix of people staying in the centre given all the hotel areas served by the line.

    Straphan is quite right to mention the late night peak. The introduction of the Night Tube should have some interesting effects but my initial guess is that it will ease the current late night dash *but* then create a growing and developing “late night peak” that will stretch for several hours once the service becomes established. As more upgraded lines are added in to the Night Tube offer in a few years then we will face yet more growth in this new peak.

    Thinking back to PPP days the contracts had a specific off peak train declaration restriction which capped the numbers of trains off peak. This provided a guarantee for the Infracos of some trains returning to depot off peak for maintenance attention. The other factor is the occasional need to provide “trains for training” between the peaks and to have some paths to run them in. For as long as LU has drivers then you need to cover for this too. I suspect LU will have removed these limits on some lines with newer trains and better maintenance practices. On the lines with older trains I’d guess they’ll remain as the delays to upgrades places more stress on the stock. I recall that boosting the Picc Line Saturday service was viewed as a bit of a stretch by Tube Lines well over 2 years ago (shows how long it takes to plan these timetable changes) and the delay to the upgrade won’t have helped matters.

    I’m very spoilt being on the Vic Line where we typically have a train every 3 mins off peak with the odd 6 minute interval. This is a vast improvement from the 1980s when we had 5 tph to Walthamstow on Sundays and some trains terminated at Kings Cross n/b on Sundays – a 4 minute headway across Zone 1 and every 4-8 north of KX. IIRC a proportion of the s/b service turned at Victoria too.

    I appreciate Mr Horne was closer to the action than I ever was but I used the Vic Line for decades and while it had its moments I would not portray it as a service that was perpetually under strain. If it had been under that strain it would surely have collapsed and it never did on a large scale. We just had a “week from hell” every 3 months or so!

    The interesting counterpoint to all this service expansion on rail modes is the palpable lack of expansion on the bus network which, of course, feeds people to and from rail stations of whatever “brand”. At some point a crunch will come plus we must remember that a proportion of those needing to travel cannot afford rail fares so will always rely on the bus network. Thankfully the bus network broadly keeps its PM peak frequencies intact until 2000 allowing it to cope with people flowing off the rail network from their later finishes of their working days / drinks after work. Sundays are the big difference – tube frequencies keep increasing but next to no improvement to bus frequencies meaning that Sunday bus routes can be overwhelmed by the numbers pouring out of the tube network! Try getting on a bus in the suburbs that connects with the tube between 1700 – 1830 on a Sunday – not easy in some places.

    As it’s compulsory for me to mention ticketing issues I wonder if the burgeoning off peak demand might tempt TfL to narrow the peak / off peak fares differential so as to bolster its revenue take? It has to be an attractive proposition to leverage up the revenue take to boost overall revenue and defray any extra costs of better off peak services. Graham H’s remark about the contra peak flow partly explains why the TOCs (on the NR PAYG fare scale) charge peak fares for journeys *into* Zone 1 in the PM peak while TfL and TOCs on the TfL fare scale do not have a PM peak period of trips into Zone 1. Ironically the peak charging regime does apply for TfL farescale journeys in zones 2-9 which do not cross Zone 1. There’s no need for the TOCs to encourage even more patronage contra peak if their trains are all packed full.

  17. Melvyn says:

    The comment re opening of Cannon Street Station on Sunday could be best addressed by opening Cannon Street underground station on Sunday and closing nearby Mansion House Station which has far worse access than Cannon Street which even has step free access to its Westbound platform and far easier access from street to platforms by stairs .

    As a user of C2C I use a railway that benefits from two way flows at all hours of the day and close working with the H&C and District Lines with many using C2C as an express service to Upminster and then travel back on District Line to their station . Of course those in a rush at West Ham running upstairs and jumping on trains sometimes find the doors closed when train announces ” next stop Basildon or even Benfleet !” And they only wanted Barking !

    The irony of the over supply of trains at the Northern end of the jubilee line is the lack of decent off peak services some stations on nearby Chiltern Railways !

    As for the Piccadilly Line surely one solution might be to transfer the Rayners Lane/Uxbridge service to the District Line with new S Stock leaving the Piccadilly Line as Cockfosters to Heathrow with trains currently used on Rayners lane service available as either spares or extras ahead of delivery of new trains which is still many years away.

    As former tube boss Tim O’Toole said in an earlier TV series on the tube “you can push more and more trains through tunnels but this is not much use if passengers can’t enter or leave stations at same rate!” . Just think of the many stations where passengers have to trudge up and down stairs from platforms even at important stations like Piccadilly Circus !

  18. timbeau says:

    “As for the Piccadilly Line surely one solution might be to transfer the Rayners Lane/Uxbridge service to the District Line ”
    As has been remarked already, the frequency to Ealing/Richmond is already quite low for a metro type service. Diluting them further with a third destination is not going to improve matters.

  19. Castlebar 1 says:

    Melvyn, I see yet again the “idea” of pushing District Line trains to Uxbridge via Rayners is re-surfacing.
    It has been brought up before, but nobody has told us how many additional trains will need to be ordered for this proposal, at what cost, nor where they will be kept. Can you?
    As timbeau has also alluded to, which/how will the other District services suffer a “knock on” effect? How do you propose to ram them through Aldgate – Earls Court??

    And how will this proposal deal with the main local issue of the inaccessibility problem which is Uxbridge & Hillingdon residents needing access to the Central Line for jobs in Greenford, Northolt and Perivale etc (AND vice versa), which currently help clog up the A40? A “Park Royal interchange” won’t solve that one!

    Also now, they have no alternative but use the A40 to access the White City megaGothamopolis too. A lot of this is off-peak traffic, which could be soaked up with a Ruislip Chord.

    The very simplistic idea of diverting the District to Uxbridge actually causes more problems than it solves.

    The whole concept of rail services in this part of west London needs to be re-thought, yes, the entire quadrant embracing OOC Ealing, The Greenford loop, Rayners, the west end of the Central line and Uxbridge.

    The “divert the District to Uxbridge” re-hash is like proposing a sticking plaster for a major accident that is just about to happen.

  20. straphan says:

    @Melvyn and timbeau: Indeed, in previous articles on this blog it was suggested that the Piccadilly Line should take over the Ealing Broadway branch, so as to enable the District to ‘focus’ its resources on serving Wimbledon and Richmond.

    @WW: As someone who only moved to London in 2007 I find these recollections of people who have lived in London all their lives very interesting. What makes me wonder is – if those are the frequencies which were planned for such huge investments as the Victoria Line, then how on Earth did it manage to have a positive business case?

  21. Malcolm says:

    As far as I can remember, the notion of business cases did not apply in those days. We were told that we needed a new tube line (and it was obvious that we did), so that’s what we got.

    Of course questions like value-for-money may have come up in internal government circles, or internal LT discussions. But if they did, I don’t think they were made public. I could be wrong, of course.

  22. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Malcolm

    That’s exactly how I remember it too.

    The new line was based on need, above everything else. That was before the bean counters were let loose.

  23. superlambanana says:

    I’m wondering about short turns, and PoP’s mention of exemptions to the requirement to check that no-one is left aboard the train – are there any exemptions actually in place in London now? What are the conditions that enable them? Or is this just a pipe dream for future quicker short turns?

  24. vince says:

    @ Malcolm + Castlebar 1

    The Victoria Line was one of the first infrastructure projects in this country to have been subject to Cost Benefit Analysis. See C. D. Foster and M. E. Beesley ‘Estimating the Social Benefit of Constructing an Underground Railway in London’ Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A (General) Vol 126 No 1 (1963) pp. 46-93 and Michael Robbins (wearing his senior London Transport Management hat) comments in the discussion, “The other point was the remark by one of the speakers that it was a pity this sort of thing was done after the event and not before it. It gives me great satisfaction to hear that criticism, because when the exercise was undertaken, it was by no means after the event of the decision to build the line but before it. We thought it might come in very handy indeed in hastening that decision. That it has in fact been published and laid before you a few months after the decision to build was taken is to us a matter of satisfaction rather than the reverse.”

  25. Matt says:

    On the Victoria Line would the turnaround time at Brixton which prevents any higher frequency be solved by the occasionally-mooted Herne Hill loop? Would said loop (incorporating a station with two plaforms on a large central island) make things better, or worse? I suspect any benefits would be offset by high passenger numbers joining at the new station increasing loading on the line and high tunnelling/station build costs, not to mention any additional trains needed.


    It is for another article, but the NR frequencies in South East London are abysmal at some stations. Ladywell sees its weekday service drop to 2tph after 19.30, and has 2tph all day on Sundays. Crofton Park sees 2tph inter-peak, only beefing up the service to around 4tph for the am and pm rush. Both of these are zone 3 stations, on the edge of zone 2, in the Borough of Lewisham which is building 100s if not 1000s of new homes in its town centre, within a walk or bus ride of both. I suspect a 4tph metro level of service across the off-peaks and inter-peaks at both would see a surge in demand from people currently cramming themselves onto other services in the area (NR from Lewisham, the Overground ELL branch, DLR and buses).

  26. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Straphan – a couple of comments. The Victoria Line was undoubtedly justified because of the peak capacity it provided and the new links it created. No argument there. The bit of context that is probably important is that London is simply a different place economically than it was in the early 80s. The Tube had been left to rot through the 70s and into the 80s. You need only look at photos from that time to see the condition and “look and feel” of the system.

    However the eventual economic boom in the mid 80s created a surge in demand that led to the highest demand level since the 50s. LT / LU had to start increasing services to try to cope. In subsequent decades the nature of retail and leisure services has also vastly changed thus giving the impetus and justification for better off peak services. Sadly we also had the Kings Cross fire which scared the pants off the Government (as they’d kindly abolished the GLC the year before) and money fell from the sky to improve the safety performance of the tube. I was once told that LU could have had as much money as it wanted such was the fear in the DoT / Treasury of a repeat of the KX tragedy and the blame landing on a desk in Whitehall rather than 55 Broadway.

    We’re now at the point where the peaks have spread by hours and the scale of off peak demand is vastly higher than it once was. Part of that is the result of LU building off peak service levels over many years for the reasons PoP has set out and the other is population / economic activity increases.

  27. straphan says:

    @WW: Thanks for the insights. Where I was going with this was: if you could justify building the Victoria Line with such frequencies of service, and people did use it and did not complain, then what’s all the hubbub about Crossrail?

    @superlambanana: This is one of those things, where ‘rules is rules’. London Overground do not bother with checking through terminating trains – if you look at Network Rail Operational Rules for Willesden Junction High Level, these prescribe a dwell of 1 1/2 minutes for through trains, and 1 minute for ‘passenger trains which continue as empty’ (i.e. ones that then terminate in the siding to the north).

    Also, LU isn’t always consistent with the application of its own rules. I believe trains aren’t checked on a carriage-by-carriage basis when they terminate at Kennington?

  28. Anon5 says:

    Hi Mods. Is there a technical issue why I can’t post to the last Tramlink thread? I’m only posting here as it’s the most recent article. Feel free to delete as I don’t want the discussion going off on a tangent.

  29. timbeau says:

    I’m not sure how swapping the provision of the Ealing and Rayners lines would improve frequency to Heathrow – at best it would release a few 1973 stocks, but they would still need to be squeezed through the central area. Crossrail could have been an opportunity to provide a new East of Ealing interchange (relocating North Ealing and possibly West Acton). A cheaper possibility might be to run Acton-Ealing as a shuttle

  30. straphan says:

    @timbeau: this is not about swapping, it is about taking over the Ealing Bdy branch of the District by the Piccadilly in order to (a) simplify the signalling systems renewals planned by reducing the amount of interaction between the two lines; and (b) to make it possible to have level boarding from the platform at Ealing Common which would be the first step towards making the Piccadilly operate as UTO.

  31. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Straphan – I think the fundamental point is that current passenger demand and projected growth are of a different dimension to those used when the Vic Line was built or even when it was running. The other point is passenger expectations and the perceived value of time. Business activity is more frenetic these days meaning people need / expect to move quickly which implies low wait times and quick “in transit” times too. As PoP has said people are growing used to tube trains every 2-3 mins off peak and develop “nervous twitches” and “repeated watch / mobile checking syndrome” if faced with a wait of 4 or 5 minutes. I can certainly recall groaning inwardly when faced with 5 minute waits for a Picc Line train or the utter nightmare of 8 minute waits inter peak on the Northern Line City branch. I do think that sort of headway was unacceptable for the City – better these days though.

  32. Chris L says:

    One of the problems of the Victoria Line is that schoolboys were used to assess passenger flows for the stations.

    They moved faster and took up less space than the average passenger and resulted in the narrower platforms that cause problems today.

  33. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ straphan

    “Level boarding” is far from being the major issue. I think you will be causing far more problems than will ever be solved by the Picc taking over the Ealing Bdy branch. What you have suggested will cost £MILLions just because of current bridge clearances between Ealing Common and Rayners for one thing.

    This “idea” would be a disaster for the District.

    Have you ANY idea how much this idea would cost??

  34. Chris L says:

    Research in the 1980s suggested that 10 minute intervals were accepted for turn up and go. Anything longer and people wanted timetable information.

  35. RichardB says:

    Regarding the government attitude to the newly constructed Victoria line there was a Treasury view that its cost was not justified as although it was successful in gaining traffic some at Treasury felt it merely stole traffic from the other lines for example before the Victoria line passengers travelling between Victoria and Euston would have use the circle or District to Embankment (it was then still known as Charing Cross) and change on to the Northern line. Treasury’s view was that they had been shortchanged as only new traffic which could not have used the other lines could be considered beneficial.

    I think the narrow platforms also derived from assumptions that public transport was in long term decline and wider platforms were not thereforerequired and costs could be cut.

  36. straphan says:

    @Castlebar1: Not sure you read the article I am referring to?

  37. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ straphan

    Yes, you will see that I have commented within the thread

    Any idea on costs yet?

  38. straphan says:

    @Castlebar1: Once again: I have never ever proposed anything as preposterous as extending the District Line to Rayners Lane. Not in this thread, not in other threads, not ever.

    What has been proposed (not by me, but I can see the logic behind it) is – in order to simplify the scope of the future Piccadilly and SSL signalling upgrades – is to make the District Line serve Wimbledon and Richmond only, with the Piccadilly Line taking over the Ealing Common – Ealing Bdy branch, as well as Chiswick Park station. This would provide a complete infrastructural separation of the District and Piccadilly Lines in the Acton Town area (except for empty District stock to/from Acton depot).

  39. Castlebar 1 says:

    straphan, I’m not able to comprehend how “make the District Line serve Wimbledon and Richmond only, (ONLY is a very important word here) with the Piccadilly Line taking over the Ealing Common – Ealing Bdy branch, as well as Chiswick Park station………” actually solves any problems, but it will cause many.

    1) The Picc is already “unbalanced” having two arms at the western end, but only one at the east. This proposal creates a third (further unbalancing) western arm which MUST by its existence, dilute Picc services to Heathrow. It has to, for if it didn’t, the howls of protest coming from Ealing would easily be heard in Boris Towers.
    2) I still cannot see any real positives for Ealing passengers. And probably not for any who currently use Chiswick Park
    3) The Picc service from (Acton and) central London to Wood Green etc will be intense and absolutely rammed, but that’s because there’s nowhere else for the e/bound stock to go and it isn’t justified. Does Oakwood justify more Picc trains than Heathrow, Hounslow or Ealing?

    I just don’t see the point and I think there are better things to spend the money on. Rebuilding Chiswick Park to serve the Richmond branch alone would probably cost more money than could ever be justified by it. And it doesn’t bring them any advantages other than retaining a LU service.

  40. straphan says:

    @Castlebar1: If you assume that the District and Piccadilly lines will each have different signalling systems and that the long-term strategy is to move towards UTO (i.e. no staff on board), then this sounds like a pretty good idea to me. Also, if you combine the arrival of Crossrail to Heathrow (giving it better connectivity to Zone 1 plus an additional 2tph) and the frequency improvements outlined in this article, then the encorporation of the Ealing Broadway branch will not be that detrimental for the Heathrow branch either in terms of crowding or in terms of actual train frequencies.

  41. Castlebar 1 says:

    Straphan, we must agree to differ.

    Do you live in the Oakwood/Southgate area by chance?

  42. straphan says:

    @Castlebar1: Nowhere near there – my postcode starts with SE…

  43. Castlebar 1 says:


    Ah ha!

    Mine used to start with “W”

    ………which will confirm my local knowledge.

  44. straphan says:

    Oh do tell then, Castlebar1: how long would I need to have lived in a “W” postcode to attain the level of ‘local knowledge’ that would enable me to confer with the likes of you on an equal footing on such lofty subjects?

    Also, could you enlighten me as to how living in places like Maida Vale (W9), Kensal (W10) or Marylebone (W1 – I bet they use the tube a lot!) for an unspecified period of time would make one an expert on passenger loadings on London Underground services to the west of Acton Town?

  45. Castlebar 1 says:


    Yes, W1 and W9 are “W” postcodes, but I did actually live in Ealing for very many years. However, to answer your “Do tell” question, I think only a few weeks of commuting through Ealing Broadway are needed to make you have a complete re-think.

    I would never try and “improve” by alteration any of SE London’s existing travel arrangements because I hold my hand up high to admit to having little local knowledge of SE London. So I have no right nor need to interfere. I would leave these suggested alterations to people who actually live and/or work there and to those who have sufficient local knowledge and USE the services there. How would you like it if someone who obviously lives miles away and has no local knowledge, decided to completely alter your local train services that they themselves will never use? Would you like that?

    your response does not induce further dialogue from me.

  46. straphan says:

    @Castlebar1: Why don’t you put your last question the good people of Manchester or Leeds who get their timetable specs written by people in Marsham Street, London, SW1? :)

    Every network change will have winners and losers – the trick is to construct one with relatively few losers and one, where benefits outweigh the costs to a significant degree. And whilst personal experience is no doubt valuable, it is DATA that these decisions should be based on – not the exasperation of having one’s face in an especially smelly armpit this morning.

    EOT as far as I’m concerned as well…

  47. Anonymous** says:

    Re. the crowds in the Pic during the weekends, I suspect the frequent closures on the Victoria and Northern Lines has had a big impact, even if the former has now finished. I know when the High Barnet branch was experiencing frequent weekend closures I’d get the Pic from King’s X after taking a replacement bus.

  48. timbeau says:

    @ Straphan 1202 – Melvyn’s original proposal was indeed to send the District to Rayners. There have also, as you say been proposals to send the Picc to Ealing Bdy. Whether a swap, or one line going to both Ealing and Rayners, there are issues of capacity, rolling stock availability and infrastructure to resolve.

  49. Taz says:

    The findings of the 2013 review of Piccadilly Line trains serving Turnham Green came as no surprise since, even ignoring the cost of additional trains and signalling required, overall customer disbenefit was substantial. Support comes from local passengers and not from the majority of Piccadilly Line passengers who would suffer delay. In fact, a case for stopping at the ends of the day has disappeared with the more frequent services of today. What was surprising was the final proposal to stop all Piccadilly Line trains there after the line upgrade, perhaps ten years away. No justification was included, and the only conclusion must be that the upgrade will include Option B of the West London Study which transfers the Ealing Broadway branch to the Piccadilly Line in order to boost services on other District Line branches. (Underground News January 2014, page 48)

  50. Philip says:

    Thanks for an interesting article, it got me thinking about TfL’s newest piece of “infrastructure” and how the amount of vehicles in service are the same at peak and during non-peak, but the speed of the vehicles is halved. This made me wonder whether their would be an advantage to slowing the deep line tube trains down in the off-peak, so that the heat build up is less. Half the trains gives half the heat, but half speed trains give a quarter of the heat.
    Do tube trains always run at the same speed over the same track? And is there a difference between ATO and manual lines?

  51. Steven Taylor says:

    I am not sure if I understand your post, but if you slow trains down, apart from annoying the passengers, you reduce track capacity, which means less trains per hour if the line is at capacity now.

  52. Philip says:

    @ Steven Taylor
    I’m sorry my post was incoherent, but you may have answered my question anyway.
    As extra information the heat build up is due to mainly to heat expended during braking, and also slightly to heat losses from the motors. Outside of the peak TfL may wish to decrease the number of trains to allow the heat in the tunnel linings to dissipate, or at least increase more slowly. I wondered whether instead TfL would consider slowing the trains, even by 5mph, when the system isn’t running at full, 33 tph, capacity.
    This would apply mainly if tunnel heat was the limiting factor, which in Bond Street it may be.

  53. Chris L says:

    Heard in the past that the Underground was warming up by half a degree per year.

  54. Stuart says:

    I always feel that the W&C line being closed on Sundays is more about maintenance than because the case is less compelling that Saturday opening. Other lines can be part-closed for maintenance. Not an option on a one-stop shuttle …

  55. Mark Townend says:

    @Stuart, 13 March 2014 at 10:17

    The W&C control system could be reconfigured to allow each tunnel to be used as a separate two-way shuttle, not instead of the existing one-way circuit, but as an alternative mode. Then Sunday and other off-peak services could run on one track alone, giving full access to the other tunnel for maintenance activities.

  56. Ian Bartlett says:

    Just a quick observation that services on the Met line north of Rickmansworth have most certainly not improved over recent years. Trains now run ‘all stations’ with the timetable set such that, if travelling southbound to London, there is no point taking a met line train as the following Chiltern service will always overtake it.

    The effect of this is that those who can take the Chiltern Railways trains. Chesham passengers don’t have this option as the timetable is structured so that connections at Chalfont fail in both directions. The quickest way to get to London from Chesham is on an unacceptably slow and tedious Met line train, taking just under an hour for 28 miles.

    Chiltern and LU say they are looking at taking a joint approach to planning the timetable north of Rickmansworth. However, Chiltern say there will be no major change until at least 2018 or when the new LU signalling is delivered.

    Given the billions being spent on the upgrade, north Met line passengers might have expected improvements, but apparently not. Maybe the London Assembly will be interested in the underuse of fast line infrastructure between and Moor Park and Harrow and, especially, Harrow and Wembley Park – how many millions of recently upgraded infrastructure lying idle…?

  57. Guano says:

    Thanks for the very interesting article.

    Some commenters have said that 10 minute intervals between trains on the Underground “is not a metro frequency”. It should be remembered that not so long ago off-peak frequencies on some of the branches were much lower than this. Up until the 1980s the Sunday frequency on the western branches of the District Line was 20 minutes, and weekday off-peak it was 15 minutes. On Saturday mornings and much of the day on Sunday there was only a train every 10 minutes south of Kennington on the Northern Line.

    The “10 minute minimum frequency to the end of the line” rule only came in when the GLA was re-established (if I remember rightly). (Mill Hill East, Hainault – Woodford and the far north-west are, of course, exceptions). It is only since then that the Underground has tried to have “turn-up and go” frequencies in the suburbs, and has also tried to have standardised departure times in all off-peak periods. Before that the service in the suburbs was definitely not metro-style.

    I suspect that in the past the perception of Londoners was that the Underground was for peak-hour journeys and the bus was usually used for off-peak journeys. The higher use of the Underground off-peak now may be due to the slowness of bus journeys and the number of changes needed on a long journey. On Sundays particularly there is a lot of lost bus mileage because of the lack of parking restrictions and bus lane enforcement.

    Frequent off-peak Underground services mean it is now more difficult to fit in training trips, test trips, rusty rail trips and stock transfer trips. Many of these now happen in the evening rather than the daytime off-peak period, and some sidings seem to no longer have rusty rail movements: does that mean it is more difficult to use them in emergency? Fitting in engineering work is also more difficult because the parallel lines are already busy at the weekend.

    What next? How about better bus priority and more parking restrictions at the weekend and late at night? New railway lines cannot be built overnight and engineering work is inevitable. The only short-term answer is improving off-peak bus services.

  58. Malcolm says:

    @Guano My perception growing up, years ago in North London, was that the tube was always the mode of choice, provided that you were going somewhere where it went (and maybe also excepting journeys to the very next station). The only people who chose a bus over a tube were those who got travel-sick in the tube. These choices were entirely free of any peak/off-peak distinction. In the peak both modes were a bit more frequent, and much more crowded, but the differences applied to both modes, and did not affect mode choice.

  59. Chris L says:

    Overall Chesham passengers have a much better journey than the old days.

    Through (longer) trains should be appreciated in that they are more convenient than before.

    The single track is a problem that can’t be resolved without significant expenditure. This would be hard to justify.

    The trains will run faster on the whole line once the track and signalling upgrades are complete.

  60. Dstock7080 says:

    @PoP “Nowadays the only remaining LU station that does close on a Sunday is Cannon Street. This is entirely for historical reasons and in recent years London Underground has come under quite a bit of pressure from both passengers and Southeastern Railway to end this outstanding anomaly. The situation does seem to be completely untenable given that Cannon Street National Rail station itself is nowadays open on Sunday.”

    I believe Cannon Street NR is still closed on Sundays except for planned engineering work diversions.

  61. ngh says:

    Re Dstock7080

    Not for much longer, Cannon Street NR will be open virtually every Sunday after the start of rebuild works on the Southeastern side of London bridge in 2015

  62. stevekeiretsu says:

    24 trains in an hour but not 24tph for those who understand the subtle difference

    I don’t, but I’d like to. Anyone care to explain?

  63. Anonymous says:

    If you have a train every 11 mins, you can have 6 trains in an hour (say at 03, 14, 25, 36, 47, 58 past the hour), but you don’t quite have 6tph.

  64. Steven Taylor says:

    I think you raised an interesting point re heating up of the tube/sub-soil etc. I don`t see any easy solutions really. Obviously a state of equilibrium will occur at some stage.
    Even at my age, over 60, I find the tube really unbearable in high Summer.

    ATO would help, as the computer will ensure the train is always driven at an optimum speed, to minimise unnecessary acceleration and braking.

  65. straphan says:

    @Dstock7080 and ngh: My understanding is that post-Thameslink trains from the North Kent Line will not be able to run to Charing Cross anymore, as due to the rearrangement of tracks you would have to cross over the Thameslink lines on the flat to get to the Charing X lines. Hence Cannon Street will be the terminus for all trains running via Greenwich 7 days a week.

    @stevekeiretsu: I think PoP is hinting at the fact, that ‘tph’ usually refers to a ‘typical’ frequency achieved over a longer period of time – and thus ‘tph’ usually refers to the number of trains departing/arriving from XX:00 to XX;59. It is generally possible to squeeze a slightly higher frequency out of a railway for a short period of time by running it at headways closer than usual to the theoretical minimum headway. Such a method of operation will not be sustainable for longer periods, but over a period of 60 minutes may enable you to achieve a higher throughput than the usual ‘tph’.

  66. ngh says:

    Re Staphan

    Agreed on both points (Cannon Street and tph).
    The question is how many of the via St. Johns (though not necessarily stopping there) services also end up at CST on Sunday as the lower frequency would permit more to swaping to the Charing Cross lines…

  67. straphan says:

    @ngh: I think that depends on the number of fast Kent Mainline trains.

    If I understand my Quail correctly, the No 1 and 2 lines on the viaduct through Bermondsey would be the North Kent lines through to Cannon St. 3 and 4, which are currently Charing X lines, would end up being Thameslink lines. 5 and 6 would then be the new Charing X lines.

    So to get a train from the slow lines through St Johns to Charing X, it would have to cross over to the Kent fast lines around North Kent East Jn at the latest, i.e. east of the future Thameslink flyunder at Bermondsey. If there is enough space for them to cross over the Down Fast to the Up Fast on the flat, then you’ll get them to Charing X.

  68. ngh says:

    Re Staphan.
    I was thinking about the Tanners Hill being the ideal crossing point on a Sunday i.e. not stopping at St Johns / New Cross.
    The alternative would be every Charing Cross service being a long formed to take the extra loading between London Bridge and Charing Cross.

    After London Bridge works finished:
    On the 11 track section from the station throat to Spa Road
    Tracks 1,2,3 = Cannon Street
    4,5= Blackfriars
    6,7 =Charing Cross
    8 CHX (on immediate approach to LBG)/ shared with LBG Terminating slightly further out.
    9,10,11 London Bridge terminating.

    On the 12 track approach (slightly further out) but just before the Bermondsey dive under (i.e. Spa Road to Blue Anchor):
    Tracks 1,2,3 =CST
    4,5= Blackfriars
    6,7,8 =Charing Cross
    9,10,11,12 London Bridge terminating.

    At the actual Dive Under point the total formation on the approaches will be 15 tracks to enable the service knitting options…

  69. Chris L says:

    On Sundays trains from the Greenwich line and New Cross terminate at London Bridge (as they do in the evenings when Cannon Street shuts early)

    They will be projected to Cannon Street after the Thameslink caused split.

  70. Steven Taylor says:

    QUOTE My understanding is that post-Thameslink trains from the North Kent Line will not be able to run to Charing Cross anymore, as due to the rearrangement of tracks you would have to cross over the Thameslink lines on the flat to get to the Charing X lines. Hence Cannon Street will be the terminus for all trains running via Greenwich 7 days a week. UNQUOTE

    Perchance, I have just received from Thameslink their regular update email. They quote all Greenwich trains etc going to Cannon Street only effective January 2015.

  71. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ian Bartlett – I doubt the London Assembly would be overly exercised about the adequacy or otherwise of services run by TfL but to stations outside of the Assembly’s electoral remit. If giving Hertfordshire / Bucks residents better services were to be at the expense of people within Greater London then I rather feel that would draw their attention. I understand why people beyond Moor Park are unhappy but I don’t see an easy answer. The rights and wrongs of the location of the electoral boundary are an issue for Westminster and the Mayor not TfL.

    @ Guano / Malcolm – I think the bus vs tube arguments of old have changed a bit. I can certainly recognise the “North Londoner’s default is to get the tube to town” position. However I do think that the high premium on rail fares into Zone 1 and corresponding premium on Travelcards has changed matters some what. The deliberate post 2000 policy of boosting the bus network as a short term capacity boost until tube upgrades came on stream has also shifted things. The flat fare system on the buses, PAYG and low daily cap has also made longer bus journeys plus interchange relatively affordable meaning a shift in some travel patterns to buses which has remained even in areas with a strong tube service. Why else is the 29 jam packed all day, every day despite paralleling the Picc Line over a long distance? People’s decision making nowadays is more nuanced than just being based on “travel sickness”.

    A more recent development is the introduction of route based charging on rail PAYG and the journey options created by the Overground network. This means some rail and tube journeys (avoiding Zone 1) are barely more expensive than the bus. This may be one of the reasons for rapid growth on the Overground. I think it may still be too early to know definitively how the Overground is affecting the bus network and also some of the suburban arms of the tube and suburban rail services.

    I am firmly of the view that the bus network needs another £50m-70m or so per annum to add more routes, frequencies and to improve reliability. There are so many instances of overcrowding, missing links and other problems. These improvements would still be largely complementary to rail investment initiatives. That scale of increased expenditure on buses is a fraction of the cuts that have been made over recent years – it wouldn’t even get us back to 2010 levels of spend.

  72. Milton Clevedon says:

    I know it’s been covered before elsewhere, but the future reality is of an even busier London / more crowded tubes+Crossrail, because of more population and more jobs over the next 35 years.

    I don’t see the buses doing more than a proportion of all that, because bus journey times are fundamentally slower. So London faces a growing structural problem, that rail (where it’s slow and expensive to build new lines) will cube out rapidly, whatever you do, and buses can’t do the rest on their own.

    To me that points to the need for a need for intermediate capacity solutions, but not ones which consume too much road space to prevent the roads enabling the other necessary journeys such as vans, cycles etc.

    Hence the potential of a ‘thin London tram’, as discussed with Graham Feakins recently, ie 7ft or 7ft 6ins in old money – similar to the former tram width or an RT bus. It’s the road space width which is the Achilles Heel of the modern tram in London road capacity reorganisation projects (as witness by the failure of the Uxbridge Road scheme where there wasn’t enough lateral space to permit other parallel functions to co-exist), not the tram length…

    And to return to topic, an intermediate capacity solution would also help the Underground not to get ridiculously stressed in the offpeak as well as the peaks.

  73. Anonymous** says:


    I don’t think it’s anything to do with changing perceptions as such, to be honest. There are a lot more people in total, and a relatively greater proportion living in inner London compared to, say, the 1980s. The city is also younger, retail and other outlets open later and longer and throughout the weekend, while increasing numbers of people work beyond 5pm.

    Simply put, there are more people out and about during off-peak hours, the change is even notable for a 30 year old like me. That’s increased demand for travel.

  74. timbeau says:

    @ngh Tanners Hill flydown won’t be much help for the Greenwich Line

    See Figure 5 on page 25 – it shows a bidirectional line allowing access from the Slow (Greenwich/St Johns) lines through the diveunder to connect with the CX lines

  75. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ MC – there is a whole spectrum of solutions to improve capacity. However it will take a very considerable shift in political thinking to get some sort of consensus that trams, trolleybuses and articulated buses are viable options in London. I also think some of the lingering cultural restraints within TfL (inherited from LT) need to swept away or retired (!) to ensure that these alternative intermediate modes are given a proper hearing. This would mean we might get trams and trolleybuses being considered as the upgrade path for the very busiest bus corridors in London rather than be reserved as the “icing on the cake” for special projects like “transit schemes”. I’d like to see a proper assessment of how to improve bus services and take them to higher capacity solutions but there is an organisational divide in TfL (Surface Transport vs Rail) which makes it unlikely.

  76. ngh says:

    Re Timbeau

    Tanners Hill – The discussion had moved on slighly from Greenwich and was about the via / through St John’s services (hence not Greenwich line where we all know it won’t be any use). The question is what they do with those services as there will be a choice there on Sunday

    My understanding on the bi directional line you mentioned was that it was there for Dartford Thameslink services through St Johns (the original planned configuration in red would not have allowed a Greenwich connection in the down direction, the up direction connection being a useful side effect), but the TOC wanted modifications (in Green on that that plan) to be able to do Greenwich from CHX albeit with screwing everything up as the points have even lower speed restrictions than the rest which might suggest it isn’t planned for normal use?

  77. Milton Clevedon says:

    Yes, agreed those are the logistics that would need to be addressed. The present salami assessment of bus routes rather than taking an entire corridor and reviewing that, doesn’t help matters.

  78. straphan says:

    @WW and Milton Clevedon: I, too, see there being an issue within TfL of ‘if it wasn’t invented here, it doesn’t exist’.

    I was dismayed by the narrow-mindedness with which both the tram schemes studied (Uxbridge Road and Cross River Tram) were dismissed without doing some out-of-the-box thinking. Trams are perfectly at home in tunnels (hey, one of the first tram tunnels in the world was built under Aldwych and Kingsway!), and there is no reason why street-based light rail schemes cannot by-pass the busiest bits of their routes in tunnels. Yet such solutions were never considered for places like Acton and Ealing town centres.

    @ngh: going back to the issue of whether Greenwich trains can run to somewhere else than Cannon Street on weekends, the drawing that timbeau linked above shows that the crossovers at Surrey Canal Jn will be at 50mph – this suggests to me they will be probably used in revenue service and could be used to run Greenwich trains to Charing X at quieter times.

  79. ngh says:

    Re Staphan

    But the additional new TOC requested points in the Down direction between Surrey Canal Junction and North Kent East Junction (in green on that diagram) to enable down CHX – Greenwich in the future are only rated for 30mph* with everything else rated for 50mph which possibly tells a story? I.e. to cover for Cannon Street / LBG P1-3 engineering work closures in the long term?

    * the lowest speed rating of any of the new point work

  80. straphan says:

    @ngh: As far as I understand engineering drawings, red is new infrastructure, green is old infrastructure that is getting discarded and black is infrastructure that is not changed. Granted, that drawing isn’t exactly clear, but the pointwork at Surrey Canal Jn is clearly 50mph. The 30 mph restriction on the crossover from No. 2 Reversible to No 1. Down is in green, so I take it that will actually be REMOVED (and the crossover will be made passable at linespeed if there is no new restriction shown).

  81. Mark Townend says:

    @straphan, 14 March 2014 at 11:29
    “. . . red is new infrastructure, green is old infrastructure that is getting discarded and black is infrastructure that is not changed.”

    Not in this case according to the key “green identifies the new TOC requirement crossovers, line name and direction changes and renumbered point ends”

    In this diagram red and black are used in the same way as in a signalling plan but the other colours have been used to distinguish other things and removed facilities are not shown at all. Assuming the TOC requirements are incorporated everything in green will in fact be part of the final configuration.

  82. straphan says:

    @Mark Townend and ngh: Apologies, serves me right for not reading carefully…

    In that case if the crossovers are indeed meant to be 30mph, then they are probably for emergency use only…

  83. ngh says:

    Re Staphan,

    That diagram is NON-STANDARD and has a different colour coding to most NR drawings. See the “Key Notes” in the bottom left of the diagram

    Paraphrasing those notes:

    Red = new or new purpose under draft TL programme spec
    Black = existing unchanged
    Green = Additional TOC specified work
    Blue = passive provision to add later
    Removal is not shown (usually green hence confusion?)

    Hence some possible confusion on your part? (I had a head scratch until reading the notes about a year ago and realising it was non standard) Therefore the new 30mph cross over from no3 UP (but no3. Rev? in future) to no2 Rev is new at TOC request (not a removal…). As is the bi-directionalality of no 4 down to no3 . rev

  84. ngh says:

    Re Staphan
    Sorry re last post, had started to type but got dragged away from desk for a while then Lunch, then hit post…

  85. Mark Townend says:

    Some of these additional crossovers provide alternative or secondary routes, so as well as planned and emergency diversions they can also be used for delay recovery by allowing real time adjustment of the precise routes used, hence avoiding minor unscheduled conflicts between services that spread over a wide area. Here too the lower speed is usually no great problem as the alternative without the facility might be to wait at a red signal further back.

  86. PussOnSkis says:

    You mention the cost of driverx for off-peak trains, but not electricity. I don’t know what the situation is in London, but here in Melbourne the suburban train system is the state’s single biggest user of electricity, higher even than a monster aluminium smelter down the coast. It has only recently come to prominence, but I was told back in the 1980s that this, and not labour costs, was the major reason why we had poor off-peak services then. (These days we do have 10-minute frequencies off-peak and Sundays on my line.)

  87. Graham H says:

    @PussonSkis – certainly the rail industry is (one of) the biggest customers for electricity – NSE was certainly London Electricity’s biggest. However, these days, power tariffs for bulk users are calibrated very finely and will be less o/p. In any case, power costs are usually less than 10% of the costs of train operation and it is very rare for extra o/p trains not to cover their extra power costs; it wouldn’t be a deal-breaker in the UK.

  88. The other Paul says:

    @PussOnSkis @Graham H
    I don’t think power costs are that simple are they? Power generation is provisioned for peak demand and outside that time, most of the power is still being generated, it’s just going to waste because no-one’s there to use it.
    So any saving is on paper only, the real costs don’t change; major users will be paying time/demand sensitive rates and if the power company doesn’t sell as much off-peak power it will just need to raise the price of peak power to cover the same costs. In some places major users probably even get the off peak power for free…

  89. Graham H says:

    @The other Paul – no it isn’t that simple, but generators do carry considerable peak capacity that they stand down off-peak, so o/p tariffs are significantly less than peak. The national Grid has much experience in the very fine tuning of demand and calling up/standing down capacity accordingly. As I say, it would be most unusual for a service not to cover its o/p marginal costs (ie crew, power and marginal wear and tear on assets) – even Regional Railways basket cases such as Gunnislake or Ashford-Hastings, to quote an NSE example, covered their marginal costs. O/P trains really are quite cheap to run.

  90. timbeau says:

    @The other Paul
    “Power generation is provisioned for peak demand and outside that time, most of the power is still being generated, it’s just going to waste because no-one’s there to use it.”

    I think you are confusing installed capacity (the maximum power that can be delivered) with the actual instantaneous power output. My car has a 120hp engine, but it is rarely called upon to use all that power.

    Some “peak-lopping” electricity installations, such as hydro or gas turbine plants, can be started up very quickly to meet a surge in demand, but the “base load” generators (the big coal and nuclear stations) operate best at constant load – and take a long time to get up to full power. At quiet times the generators may still be spinning, but if they are not under load they are essentially freewheeling or ticking over, burning much less coal/uranium/whatever than if there is a big electrical load on them.

  91. ngh says:

    Re Timbeau / other Paul /Graham H…

    Very good answer from Timbeau and I would add a bit of detail:

    Open Cycle Gas Turbines* (i.e. gas turbine with direct shaft driven alternator) can be spun up to max power in around 5 minutes from start up. Spun up because they can only operate at the alternator speed of 50Hz i.e. 3,000rpm in the UK (60Hz/3,600rpm in the US) hence the start up time to get them up to speed. The minimum power output while operating of an OCGT is circa 40% at best or often 50% but with maximum efficiency at 100% power output. The overall OCGT efficiency will be 25-40% (not that great).

    *(or closed cycle run in open mode as is the most common in the UK for more extreme load balancing applications)

    The more efficient Closed Cycle GTs (45-55% efficient but at least 10% above the open cycle mode) use heat recovery from the GT exhaust to power steam turbines to generate electricity in addition to the shaft driven alternator. Again minimum CCGT operating load is circa 40% due to emissions rules. The steam plant on any CCGTs doesn’t like being shut down and restarted so newer (last decade) CCGTs** are best kept running and used for smallish variations in loads especially with supplementary firing (think after-burner to increase (vary) exhaust gas temperature and hence steam output and efficiency).

    **hence older CCGTs are used in Open mode especially in summer as they were designed as base load and hence don’t like cyclic loading in the steam plant.

    CCGT sizes range from 12 to 300MW per single unit so load balancing is arrange by having a number of units (often of different sizes/location /owners).

  92. Ian J says:

    Network Rail is the biggest single electricity customer in the UK and buys its power from EDF’s nuclear power stations (and then on-sells it at cost to the train operating companies).

    As I understand it there is a trade-off between responsiveness to demand and cost – if you have a form of power generation that can respond very quickly to rising demand (like gas or, even better, hydro), you can hold off entering the market until the price spikes and so get a higher price than the likes of coal, nuclear and wind power who have to take whatever the market is offering. One advantage the railways have as power users is that their demand is timetabled and largely predictable in advance, hence they are well matched to baseload power sources like nuclear.

    Traditionally railway companies often built their own power stations and even built networks to distribute the surplus to domestic users (the Metropolitan Railway did this in NW London for example). London Underground generated its own electricity at Lots Road until, I think, the 1990s.

  93. Greg Tingey says:

    I’ve been told that Dinorwig pumped-storage station can go to full power in less than a minute.
    It’s also capable of a “Black Start” – i.e. can power-up, even if all the rest of the Grid is down

  94. londona729 says:

    Why doesn’t the bakerloo line use the 1983 stock or even 1967 stock trains if there’s no spare trains? Hopefully if there’s a southern extension then a more frequent service can be run

  95. @londona729,

    Because as far as I am aware all the 1983 stock was scrapped long ago. If there were any potentially usable 1967 stock it probably wouldn’t be worth the work required to make it suitable. Even then you have non-standard stock which would be even older than the stock currently in use.

    There isn’t currently any pressing need to increase the number of trains on the Bakerloo Line and in any case I strongly suspect you would only get another 2tph maximum before signalling capacity prevented any further improvement.

  96. timbeau says:

    There were problems with the 1983 stock – notably the small doorways (which are also contributing to the relatively early demise of the D78s), which is why it was replaced, rather than augmented, by the 1996 stock. I’m also not sure the longer 1983 stock cars would fit round the corners on the Bakerloo – nor was there enough 1983 stock to completely replace the 1972s.

  97. londona729 says:

    Oh ok I see, it seems that the 1983 trains hadn’t even been used much! Though their poor design partially explains why!

    However according to Wiki some 1967 stock have been kept as spares for the bakerloo. Well I guess the bakerloo line 1972 will survive till it’s Diamond Jubilee! It seems it’s very true that they really don’t make things like they used to. Especially when it looks like the 1992 Central line trains will struggle to make it 30 years!

    I daresay regular peak time users of the Bakerloo line would disagree about the need for some extra trains- even if they’re older than the ones currently in use! However I understand your point.

  98. Graham H says:

    @PoP – I believe that there is, or was until very recently, some 83ts dumped in the South Harrow sidings, but by all accounts it was immobile and deteriorated to the point where it would have to be cut up on the spot.

  99. NickF says:


    I understand about generators spinning up to speed to match the frequency of the grid, but just how to they get them in phase before they are switched in? Is there that much fine speed control on the turbines so that they can be made to match the phase exactly or do they just get close enough and then connect the generator to the grid, which in effect locks the generator to grid frequency?

  100. straphan says:

    @Graham H: They were still there two weeks ago! Although I think there were only two or four carriages. They are so covered in graffiti you could barely tell they are trains.

  101. timbeau says:

    Much as bakerloo passengers might want them, I understand the number of trains operating on the Bakerloo is limited by the operational constraints, particularly at Elephant & Castle, in the same way that the Victoria Line is constrained by the layout at Brixton.
    There have been proposals to remedy Brixton by extending it in a terminal loop to Herne Hill. perhaps a similar loop to Walworth – or Peckham might speed things up on the Bakerloo
    (or maybe kill two birds with one stone, by joining the two of them up via Camberwell! – ok, I’ll put the crayons away now)

  102. londona729 says:

    You can’t really use that example effectively when the Victoria line runs 33tph and the Bakerloo only runs 24tph! I’m sure the Victoria line ran over 24tph before the signal/train upgrades!

    However I agree with your point about the restrictions that a 2 platform terminus in Zone 1 causes!

  103. @londona729

    timbeau is possibly over egging it but …

    - the Bakerloo struggled with 30tph at Elephant & Castle when it had two branches north of Baker Street. That was before the Moorgate disaster and speed controlled signalling subsequently introduced at terminals may well have limited it even further.

    - LU seem to be extremely adverse to going above 27tph under any circumstances nowadays without ATO even if it has happened in the past

    - on the Piccadilly Line nowadays they can’t even quite get to 24tph although they get very close to it which gives an indication of the modern day limitations of manually driven London Underground lines. One could argue that this is because of the problem of the number of passengers but if you don’t have this problem why go to such trouble to run more trains?

    - the Victoria Line never got above 28½tph under with the old signalling and older trains (similar to 1972 stock) – and that was with ATO.

  104. Graham Feakins says:

    I am pleased to report that there are still those today in the GLA who support Cross River Tram, which would go a long way to alleviating the South of The Elephant problem – and at less expense and theoretically sooner than any extension of the Bakerloo.

  105. Graham Feakins says:

    @ NickF – When I saw this many years ago, in simple terms, there was a balancing meter which oscillated between minus and plus as the generator was brought to speed and settled. The oscillations gradually slowed and lessened until a point was reached when it was deemed safe to cut in the generator to the supply to match, at which point the generator maintained whatever the rest of the supply was doing.

  106. NickF says:

    @Graham Feakins

    Thanks for the info.

  107. Paying Guest says:

    @ G/N F with some of the old, very basic set ups (not talking National Grid here!) it was also possible to get the meter nulled exactly 180 out of phase, which made for a very spectacular bang when you closed the circuit breaker.

  108. Graham Feakins says:

    @ Paying Guest – And/or the generator trying to wrench itself from its anchorage, with or without bits of the circuit breaker flying across the floor! I have a book of the early days of the power industry, as told by Merz & McLellan, gloriously describing heavy but unsecured alternators and the like ‘walking’ across sub-station floors, complete with arcing and flaying windings.

  109. MikeP says:

    @GF – Ah, pole slipping. How I remember the wag (in the old meaning of the term…) in our power engineering course chiming in when the lecturer described the event, someone asked “does this happen often” with the classic “only once”.

    This can also occur when excessive input power is applied to the alternator. Needless to say, although it wasn’t part of the experiment, we just had to make this happen in the heavy electrical lab. Cue lab supervisor running across to us as a very loud thumping sound was heard (yes, we were hooked up to the mains…)

    We also got shown a video of what happened to the stator windings on the then-new 600MW sets when they went from 0 to full power. The ends of the stator windings flapped around massively. So it’s not just that you can’t turn nukes on and off quickly. The rest of the kit gets reliability problems if you do it too often – though once this failure mode was spotted, the end windings were clamped down more.

    Things that go wrong with heavy power get indelibly etched in the memory.

  110. londona729 says:

    The irony that the Bakerloo line service is less frequent today than in the 1970s! (Assuming that that is when they ran 30tph!)

  111. Paying Guest says:

    @Mike P

    “Things that go wrong with heavy power get indelibly etched in the memory” – absolutely! In the same category as seeing (from a distance) a nitrogen cylinder fall over, neck strike kerb and shear off. It made blowing up and releasing a balloon exceeding tame – same sort of random path but no raspberry.

  112. job says:

    If anyone reading would be interested in doing this at London Underground there are a couple of jobs going at the moment in the relevant team, try these links:-

    Planner – Train Service Planning

    Principal Planner – Train Service Planning

  113. Chris L says:

    The 70s Bakerloo service ran to both Stanmore and Queens Park (Harrow & Wealdstone/ Watford Junction).

  114. Dstock7080 says:

    re-my earlier post, Cannon Street LU station will remain open in evenings and both days at weekends from 14 December 2014.

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