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Metropolitan Line update July 2013

posted 27 Jul 2013, 01:42 by Unknown user   [ updated 27 Jul 2013, 02:04 ]
Its been a while since we've made time to update our residents on what's going on with the Metropolitan Line, which is a shame because there is a awful lot going on.

According to TfL statistics spring 2013 evidenced a sustained period of "good performance" (even record breaking!) on the Metropolitan Line, and although circumstantial evidence might align with this, the performance heading into summer has gone downhill again, with a number of very significant signal failures. 

There was a particularly bad failure on the evening of 12th June when the Harrow Signal box suffered a significant failure. It's shocking to know that the components that failed date back to the 1940s. London Underground had actually identified that these components were already "at risk" and were in a project to replace them, but unfortunately the project didn't replace the one that failed at Harrow quickly enough. Chiltern are following up on emergency operating practices with LUL as they believe that they could have run a limited service with manual signalling if necessary, which would have been better than no service that was offered from about 7.30pm to close of service that evening.

The new S-Stock trains are generally performing well with less train faults, and the air conditioning on the trains has been very welcome and has generally worked well during the period of warn weather we have had in July. 

The Office of the Rail Regulator has concerned themselves of the larger gap that occurs between the train and the platform at stations on a tight curve, and there has been a publicity campaign to highlight this to passengers, and some additional warnings deployed.

Timetable update:
  • As of May 2013 the line speed has been revised from 50mph to 60mph north of Wembley Park and the resulting revised timetable that was introduced in May shaved 2 minutes off the southbound times and 1 minute off northbound times. 
And the following are expected, but not confirmed/guaranteed possible future changes and tweaks
  • December 2013 might see some additional time savings on journeys north of Moor Park. It's also hoped that there will be some additional fast trains to the shoulder peak hours in both the morning and evening. However there's no movement on the all stations off peak services being banished from the Amersham/Chesham services.
  • May 2014 may have some minor changes for Uxbridge changes
  • December 2014 may see some off peak Uxbridge trains continue through to Aldgate
  • May 2016 is a very provisional date for first section of ATC (automatic train control) as a consequence of the new signalling being available north of Baker Street
Chesham Connection times:

Much more of an issue for Chesham people, but when Chiltern changed their northbound train times to depart at :12 and :42 mins past the hour from Marylebone in December 2012 changing from the original and historic :27 and :57 departure times, this has the unfortunate consequence of completely messing up connection times for Chesham people. The Chiltern used to have a Chesham Met following it, so Chesham people could get a quick Chiltern up to Chalfont and then just wait a few minutes for a Chesham Met. But since Chiltern changed their times the Chesham met is a 20+ minute wait behind a Chiltern. We told Chiltern about this issue before they changed the timetable but refused to budge. And now both London Underground and Chiltern seem unwilling to assist. We continue to lobby both parties, most recently engaging the MD of Chiltern on Twitter about the issue.

Croxley Link

We reported earlier this week that after 20+ years of local campaigning, the Croxley Link scheme has been approved. We will continue to monitor developments, at the moment there seems to be a bun fight over the naming of the two new stations with the Watford Observer helping foster the debate.

Track Renewals

Although much work has already been done to replace tracks on the Metropolitan Line (how many weekend closures have we had over the past few years), there is still considerable work to do. And to a certain extent they have been tackling some of the 'low hanging fruit' by getting on with the track renewals on the outdoor sections of the line, some of the more difficult and troublesome bits are yet to come.

Baker Street to Finchley Road. 
  • This is a very troublesome section of track for London Underground. There is an ongoing water leak in this section of track that Thames Water has had difficulty completely fixing, and when water does end up in the tunnels, either from water leaks to due to rain, it's dependant upon some 150 year old drains that have difficulty coping with the volume of water that can turn up. The track bed is also in need of complete replacement, and it's basically a "major job". 
  • There are a number of options, but none of them are very good for the travelling public, as it will require a complete closure of one or both of tunnels to be able to progress the necessary works. The problems are now so severe that they cannot be ignored for much longer, and options are being appraised and are likely to be taken to a TfL board meeting in Autumn 2013.
  • One of the options being considered is to install a concrete trackbed that has integral drainage, rather than the traditional British sleepers on gravel. Although this might be more work now, this has longer term benefits as it requires less ongoing maintenance. Its good to see that TfL are really exploring all options open to them. And they do realise that the closure will be very painful for their customers.
  • The earliest the works could be done, planning at full speed is January 2015. But if it's done at this time it would probably result in a no service in either direction between Baker Street and Finchley Road for several weeks (the Jubilee line and Chiltern line would be unaffected)
  • However if the works were to wait until the new signalling is installed this gives them more options as the signalling can support bi-directional working, so a single tunnel could remain open and there's a possibility of a tidal flow system to maximise train flow in a specific direction at certain times of the day. However if they are going to harness the new signalling this pushes the date back to around 2019. If things are left until the new signals are in place then some tactical remedial works will be required between then and now to keep things going.
  • Because of the scale of the problems and the job required, a block closure (several weeks, possibly a couple of months) is more likely than years of weekend closures.
Harrow Junctions - both North and south.
  • This is the section of points and cross overs just north and south of Harrow on the Hill where all the lines merge and allow the trains to cross the tracks.
  • Most of these cross overs are very old and life-expired, and require replacement. Additionally for the new trains to take best advantage of their capabilities the "track geometry" (alignment and angles of the cross overs) needs to be changed. And in some cases the junction locations will actually move several hundred meters.
  • Works are expected to take place between April 2014 and April 2017 which will probably involve numerous weekend closures
  • We have suggested to London Underground to explore the option of a block closure (possibly aligned with other works to minimise disruption) rather than months and months of weekend closures.
Baker Street
  • The cross overs just north of Baker Street just north of the tunnels also need to be tackled.
  • because of the scale of the works this probably requires a block closure of up to 3 weeks  to complete the works
  • Current tentative schedule is July/August 2016
  • Again, another significant set of points on the Metropolitan Line, where access to the depot for both Metropolitan and Jubilee Line trains is facilitated. 
  • Possibly scheduled for a closure over Christmas 2013 and Christmas 2014
Other works
  • Rickmansworth Points renewal - April 2014.
  • Uxbridge branch track renewals expected to be complete by July 2014.
  • North circle line tracks will have drainage renewal works completed by Early 2015.
  • With the tracks on the North circle line completed in Summer 2015.
It obvious that from the scale of the works listed above, that there is still significant investment required to deliver a reliable and fit for purpose Metropolitan Line railway. Residents will be aware of the frequent breakdowns and service failures that disrupt our journeys, and we are grateful to London Underground for sharing this information with us. We will continue to engage with them to try and ensure that where there is any possibility for disruption to be minimised and to ensure that adequate plans to mitigate and publicise changes to the scheduled service are planned well.

Ticket Offices

There's a possible plan whereby London Underground are again reviewing the use of ticket offices across the network and considering if staff could better serve customers if they weren't hidden away in the ticket office itself. Some research is currently ongoing and there might be a consultation on proposed changes in the Autumn.

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