On the eve of the Olympics, Mayor of London Boris Johnson has launched an action plan to cut delays on the underground by a third over the next three years.
Transport for London (TfL) is now developing a detailed plan that will look at every aspect of how the network is operated, maintained and upgraded to see if reliability can be improved by doing things differently.
TfL was strongly criticised for a series of severe rush-hour delays on three Underground lines – two days before the start of the games. One of the affected lines was the Metropolitan, which will carry thousands of people to Wembley Stadium for Olympic football matches. The problem – the latest in a series of pre-Olympic snags to hit the Tube – was a signal failure at Baker Street.
This led to severe delays on the Metropolitan line between Harrow-on-the-Hill and Aldgate as well as long hold-ups on the Hammersmith & City line and the Circle line.
Johnson said: “For millions of Londoners, visitors and businesses who rely on our Underground system every day, it is imperative for us to employ every feasible technique to run the smoothest Tube operation possible. This means not just long term investment into the system, but an intelligent management approach delivering smart solutions.”
London Underground plans to standardise its train fleet and signalling wherever possible. It will also review track layouts to reduce the number of individually-designed points and crossovers on the network so that fewer parts will require tailor-made maintenance.
For the first time suppliers will be required to demonstrate the reliability of new pieces of equipment before they are installed on the network. London Underground will specify any improvements in reliability that it expects from the new parts.
Wifi technology will be used to transmit data on train performance to technicians in real time so that they can respond to problems faster. There is also a plan to employ 50% more apprentices in key parts of the business. It is hoped these trainees will increase the number of skilled engineers looking after the network over time, and improve incident response levels.
TfL hopes to slash annual lost customer hours by 8.7 million by 2015 as a result of the plan. Other measures it has taken include fitting trains with an automatic track monitoring system that flags up areas of the rails that need closer inspection or remedial work. London Underground has also established two new signalling depots at Oxford Circus and Stratford to improve responses to signal failures. Mike Brown, managing director, said: “We'll be focusing not only on those areas where we can do better, but by also thinking radically about how we can do things differently.”