Cool commutes ahead: Take a look inside London’s new Piccadilly line trains

A railway operating by the forests of west Germany is seeing a really uncommon sight in the mean time – as a Piccadilly line tube prepare is operating by the realm.

What’s a Piccadilly line prepare doing in Germany?

It’s the primary of 94 new Piccadilly line trains which will probably be carrying passengers in 2025, however earlier than that, they want intensive testing earlier than arriving in London, and Siemens Mobility owns one of many world’s largest prepare testing centres, constructed on a former RAF base in west Germany.

The brand new trains are very totally different to those they may exchange, with a brand new light-weight design and loads of inner enhancements. The change that most individuals will probably be enthusiastic about although is that it’ll even be the primary deep stage trains to come back with air con.

To suit air con into the trains has been a problem, and one which’s much more seen than it might sound at first look.

Formally often known as the New Tube for London, the primary trains have been ordered for the Piccadilly line, with the intention that, funding allowing, modified variations may even be used on the Bakerloo and Central traces sooner or later.

The rationale London wants new trains is that whereas the typical age of mainline trains within the UK is simply 17 years, the Piccadilly line trains are 48 years outdated, and the Bakerloo line trains are even older, having hit their half-century final 12 months. There’s a necessity to exchange the trains as reliability declines and upkeep prices improve, so in 2018, Siemens Mobility received the contract to produce as much as 250 new trains.

An preliminary 94 trains are on order, with choices to purchase extra sooner or later. The primary batches are being constructed by Siemens of their Austria manufacturing facility, however manufacturing will quickly swap to a brand new manufacturing facility at Goole in Yorkshire, the place the vast majority of the trains will probably be constructed.

There have been lots of adjustments in mainline prepare expertise over current many years, however the problem that was identified was how you can match as lots of these enhancements right into a small tube prepare. What Siemens has developed is a totally walkthrough prepare that may carry about 10 % extra folks than the present trains, with wider doorways, improved info screens and most importantly, air con.

To nip one argument within the bud, the trains will makes use of vapour-compression refrigeration with temperature management however with out the humidity management that’s sometimes supplied in buildings. Strictly talking that is an “air cooling” system, nevertheless such a system is broadly known as an “air con” system when referring to trains and different cellular functions equivalent to vehicles. And lets be trustworthy, everybody goes to name it air con anyway, so lets not get hung up on technicalities.

The principle drawback with placing air con within the deep tunnel trains is the shortage of anyplace for the warmth to go – because the tunnels themselves can’t soak up the warmth expelled from the trains.

The answer has taken benefit of an revolutionary prepare design, decreasing the warmth they emit from the engines and brakes. Cooler operating trains might assist to chill the tunnels, however it will take many years to note the distinction, or they’ll use that temperature hole between the brand new and outdated trains to place air con contained in the carriages right this moment.

In impact, the brand new trains, with air con, will run at about the identical temperature because the outdated trains — however will probably be significantly extra snug for passengers.

If a future plan to run much more trains by the tunnels goes forward, that may require elevated cooling within the stations, which, funding allowing, is being developed in the mean time.

To suit air con into the trains has been fairly an fascinating problem, as air con models are massive and tube trains are small, and Siemens Mobility has taken a number of concepts and put them collectively to create the area wanted. One of the noticeable, for prepare geeks no less than, is the design of the bogies beneath the trains — the wheels, which have been diminished due to the usage of walk-through articulated prepare carriages.

Tall folks may even discover a distinction, as they’ve managed to squeeze out a number of extra inches in peak contained in the carriages, which was noticeable even to this 6ft tall individual.

Fewer bogies imply much less weight and fewer vitality wanted to maneuver the prepare and a bit more room beneath the prepare for further tools. The air con models themselves slot in beneath the seats, the place you may discover the air consumption vents with a recessed tube roundel within the center.

Essentially the most important visible change although is within the home windows, as Siemens wanted extra vertical area for cabling and ducts than could possibly be squeezed in beside the door frames. That’s why as a substitute of two massive home windows, there are three smaller home windows — because the gaps between the home windows carry cables and in addition the cooled air as much as the ceiling.

The marginally smaller home windows don’t make the trains darker although, because the trains are fitted with trendy LED lights, together with some very fetching art-deco impressed gentle rings above the gangway poles.

One other design change is the moquette.

A model new moquette, known as Holden, after the legendary architect Charles Holden, which incorporates a number of nods to Picadilly line heritage, most noticeably the design of Southgate station in north London.

You’ll have the ability to sit on the Holden moquette seat in an air conditioned prepare in 2025.

However earlier than that, the trains should be licensed to be used, which requires lots of testing, and that’s why there’s a Piccadilly line prepare in Germany in the mean time.

It’s on the former British army base, RAF Wildenrath, which closed on the finish of the Chilly Warfare, and is now the Wegberg-Wildenrath Take a look at and Validation Centre utilized by Siemens to place trains by their paces. After an hour’s drive from Dusseldorf and down an not noticeable street, you’ll find your self driving previous rows upon rows of mainland Europe sized trains introduced right here for testing.

Thameslink trains have been additionally examined right here, together with a number of different liveries acquainted to British eyes, and now, dwarfed by its greater European brothers, is a Piccadilly line prepare.

To indicate off what the brand new prepare appears to be like like, Siemens Mobility invited rail journalists to have a trip, so though principally stuffed with check tools, one carriage was fitted out for guests to see what the brand new trains feel and look wish to trip in.

The inside appears to be like very very similar to the ultimate trains, though there are nonetheless a number of modest tweaks to the design anticipated as London Underground workers discover snagging points or ask for adjustments based mostly on experiences of how Londoners behave in trains. Nonetheless, as most of these will probably be imperceptible to the typical individual, what we’re seeing right this moment is 99.9% of what the travelling public will see in 2025.

The seats will in all probability get lots of feedback when the trains come into service as they’re very totally different from the present Piccadilly line trains. The brand new seats might be described as nearer to the DLR in padding, whereas the present seats are actually so saggy after many years of use that they really feel like they’re lacking half their springs. So regardless that the brand new seat padding ranges are in use on a great deal of different London trains, I’d count on a little bit of a response when the trains come into service. Personally, I choose the brand new seats.

Alongside the inner digital show screens, exterior shows between the doorways will present the prepare vacation spot and different useful info.

Whereas the guests have been within the entrance carriage getting cab rides by the German countryside, engineers have been nonetheless at work in the remainder of the prepare monitoring their check tools and sensors. The exams intention to show that the trains run as anticipated, show reliability and iron out any bugs earlier than they go into full manufacturing in Yorkshire.

As soon as the prepare has been licensed, it then has to come back to London, the place it is going to be used for in depth exams on the stay Picadilly line and construct up the mileage to get UK authorisation to hold passengers. The prepare is predicted to reach subsequent summer time, when you’ll begin to see it out and about on the Piccadilly line – initially in a single day and through engineering closures, however later through the daytime.

Solely then can it begin to carry passengers – in early 2025.

Because the trains have a lot wider doorways than the present trains, they’ll spend much less time in stations selecting up and dropping off passengers, and with 94 new trains changing 86 outdated trains, TfL expects that to allow them to extend peak functionality on the Piccadilly line from 24 to 27 trains per hour from 2027.

Nonetheless, that’s solely the start.

Together with the ten per cent further area contained in the trains and extra trains per hour, the online impact is a capability improve of round 1 / 4 on the Piccadilly line in comparison with right this moment. There may be additionally a — at present on maintain — plan to improve the signalling system on the Piccadilly line, rising capability from 27 to 36 trains per hour.

Whereas the Piccadilly line trains are heading to London, there’s an choice to exchange the trains on the Bakerloo and Central traces, however that choice expires in late 2026, and TfL must be able to put the order by then in any other case the choice lapses and would should be renegotiated, doubtless at a better value.

Firms like choices in contracts as they offer each patrons and sellers assurance about their intentions and assist funding by each events.

Talking on the trials final week, Stuart Harvey, TfL’s Chief Capital Officer, confirmed that discussions are nonetheless ongoing about long run funding to exchange the Bakerloo line trains, which are actually the oldest electrical passenger trains in service within the UK.

Though the choice to purchase the trains could possibly be taken in 2026, realistically, it must be sooner.

When shopping for new trains, you don’t simply order trains, and that’s it — over the previous 50 years for the reason that Bakerloo traces have been launched, the technological enhancements in rolling inventory imply that fifty 12 months outdated observe tools can’t provide the advantages wanted. In order that wants changing, and so they’re more likely to want a brand new depot to retailer the additional trains, and all that takes years to rearrange.

The important thing message from each TfL and Siemens is {that a} choice on the Bakerloo line is required pretty quickly. Even when taken instantly, it’s fairly doable that folks born when the Bakerloo line trains have been launched could have retired from work earlier than the primary of the brand new trains arrives. Which is an heck of a very long time to maintain trains in use.

Within the meantime, as we headed dwelling, the Siemens engineers continued their exams as a Piccadilly line prepare resumed its loops by the German forest.

Sambit Banerjee, Joint CEO for Siemens Mobility UKI and Stuart Harvey, TfL’s Chief Capital Officer

An uncommon view from the entrance of a Piccadilly line prepare

Inside the brand new trains

Seating above air con vents

The prepare in check mode within the German countryside.

Shut up of the moquette

The drivers cab

This text was printed on ianVisits


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