Digital solution delivers 36 trains per hour on LU’s Victoria Line
Written by George Clark, Engineering Director, Capital Programmes, Transport for London
Given the capacity issues that face the UK’s railways, with many services running at or near full capacity during peak periods, the growth in urban population and the ever-increasing demands on public transport, the upgrade of London Underground’s Victoria Line is a perfect example of how capacity can be increased, even given the constraints of our existing infrastructure.
Following the completion of the five-year Victoria Line Upgrade 2 (VLU2) programme, from May 2017 trains have been pulling into Victoria Line stations every 100 seconds during peak hours, with 3,000 extra passengers able to travel every hour during these periods. This 36 trains per hour operation makes this the UK’s highest frequency metro line – and one of the highest in the world.
The new timetable was introduced on 22 May, and followed the final VLU2 commissioning stage which was completed on 18 April after a 57-hour blockade. VLU2 involved extensive signalling, rolling stock, power, cooling and infrastructure upgrades, with the final commissioning, the culmination of a five-year programme of work.
The Victoria Line is one of LU’s most-used and best-performing lines in terms of operations and reliability, and accounts for more than 200 million passenger journeys a year, with demand forecast to continue growing. To support this growth, the VLU2 programme saw a multi-discipline approach taken, incorporating signalling performance, rolling stock, track, power and cooling solutions, with discrete technical studies (using Railway Engineering Simulator) carried out to identify potential capacity improvements and any potential barriers to their successful implementation.
Although VLU2 delivered the 36 trains per hour (tph) milestone, work on the first Victoria Line Upgrade (VLU1) programme paved the way. Starting back in 2003, this ambitious nine-year, £10 billion upgrade programme delivered the renewal of the whole signalling system and replacement of the entire train fleet, with Transport for London working in close partnership with Siemens to deliver capacity and efficiency improvements on the 35-year old line.
Siemens provided the Automatic Train Protection and Automatic Train Operation systems, in conjunction with radio-based signalling, with these new train control solutions being overlaid onto the existing signalling systems. This enabled the first of the new trains to start running on the live passenger-carrying railway in July 2009, three years ahead of VLU1 project completion.
In July 2012, the final major stage of VLU1 was commissioned. Completed in time for the London 2012 Olympics, the programme successfully delivered faster, more reliable and more comfortable journeys for passengers, with capacity being increased from 28 to 33 tph in peak hours. VLU2 then took this to a new level with the delivery of a world-class 36tph in 2017.