May 14 2010 By Ian Proctor
METROPOLITAN Line signal upgrades must be finished "as soon as possible" to avoid travellers having to stand too long on long journeys, a passengers' pressure group has warned.
The Federation of Met Line Users, chaired by Pinner resident Anthony Wood, said Transport for London (TfL) must choose a company "urgently" to begin replacing the unreliable trackside signals on the Metropolitan and Circle lines.
This is because new disabled-friendly modern trains that have nearly a third less seats and therefore larger standing capacity are being introduced on those lines between 2012 and 2018.
To compensate for the lack of seats, TfL originally promised to upgrade the signals to allow a higher volume of services to run on the tracks simultaneously than is allowed at present, maintaining the so-called 'seats-per-hour' ratio.
According to London Underground's Five Year Plan, an 'interim' line upgrade is meant to be finished by 2012 and a 'full' upgrade – producing 17 per cent more capacity on the trains – by 2015.
However, due to delays caused by, and the financial fallout of, the collapse of failed Tube upgrade firm Metronet, the contract to complete this work has not yet been awarded to a private company.
The federation now fears the new carriages may come into use but with the same volume of services passing through stations.
It said in a statement: "We urge London Underground (LU), TfL and all involved in this matter to ensure that he contract is awarded urgently and the work commences as soon as possible.
"It is absolutely essential that this contract is awarded urgently. It must not become part of any cuts by TfL or the Government.
"If it is cut, then the passengers on the Metropolitan line will have the current service but with trains containing 29 per cent less seats.
"The present signalling system is very delicate and failures occur almost daily, leading to disruption, delay and inconvenience for passengers."
Back in December 2008, assembly member for Harrow and Brent, Councillor Navin Shah (Labour) asked the Mayor of London Boris Johnson (Conservative) about the matter at a Mayor's Question Time.
Mr Johnson replied: "Overall capacity will increase with the introduction of new trains and timetable improvements which will be brought in both before and after the signalling upgrade.
"Following the completion of the signal upgrade, peak hour seating capacity will actually increase.
"It is important to note that London Underground is managing the signalling procurement so that there will be no delay from the original plan."
A TfL spokeswoman said: "The upgrade of the Metropolitan line is an essential part of the overall Tube improvement programme and will increase capacity on the line by around 30 per cent – vital as passengers numbers continue to grow.
"By the end of the upgrade, new signalling will enable us to operate more frequent trains, increasing the total number of seats available.
"LU took the decision to re-tender the signalling contract as the contract it inherited from Metronet did not represent the best value for money and was incompatible with other signalling systems on the Tube network.
"By re-tendering, we have saved London’s fare and taxpayers millions of pounds. "Tenders for the contract are currently being evaluated and we expect to let it later this year.”