The Victoria Line – 50 years of world-class performance
The world’s first fully automatic railway
When the first section of the Victoria Line opened in 1968, it was the world’s first fully automatic railway.
The signalling development programme for the new Victoria Line began in the early 1960s, with Westinghouse Brake & Signal (now Siemens Rail Automation) undertaking early trials of its train control solution on the Central Line. Working closely with London Underground’s team of engineers, the signalling solution was a unique mixture of cutting-edge electronics (using transistors manufactured in Chippenham in a very early application of semiconductors technology in a safety-critical application), alongside electro-pneumatic interlockings, with the whole system controlled from the London Transport control room at Coburg Street.
The combined team continued to work on the subsequent expansion of the line from the initial six stations (from Walthamstow Central to Highbury and Islington) to the 16 that operate today, the last of the extensions being opened in 1971. Since then, the Victoria Line solution has developed during the company’s evolution from Westinghouse, to Invensys and now to Siemens. We have delivered a succession of regular upgrades and updates to ensure the 21km-line’s continued high performance, all designed, developed, installed, tested and commissioned by our UK-based team.
“The Victoria Line is the greatest advance in rapid-transit railways…both in the automatic driving of trains and in the control of their movements at the terminal points and at junctions.”, London Transport, 1968
Cutting-edge technology delivers a world class service
As passenger demand grew rapidly through the 1980s and 90s, a series of major upgrade programmes was planned, with new technology being introduced to deliver incremental capacity increases, ultimately leading to the safe and successful introduction of a world-class, 36 trains per hour timetable in 2017.
Between 2003 and 2011, we worked closely with London Underground to deliver the first of these major upgrades, installing a completely new radio-based signalling system to enable 33 trains per hour to operate.
Part of a £10 billion renewal programme to completely replace all the existing rolling stock and signalling and to provide passengers with faster, more reliable and more comfortable journeys, we safely and successfully delivered our Trackguard Westrace interlocking, automatic train protection (ATP) and automatic train operation (ATO) solutions, together with a fully-featured control centre with advanced Automatic Train Supervision (ATS).
The project represented the world’s first ‘ATO-on-ATO’ upgrade and involved the complete resignalling and re-control of the entire line over a nine-year period, with the new signalling system being overlaid onto the old one to enable new rolling stock fleet to be phased-in. The line remained fully operational throughout the works, with a minimum of disruption to passengers. At the end of the programme, control was transferred to London Underground’s new state-of-the-art control centre at Osborne House.
This phase was completed in time for the London Olympics, so that by 2012 the new fleet was running 30 trains per hour and the legacy equipment had all been removed.
The second major upgrade programme saw our team upgrade the trackside and train-borne signalling, and control equipment to allow trains to safely run at closer intervals, thereby unlocking additional capacity on the line. Following the projects’ final commissioning, a new 36 trains per hour timetable was introduced by London Underground on 22 May 2017 - equating to one train arriving at each station every 100 seconds. Enabling an extra 3,000 passengers to travel every hour during the busiest times of the day, this makes the Victoria Line one of the most intensive metro services anywhere in the world.
During this period we also upgraded the signalling and control systems to allow a 24 hour weekend service to operate, enabling the Night Tube service to be introduced on the Victoria Line in August 2016 - the first time that tube trains have run an all-night, weekend service.
The successful delivery of these complex and technically challenging upgrade programmes has delivered significant operational, performance and service benefits for London Underground and its passengers, all of which has been achieved thanks to an extremely close and collaborative relationship within the combined London Underground/ Siemens team.
The Victoria line is LU’s most intensely used line based on daily passenger journeys per km.
2002 Over 450,000 passenger every week day (165 million pa).
2017 Over 900,000 passengers every week day (263.4 million pa).
Date Peak Off Peak
2008 28 21
September 2011 28 23
March 2012 30 24
June 2013 33 24
June 2014 34 24
May 2017 36 24
The Urban Transit Evolution report from The Economist Intelligence UnitCity and national leaders are facing increasing pressure to address congestion issues in mobility infrastructure. Overcrowded roads lead to increased pollution, longer commutes and decreased productivity, all of which erode prosperity and can be a barrier to economic growth.
Many cities are attempting to reduce congestion through innovative transport policies and projects. This report explores the challenges city leaders face in choosing the right combination of solutions to address their short- and long-term urban mobility challenges. It aims to provide direction on how city leaders can navigate through these challenges and how they can work together with community groups and the private sector to transform their cities for the future.
The key findings of the report are as follows:
- City leaders are placing sustainability and liveability of cities front and centre as they make critical choices about transport projects and policies.
- At a time of shrinking budgets, city leaders can employ innovative policies and maintenance projects instead of investing in large infrastructure projects to improve transport efficiency.
- Where infrastructure projects are deemed necessary, policymakers can take an innovative approach to financing infrastructure projects beyond traditional public-private partnerships.
- Pilot projects are an effective way to understand the impact of rapid advances in transport technology.
- On-demand transport services are playing an important role in closing the first-mile/last-mile gap.
- Across policies and projects, securing buy-in from the public and other stakeholders is fundamental to their success.
The years ahead will be an exciting time for transport in London, with several major projects set to transform the way people move around the city. Siemens looks forward to building on its work with local partners to develop an urban transport system that can meet the challenges of the decades ahead.Gordon Wakeford, Managing Director, Siemens Mobility UK
The Urban Transit Evolution report by The Economist Intelligence Unit
The Urban Transit Evolution is an Economist Intelligence Unit report, supported by Siemens UK, which reviews some of the urban mobility challenges facing well-established, congested cities. It provides a roadmap for city leaders to overcome these challenges, with a focus on factors to consider when making decisions around infrastructure projects and transport policies.