The fine blue line

Introduced in 2009, the Victoria Line Tube trains have been a huge success story for Transport for London and rolling stock provider Bombardier. In terms of performance, the Victoria Line stock built at Derby Litchurch Lane has been simply phenomenal.

In September 2014, the fleet was recording 176,000 kilometres (109,361 miles) between technical failures. That’s the equivalent of travelling four and a half times around the planet.

The trains are part of Bombardier’s successful Movia family, a product that has been delivered by the company for many of the world’s metro systems including Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Shanghai (China), Budapest (Hungary), Toronto (Canada) and Delhi (India). The Sub-Surface Line (SSL) trains currently being delivered to TfL by Bombardier are also part of the Movia family, as is a new driverless fleet recently delivered for Singapore.

In total, 47 eight-car trains are in traffic on the Victoria Line (VL). Capacity improvements mean that at peak times 43 trains are in traffic (compared with 37 of the older trains).

Although frequency of service is crucial to this major artery of the Underground, the trains themselves do not cover long distances during their rostered duties - the full length of the Victoria Line is only 13 miles from end to end.

The manufacturer agrees that performance benefits are derived from the line being straight, and that the infrastructure is quite new following its recent upgrade. However, this doesn’t negate the fact that delays on the route are measured in seconds - fractions of a second saved can contribute to improvements in service frequency, which is an important consideration for TfL.

The trains form part of a £3.4 billion turnkey contract awarded to Bombardier by the former Metronet consortium to supply 1,738 new vehicles for the Victoria and Sub-Surface Lines, together with signalling, maintenance and project management.

On the Victoria Line, the upgrade enabled TfL to improve reliability and reduce journey times between stations by 8%, with an overall decrease in journey times of 16%. This has been made possible because the trains delivered from 2009 onwards have far better acceleration than the 1967 stock they replaced. The newer trains also have a higher maximum speed of 50mph.

Design of the new Victoria Line trains was finalised in September 2004, with two pre-production trains constructed the following year. Testing began in Derby (where they had been built) in 2006, followed by delivery to LU in May 2007. The first train entered traffic on July 21 2009, working the 2355 Seven Sisters-Brixton.

Main production began at the end of 2009, with one train per fortnight entering traffic from February 2010. The last of the 1967 stock was withdrawn on June 30 2011.

The new trains are wider than those they have replaced, and are marginally larger than other deep-level Tube stock. They have 324 seats and standing capacity for up to 1,196 passengers, which represents a 19% increase in capacity over the 1967 stock.

They are also fitted with wider doors. This allows easier boarding and alighting, thereby improving journey times by reducing dwell times at stations.

LU’s 2009 stock is also the first Tube stock delivered since the introduction of new regulations regarding passengers of reduced mobility, so the fleet offers increased capacity for disabled passengers. This includes more tip-up seats and spaces for both wheelchairs and pushchairs. There are also offset centre door poles for wheelchair access.

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