|S Class train at Hammersmith|
According to Transport for London, service on the Hammersmith & City and Circle lines will improve early next year, following testing of a new digital signalling system.
TFL says the new system will allow trains to run closer together, meaning a more frequent service, and shorter waiting times.
How it used to be
I grew up in Notting Hill in the 1970s and 80s, a short walk from Ladbroke Grove Tube Station, when what is currently the Hammersmith & City Line was called the Metropolitan Line.
Back then, taking the Tube meant standing on a windy platform in the cold with no idea of when the next train might come. It wasn't uncommon to wait for ten to fifteen minutes - with no information. Fortunately, things are a lot better today. But it's still noticeable that customer information (in plain English: when will the next train arrive?) is still a lot less good on this line than, say, the Central Line.
The new S Stock trains, made by Bombardier in Derby (see photo above), are a huge improvement on the old rolling stock. For one thing they have air-conditioning, so you don't roast on summer days. They are also longer, and you can walk from one end of the train to the other. In the old days, if you got into a carriage and found yourself - too late - sitting alone with some scary-looking individual, you had to wait until the next stop to change carriages. Now you can just quietly move down the train and find a different seat.
New signalling - from 2018
The first section of the network to use the new signalling system is supposed to go live early next year. In theory, the system will improve reliability by reducing the number of signalling problems - and also improve the accuracy of customer information.
More trains - but only from 2021
TfL says the new system will also mean a big boost in capacity - up to a third more trains. However, services won't begin to increase in frequency until 2021, when more of the network is operating the new system. And it won't be until 2023 that all the lines affected: Hammersmith & City, Circle Line, and Metropolitan Lines, will be using the new system.
According to TfL, the modernisation will also mean that Night Tube services can be introduced on these lines in the future.
So we'll have to wait around 6 years for the full benefits to come through. Nonetheless, all this is surely good news for residents of Shepherd's Bush.
The Shepherd's Bush Blog offers a personal view on life in Shepherd's Bush. If you would like to contribute a story about our neighbourhood, email us at shepherdsbushblog(at)gmail.com.