Central line: £500m train refurbishment includes CCTV cameras and new seats

Central line: £500m train refurbishment includes CCTV cameras and new seats

The Central line is undergoing a £500m transformation – with the first refurbished train entering service by the end of November.

All 85 trains on the line – the longest on the London Underground at 46 miles – will undergo a comprehensive 10-week makeover that will include the long-awaited introduction of CCTV cameras and new “moquette” seating.

The colour and name of the seat moquette design references the Central line’s history. Exact details are being kept under wraps by Transport for London until the first train arrives.

The five identical trains that run on the Waterloo and City Line are also being refurbished.

The Central line trains first entered service in 1992. The upgrade will extend their lives by “15 to 20 years”, according to Colette Farrer, head of capital delivery for London Underground.

Pre-pandemic, the Central line had about 261m passengers a year. But Underground executives knew it was becoming increasingly unreliable due to the deteriorating condition of the rolling stock.

Stripped back: the Central line trains being refurbished (Ross Lydall)
Stripped back: the Central line trains being refurbished (Ross Lydall)

The trains are being stripped back to their shells and rebuilt at the LU depot in Acton, which opened two years ago as part of a move to bring modernisation work in-house. About 150 staff are at the depot, and this is due to rise to 250.

Each train undergoes 10 weeks of works – with five trains being refurbished alongside each other at the same time.

One of the most important tasks is replacing the train wheels – these can lose up to 20cm due to years of friction against the rails.

The £500m programme is the biggest such project in Transport for London’s history. It will take until 2029 to complete.

By comparison, the replacement of the Piccadilly line trains – which is due to see the first enter service by 2025 – is costing about £1.6bn.

CCTV cameras are being retro-fitted to the Central line (Ross Lydall)
CCTV cameras are being retro-fitted to the Central line (Ross Lydall)

The new Central line trains will have two wheelchair bays, each able to accommodate two wheelchair users. Twelve seats have been removed to create the wheelchair bays. The spaces can be used for standing passengers or for luggage when not required by a wheelchair user.

In addition to two CCTV cameras per carriage – meaning 16 on the train – there is a comprehensive overhaul of the train engines, internal LED lighting and digital signs informing passengers which station the train is at.

“It’s such a significant overhaul from the inside out,” said Sam McDonough, the senior project manager.

The CCTV data box, which is stored on the train, can hold 30 days of footage. Picture quality is said to be excellent and should help to reduce crime on the line.

There is also an airline-style “black box” data recorder that captures information in the event of a major incident.

The Central line is one of the few Tube lines not to have CCTV. Tory mayoral candidate Susan Hall has promised to introduce CCTV to all Underground trains if she is elected next May.

The Central line requires 78 or 79 trains to operate its peak-hours timetable. This has been re-planned to keep services running while five trains at a time undergo refurbishment.

Mr McDonough said: “The trains come in a really poor condition. They are really unreliable. They have been out there for 30 years so they really are in a real state.

“The floor often has holes and needs to be welded and made structurally sound. We are trying to upgrade all the systems and bring them up to a modern standard.”

Seb Dance, the deputy mayor for transport, said about 10 per cent of Central line trains typically had to be taken out of service each day due to faults.

“This programme is about increasing capacity, improving traction, putting in wheelchair bays and LED lighting, CCTV and dot matrix displays.

“It will make a big difference to not just the interior experience of sitting in the [carriage] but the reliability of the service as well. These trains have new motors, which means they will save energy.

“With the new computer technology, we will be able to run a much more reliable service on the Central line.”