The current COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruption to everyday life. One of the main challenges has been how to keep public transport running safely, while adhering to the social distancing rule.
Although the lockdown means most people have to stay at home unless they need to get food and medicines, or take some exercise, essential workers still need to travel to their workplace. Without public transport, key workers such as those in the health service would struggle if they didn’t have their own car.
Transport for London has worked hard to keep London Underground running, abiding by the safety regulations and ensuring staff and passengers aren’t put at risk. It has meant operating a drastically reduced service and closing some lines altogether.
In addition, a queueing system has been introduced at ticket gates to observe social distancing and some escalators have been switched off to slow down the flow of passengers to the platforms. Transport for London has closed 40 Underground stations.
An extra 500 officers have been deployed by the British Transport Police to patrol the UK’s rail network and ensure safety measures are adhered to.
Which Underground lines have closed?
As a result of the coronavirus, Transport for London has stopped a number of Underground services until further notice. There is no service on the Circle, or Waterloo and City, lines indefinitely. There is also no night Tube or night Overground service.
A reduced service is operating on the Underground, the London Overground, London Trams, DLR and TfL Rail. Transport operators are updating their website frequently to keep services in line with government guidelines and the spread of the virus. People are advised to travel only if their journey is absolutely essential.
The programme of closures and restrictions is impacting on the ongoing maintenance and repair work on the Underground. When the lines and stations are closed, it is giving the operators a chance to carry out essential repairs.
When are the next planned closures?
There are a number of temporary closures planned for the Underground in May, enabling maintenance work to be carried out. This begins with the closure of part of the Bakerloo line, between Stonebridge Park and Harrow and Wealdstone, on Saturday 2nd May. The line between Harrow and Wealdstone and Queen’s Park will be closed on 3rd May. Then, on May 30th and 31st, the District line, from South Kensington to Barking, will be closed, as will the section from Earl’s Court to Kensington (Olympia). On the same dates, the Hammersmith and City line will close from Paddington to Barking and the Metropolitan line from Baker Street to Aldgate.
What are the common maintenance issues?
Once parts of the railway system have been closed down, operators will have to carry out maintenance checks before the lines can get up and running again.
Just like any other organisation running machinery, routine maintenance is planned and unforeseen breakdowns dealt with. Of course, running a rail network is more complicated than most manufacturing companies, as the network extends over hundreds of miles. There are also public safety issues to take into account.
Apart from repairs and maintenance to the tracks themselves, critical points like signals and pre-signals must be maintained and tested. Signal failures are a typical cause of train delays and cancellations – such as when a signal failure led to a part-suspension of the Hammersmith and City and Metropolitan lines in April.
What about cleaning?
When not in use, the trains are cleaned thoroughly at the depot. The exterior is washed with water and the interior is swept, dusted and vacuumed. The hand-grip poles are wiped and the seats are brushed and wiped. At regular intervals, the seating upholstery and carpets are shampooed.
Access points to the trains are designed so that staff can safely enter while carrying their cleaning equipment. At the stations, the escalator handrails are cleaned to keep them free from dirt, dust, spillages and graffiti.
How is passenger comfort assured?
In an environment such as the Underground, a good air conditioning system is crucial for passenger comfort. If the air conditioning breaks down, it creates a stuffy and unhealthy environment. Regulating the temperature and air quality on crowded trains is the best way of keeping passengers comfortable and safe. Factors such as the air temperature and humidity at various times of day, the heat transference through the windows into the carriages and airflow are measured and matched with the relevant industry standards for air conditioning.
Established rail AC providers will liaise with train operators to ensure the installed system is prepared for operational use before the trains are up and running again.
LH-PLC has more than a quarter of a century’s experience and is one of the leading air conditioning engineering companies in the world. For information on our products and services in the railway air conditioning sector, including new systems and maintenance for existing systems, give us a call on 0208 947 0886, or use our handy online form.