TfL to prioritise Piccadilly upgrade

A Piccadilly Line train at Arnos Grove, one of four stations in Enfield served by the London Underground route
A Piccadilly Line train at Arnos Grove, one of four stations in Enfield served by the London Underground route

Report by Jessie Mathewson, Local Democracy Reporter

Upgrading signalling on the Piccadilly Line is the “number one priority” for Transport for London (TfL), according to the network’s boss.

Commissioner Mike Brown said the increase to capacity would be “like an entirely new service in London”. Modern signalling allows more trains and a more reliable service on London Underground lines – meaning the Piccadilly could run services every 90 seconds.

TfL has already commissioned 94 new trains to replace the 50-year-old rolling stock on the line, which stops at four tube stations in the borough. The first are expected in 2023. Their design will allow 20% more passengers to board than the current trains – but total capacity could be boosted by 60% with a more regular service.

The proposed £2.45billion signalling upgrade was shelved in 2018, when TfL tightened the purse strings in an effort to cut its budget deficit. It would allow 21,000 more passengers to use the line every hour.

London Assembly member Joanne McCartney, who represents Enfield and Haringey, said the difference between the Piccadilly and Victoria lines was now “very stark”. She said it would be “completely bonkers” if new trains ran on the line for years without a signalling upgrade.

The Piccadilly Line also carries more people to Heathrow than any other rail service to any other airport, anywhere in the world. Joanne said: “For my part of North London this is our main route into Heathrow, the UK’s biggest airport – and it’s also the most affordable route.”

Mike Brown added: “Even when we get the Elizabeth Line [Crossrail] serving Heathrow directly, there will be an absolute imperative to ensure the Piccadilly Line is fit for purpose.

“We really have to remind people the tube upgrade isn’t complete.”