Reduced Central line service between Woodford and Hainault will be in place until 2023

Crowded train on the Central line. Picture: Mike Brooke

Crowded train on the Central line. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Archant

The reduced Central line timetable which starts this month will continue until 2023 to let engineers make improvements to its 85 trains, Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed.

Crowded train on the Central line. Picture: Mike Brooke

Crowded train on the Central line. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Archant

TfL announced last year it would be spending £380million to refurbish its current fleet of trains.

Each train will take 40 days to upgrade with new floors, doors, seats, LED lighting and CCTV, and refurbishments are expected to be complete in 2023.

Until then, a new timetable will be put in place so TfL can take out trains one at a time without closing the entire line.

The improvements to the trains should give them a 10-year lifespan, before a new fleet needs to be brought in.

Severe delays on Central line. Picture: Mike Brooke

Severe delays on Central line. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

Speaking at an external scrutiny meeting at Redbridge Council yesterday, Thursday, January 9, Dale Smith, head of operations on the Central line, said: "This is the last refurbishment for these trains before a brand new fleet of trains is brought in."

The upgrades will improve reliability by replacing the motor systems, which is the main cause of failures.

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"If we did nothing the trains would get more and more unreliable," Mr Smith said.

"We can't shut it down because it's the second busiest service but we do need to reduce the amount of trains in service."

Mr Smith also confirmed that allocated spaces for wheelchairs and pushchairs will be part of the upgrades, but at least three seats will need to be taken out to make room for each space.

Councillors called for folding seats instead, in order to accommodate all passengers.

Mr Smith also confirmed there will be no air conditioning brought in as part of the upgrades.

"We don't have the technology available to put air conditioning on the trains," he said, adding that the size of the tunnels means there isn't space for air conditioning systems.

He said the new fleet, estimated to come into service in 2030, may have air conditioning, but it would depend on the available technology.

The new timetable, starting on January 26, is based on commuter data from all stations.

Most of the lines will see extra trains during peak hours and less used stations in Redbridge will experience some changes.

The new schedule will see three extra early morning trains on the line between 6 and 7am, increasing the amount of trains from 15 to 18, and there will be five additional trains between 10 and 11pm.

The number of trains will also increase from 22 to 24 on Sundays.

Under the planned timetable, most of the current Woodford via Hainault services will become a shuttle between Woodford and Hainault, calling at Grange Hill, Chigwell, and Roding Valley. There will be three trains per hour.

In the morning, there are three trains which run from Hainault through to central London, and these will continue as eight car trains under the new timetable.

When there are four car trains, all customers will continue to be able to board the train, TfL said.

Customers that need to head into central London should change at Woodford or at Hainault.

In order to carry out the work, TfL will reduce morning and evening peak services at Debden, Theydon Bois and Epping stations.

When the work is complete, another new timetable will be brought in, but Mr Smith could not shed any light on what this might look like, other than running at maximum capacity.

Speaking after the meeting, chairman Councillor Khayer Chowdhury said: "We expressed residents' concerns about the new timetable but we also understand the necessity of the Central Line Improvement Programme.

"Hopefully, this refurbishment will totally rejuvenate these run-down trains and make them more reliable for years to come.

"The external scrutiny panel will continue to represent residents to TfL and our other partners."

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