The London Underground – better known as ‘the Tube’ – is the world’s oldest underground train network: its first train ride set off over 159 years ago.
It’s also huge: today, the London Underground network spans 400km of rail, divided between 11 lines connecting 272 stations. There are around three million passenger journeys a day and with busy streets above ground, the narrow tunnels below are integral to the city’s transport network.
“The trains keep London moving, and the elevators keep the stations open,” says Augustine Chakkalakkal, a Schindler Field Technical Support Engineer based in London.
Over its long history, the London Underground has undergone several waves of modernization. We’re proud to play a smart part in helping run it smoothly.
With a goal to reduce travel times and increase passenger satisfaction, Transport for London (TfL), which oversees the operations for London Underground, has been on a modernization spree. By making public transport more convenient, TfL aims to encourage more Londoners to use the Tube. In 2011, it turned to us to help modernize and maintain the stations along the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines. With 45 stations and over 130 elevators in operation, we support a large portion of the network.Our equipment doesn’t just provide easy and convenient access to the stations – some of it is critical to the good functioning of the Tube’s sprawling network.
“There are two types of stations: Primary Mode of Vertical Transport (PMVT), and Secondary Mode of Vertical Transport (SMVT) stations,” Augustine explains. “In PMVT stations like Belsize Park, the only other access to the platforms is through narrow spiral staircases. So, if the elevators don’t work, the station has to shut.”
Belsize Park is the latest station to have been modernized by our team. The three elevators have had their capacity increased and can now be remotely monitored, helping to reduce both elevator downtimes and our engineers’ carbon footprint.
Covent Garden station is another example of a PMVT station. Situated in a historical building in the West End of London, its elevators were modernized in 2015. The four elevators at the station were replaced with larger and quicker ones. As a result, the customer capacity of the elevators increased by 25%. More people can now travel faster, with the bonus of increased energy efficiency.
With over 85 million annual customer journeys in 2019, Victoria Underground station has long been one of London’s busiest. In 2018, a US$980 million (£700 million) upgrade of Victoria station was completed. With a new ticket hall and two new entrances, the renovations doubled the size of the station.
As part of the upgrade, we installed 10 elevators and nine escalators. The new layout and access points have helped to reduce passenger journey times and congestion. The renovations have also increased the level of accessibility by providing step-free access throughout the station.
Expanding London’s connections
The Elizabeth line, which officially opened in May 2022, further extends London’s commuter reach. From Reading and Heathrow in the West, to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the East, the new line brings an additional 1.5 million people within a 45-minute commuting distance from the capital’s major commercial and business centers – and there again, our smart and sustainable mobility solutions are helping people get around smoothly.
Accessibility has been a key focus for the new line. Take the new Canary Wharf station for example: with 17 Schindler escalators and six platform elevators, the station provides step-free access from street to train.
While not technically part of the Tube system, the Elizabeth line has opened up new central London connections with the London Underground network, connecting the city with more people, while redefining the way people access and navigate the capital.