Central Line – is it time to replace the nearly 30 year old stock?

This week I’ve been travelling on London Underground rather than South Western Railway, and there are a number of observations I have to make:

  • South Western Railway doesn’t have the monopoly on delays. We’ve had passengers taken ill, or defective trains across a number of days which has lead to me arriving late in Wimbledon despite leaving plenty of time to allow for such incidents.
  • The Central Line has sections of track which emit deafening high-pitch squealing as the train passes over it. It’s like somebody dragging their claws down a blackboard. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s loud enough that it could ultimately affect people’s hearing if they’re regular commuters.
  • Shake, rattle and roll. Again, the Central Line has a section of track – between Mile End and Stratford – which has the effect of the train rattling around like a baby’s rattle when the train is going at a decent speed. For the poor saps inside the train, this is extremely uncomfortable and I nearly threw my back out during to a sharp jerk or three. I was sitting at the end of the carriage at the time. I like my insides as they are: neither shaken or stirred.
  • On a couple of days, when the Central Line train left the platform, it’d start and then violently stop. Then start. Then violently stop. And then start again, eventually picking up speed. I’ve a feeling this is the train’s safety mechanism kicking in – perhaps people are leaning against the door (because, of course, the idea is to cram as many people into these carriages like sardines despite the frequency in which the trains run). In any event, the jerking brought on by these stop-starts-stops-starts isn’t conductive to a healthy back.
  • Apple Watch and Apple Pay. A number of times the Apple Watch had difficulties with the barriers – causing a Seek Assistance or Use A Single Card. Attempting the process again resulted in success (unlike SWR’s terrible smart card system). Similar problems on London buses too.
  • People will NOT stop looking at their mobile phones. Man, these people are seriously addicted, and liable to cause accidents. Their eyes are glued to the screens before getting on the train, during the journey, and when getting off. And it’s the getting off part that’s the worst, because you are then stuck behind them and they ain’t going to be moving fast any time soon.

I remember when the current rolling stock for the Central Line was first introduced. It was around 1991 or 1992 when I was enrolled at Epping Forrest College studying for my BTEC, and we suddenly saw these futuristic trains replace the older stock from the time of the dinosaurs. Alas, now, these trains are now behaving like dinosaurs.

I have high praise for the District Line which has been flawless throughout. Bigger trains thanks to bigger tunnels, and walk through carriages results in a much more open environment. Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention proper air conditioning. Unlike the Central Line, where any kind of relief from the boiling temperatures of the train is best to stand against the carriage doorway with the window all the way down.

Next week: The Return of SWR.

Last week I spent the week staying with dad in North East London, commuting to work via the Central and District Lines to Wimbledon instead of enduring the torturous South Western Railway journey from Woking to Wimbledon via Surbiton.

It’s amazing that despite it being the 21st century with all this wonderful technology, we still have to suffer a horrible (and expensive) daily commute.

The experience wasn’t bad, though it does take a while to get to Wimbledon when changing at Mile End. I like the District Line trains because you can walk all the way through them, and they’re big beasts. Even when you’re packed in, it’s not entirely awful. The Central Line, on the other hand, is a nightmare when packed. And it was often packed. I remember heading back to my dad’s place where we were about to pull into Leytonstone but had stopped just outside the station. I didn’t know this, and neither did the people that wanted to get off. The carriage was jampacked, and as soon as we started off again to pull into the station, the force sent me flying into a woman. I hadn’t been holding on to anything because I thought we had stopped and the doors were about to open.

Wimbledon is the black hole of the London/suburbs train network.

I will never understand why Tube trains have to be so full, with people happily (or rather, unhappily) invading other people’s personal space so easily. Given how frequent trains run, it really shouldn’t be a problem to wait a couple more minutes or so for the next one. Or the one after that. If a train were to be involved in a major accident, with a train packed to the brim with passengers is going to potentially see a significant loss of life. It’s amazing that despite it being the 21st century with all this wonderful technology, we still have to suffer a horrible (and expensive) daily commute.

Despite all the crowding of the Tube network during rush hour, there were relatively few problems with the network itself. It was around 8 quid less than I’d be paying to commute from my home to Wimbledon each day, including the buses to and from the Underground station. I did manage to find seating for the majority of the time on the District Line, even if it meant having to wait until Embankment or Earl’s Court. I occasionally got an end carriage seat on the Central Line, but not always.

Over the past year and half in my current job, I’ve found Wimbledon to be the black hole of the London/suburbs train network. So many trains run late to or from Wimbledon, plus there are only a handful of direct routes to Wimbledon from Woking that are convenient for working hours. This is in stark contrast to Guildford which ran regularly, and had very few problems. And before that I cycled or took the bus. Or bussed/walked.