TfL celebrates 150th anniversary of tube but neglects oldest parts

Levers in the Edgware Road signal box dating back to 1925

Levers in the Edgware Road signal box dating back to 1925

 It is right and proper that we celebrate the public transport heritage of London this year for the 150th anniversary of the opening of the metropolitan line between Paddington and Farringdon on the 24th of May 1862. But why has the oldest part of the tube been neglected during the line upgrades being undertaken by London Underground both within the PPP and now that is has been brought in house?

Take for example, the state of disrepair on Platform 5 in Baker Street tube station were coincidentally we have billboards attesting to the history of the line and as a result drawing many tourists. Water penetration can be regularly seen cascading down from the Marylebone Road above the platforms and is clearly causing damage internally to the station.  This will have not escaped the notice of the many passengers of the tube of that alight and make their changes in the network at this point. Indeed l have seen Japanese & Korean tourist being very amused by the state of it all! I think the joke is that it would never be allowed to get to this state in their respective capital cities of Tokyo and Seoul subway systems. Indeed it does raise health and safety concerns which l have always assume TfL senior management are comfortable is being managed. 

Then we have of course the signal box at Edgware Road. This section of the underground is home to a signal box dating back to 1920’s and still uses levers to get trains through the station! The rightful place for this piece of equipment is in a museum and not as a mechanism on a very busy part of one the busiest networks in the world. The equipment is several decades older then some of the younger lines like the Victoria lines yet their signals get replaced before these ancient relics of a bye-gone age.

More recently Edgware Rd tube station has drawn the attention of an editorial in the Guardian newspaper because of the poor performance of the Circle line there. It suggests it should not be called the Circle line anymore as it appears not to go west bound or anti-clockwise from those platforms. I have suggested its down to the old signal box and till it gets replaced the line should be renamed the lasso line, as it now makes the dash to Hammersmith as well. 

My concern is simply that the oldest part of the tube has been neglected during the line upgrades while works on the much newer lines like the Victoria line opened in 1970 and of course the Jubilee line extension have had alot more attention by London Underground. Surely inventory checks of all the stations would have picked up the conditions of the tracks, signals and platforms on this historic part of the tube system.

Rumour has it that its deliberately kept this way, to draw funding by TfL from Department of Transport for other parts of the tube system. Whether that’s true or not it is time now that the oldest part of the tube gets the signal box changed and platform improvements it deserves to operate in the twenty first century for its many users in central London and further a field. 

So in short, l do not think the metropolitan line’s as it approaches its 150 year of existence is getting the respect it deserves as has lagged behind Victoria, Jubilee & Northern lines for upgrade works. Getting signal upgrades and platforms works completed at critical points would be the best birthday present TfL can give the Met line, ahead of any transport heritage celebrations.

Also published in this week’s Forum in the West End Extra.