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The Piccadilly circus

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Proposals for the modernisation of London's Underground stations have begun with a partnering approach to the problem

Travelling on the Tube in the rush hour is an uncomfortable experience.

Overcrowded, hot, badly ventilated, unreliable or just plain slow, the tube has recently developed a reputation as symptomatic of all that is wrong in transport infrastructure in the capital, or even in Britain as a whole.

Transport secretary Stephen Byers may have staked his reputation on increasing public transport passenger numbers by 50 per cent within 10 years, but he takes care to avoid pledging improvements in the conditions in which those passengers travel, or in their speed and efficiency of transit. In the same vein, Michael Holden, Railtrack's southern regional director, has called for fewer overground trains in order to increase statistical reliability.

A lot of debate has centred on numbers. The mayor's congestion charging proposals, which come into effect next February, plan on reducing city centre car numbers by 15 per cent.

While 85 per cent of the city's population already uses public transport and many of them are car owners, the additional pressures on the network could become enormous. While Transport for London projects that there will be an increase of 40 per cent in bus use across London by 2011, it also predicts an 18 per cent increase shared between London's mainline rail and underground system over the next 15 years.

On the right track

Commissioner of Transport for London Bob Kiley - commonly perceived to be the man most able to see the big picture of London's transport problem - recognised that the underground was blighted by fractious management, chronic under-investment and short-termism.

However, even while that might be true, it is worth noting that, however long overdue, things are actually starting to happen. Works have been split into major works (appraising whether stations need to have structural work, extensions or similar - see the work at King's Cross on page 42 as an example ofvery major work); infrastructural work (improving signalling, line capacity, etc); station modernisation (comprehensive upgrading) and station refurbishment (extensive upgrading) - see box.

Significant budgets have been set aside and, notwithstanding the uncertainty of the political and legal machinations between Livingstone and Byers, initial feasibility work is already ongoing for the overhaul of the system. John Smith of John Smith & Associates (JSA Opus), lead architect in conjunction with Acanthus Lawrence & Wrightson for the Piccadilly Line, says that they are 'just getting on with it'. Over the next seven-and-a-half years, all the stations will, at the very least, have been refurbished.

One of the first lines to be tackled is the Piccadilly Line and the first station to be upgraded is Arnos Grove (1931-32) designed by Charles Holden. This station, with its central pier rising to support the circular concrete roof, is considered to be one of Holden's finest. In 1990 the passimeter was restored to become a small gallery and museum of London Transport memorabilia.

Jump on board

Currently, the architects are engaged in a 'scoping study' which is intended to develop the outline schedule of delapidations into an actual schedule of work.

JSA has taken on staff to deal with the labour intensive job of sifting through historic documents to identify the status of information available on each station - hoping to avoid replicating relevant maintenance and condition survey work.

Because of the complexity of the programme and the number of interested parties involved, close and open partnering is essential to the success of the scheme, to such an extent that there is even a partnering consultant appointed to ensure that partnering takes place effectively.

Even though the architects are effectively only at stage A, the contractor is already on board and is a full partner to the scheme development.When issues of intrusive surveys arise, Smith says it is very reassuring, as well as being very helpful, to get an immediate opinion of the complexity of the work needed from someone who knows - and to ensure that it gets done if required.

The design team has been assembled as experts in their field, to produce a realisable programme of works. This, says Smith, avoids the 'us and them' approach to contract matters. Indeed they are rewarded if they complete ahead of schedule and penalised if delays occur, but it is their joint venture programme - therefore they have no excuse not to hit it.

The gang show

Project team meetings are arranged to discuss opinions on the necessary scope of work. Inevitably conflicts of opinions arise, such as between English Heritage (which is invited to sit in) and maintenance contractors (who also sit in, even at this stage), but because of the relatively open nature of the meetings - where no one is trying to pull a fast one - most queries are resolved amicably. If the initial client schedule suggests, say, replacing 50 per cent of the floor tiles but the architect concludes that the remaining tiles would need to be replaced shortly afterwards - then common sense tends to prevail (taking into account heritage and maintenance issues), and the scope of works increases and the brief is amended accordingly.

Obviously there are budgetary constraints on this as in any other job, and there are weekly value management 'workshops' to discuss items with big cost and disruptive implications. The 'facilitator' from Bovis Lend Lease draws up the agenda.

Everyone argues their corner and they collectively draw up a 'points system' allocating a value to each suggestion to help them reach resolution. Smith reassures me that this is a very productive process.

The most basic level of work includes stripping out defunct wiring, tidying up, making good and repainting.Additional elements to be included in most station refurbishments include LED timetable displays, clocks and broadcast systems. In most stations, the station room - the area which includes the ticket counter and staff areas - will be opened up so that the public can see what the staff are doing, presumably to make the area 'transparent' for the public but also to keep staff on their toes.

Work on Arnos Grove is scheduled to start this autumn, and should at least tidy up the initial impression of years of dereliction in the public areas of most stations. Hopefully, this beautification scheme will go hand in hand with infrastructural improvements to make the journey more bearable.


The Piccadilly Line has 52 stations, from Cockfosters to Uxbridge and Heathrow. The first stations to be upgraded are Arnos Grove, Sudbury Hill and South Ealing.Works comprise:


To provide the following to all public and operational station areas:

Time display



Electronic emergency signs

Information indicator

Visual electronic information dis play panels

Audible information


Security monitoring equipment

Emergency help facilities

Bicycle facilities

Waiting rooms and enclosed waiting areas

Station control room

Cable management system


All public and operational station areas to be refurbished by:







Remove redundant facilities/ machines/equipment/fixtures/ fittings


Client Infraco JNP Consultant Design for Transport Joint Venture Architects and lead designers John Smith & Associates and Opus International (JSA Opus) Acanthus Lawrence & Wrightson Engineers Scott Wilson Railways Terence Lee Partnership Contractor Gleeson MCL

Other lines

The design teams on other lines are led by Pascal & Watson and Ruddle Wilkinson. Other contractors are Wiggins Gee and Y J Lovell

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