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Do London Underground trains travel too fast for their own good?

Posted by SmartRail World Staff on Sep 28, 2015

TFL_WhooshAs passengers we all know the frustration of a slow moving train, but a new report has proposed that to be more efficient London Underground’s tube trains should actually lower their speeds permanently. A brand new mathematical study is claiming that the Tube’s network is in danger of becoming too fast and efficient and urges the network to follow New York’s example and slow their trains down. This might sound counter-productive but the numbers argue that if journey’s are too fast, relative to going by road, then this causes an increase in congestion levels. This is because of the layout of the London tube network, with its many intersections and stations where people change lines causing bottlenecks and creating delays.

In contrast, the report draws parallels with the New York subway where due to the design, such bottlenecks are less likely to occur.

The newly released findings in Interface, the journal of the Royal Society have researchers calculating that London's system would function best with underground trains travelling at about 1.2 times faster than the average speed on the roads. This makes the optimum Tube speed approximately 13mph (21km/h) significantly below the current average is 21mph (33km/h).

It’s worth reading the report for all the detail but the general view is that the high speed of the Tube discourages people to travel by other means (car, bus, bicycle or on foot) and draws them onto the train. These large numbers of people, so the model argues, leads to a marked increase in the overall level of congestion. So by discouraging some people off the trains, will ease the bottlenecks and improve overall performance for all. It’s an intermodal transport approach and driven partly by smartphones and apps that search for the fastest route – even if it involves changes.

Dr Marc Barthelemy, the paper's senior author, said it was a theoretical study and more data, it doesn’t include any passenger data would be required to make specific recommendations "Giving exact numbers is a tricky thing," he told the BBC. "But the fact is that these networks are coupled to each other. Optimising something on one network can bring bad things on another network." Transport for London (TfL) chose not to comment on the research.

Mike Brown (Commissioner, Transport for London), Jon Lamonte (CEO, Transport for Greater Manchester), Duncan Cross, (Deputy Director Operations, Transport for London) are amongst the many leading speakers confirmed for SmartMetro, incorporating the 6th annual CBTC World Congress, held in Copenhagen 3-5th November 2015 allows transport leaders, innovators and specialists to share best practice, uncover new solutions and put Communication Based Train Control CBTC at the heart of SmartMetro systems.

SmartMetro Incoprating the 6th Annual CBTC World Congress


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VIDEO: 562,145 London Underground journeys in just 2 minutes.

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Topics: Signalling

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