Central line Tube delays: 'Emergency timetable' as TfL tackles motor faults

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TfL’s chief operating officer admitted there are difficulties with Central line trains at the moment and apologised to customers.

Transport for London (TfL) says engineers are “working around the clock” to fix Central line train motors, but an "emergency timetable" will be introduced to improve the current service.

The line, which runs from West Ruislip to Epping, has been plagued with disruptions caused by "an abnormally high number of defective traction motors" requiring work during an overhaul of the trains on the line.

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A Freedom of Information request by LondonWorld revealed that between November 2 and January 10 the issue caused delays on 45 occasions, and the service has been disrupted on every weekday since then.

TfL commissioner Andy Lord told a board meeting on Wednesday February 7 that an emergency timetable will be introduced within the next four weeks in a bid to regulate the gaps between trains.

In addition, more buses have been introduced on route 150 between Hainault and Ilford, and on route 20 between Debden and Walthamstow Central, to provide an alternative route into central London.

TfL engineers replacing a motor on one of the Central line trainsTfL engineers replacing a motor on one of the Central line trains
TfL engineers replacing a motor on one of the Central line trains | Lynn Rusk

LondonWorld visited TfL’s depot in Hainault where engineers are working through the night to replace faulty motors on the trains. Up to 30 motors a week are currently being repaired.

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Glynn Barton, TfL’s chief operating officer, apologised to customers and told LondonWorld: “The teams here are working really hard to make sure we have as many trains out on the Central line as we can muster each day.

“We are having difficulties at the moment. The Central line is a really old fleet. We’ve got a massive capital investment programme in the Central line coming up but unfortunately we are seeing failures cropping up in motors especially.

“Our teams are trying to get those motors which are causing the issues at the moment back on the trains as quickly as possible. We’re working around the clock here, we’ve got as many people as we can, given safe working time to ensure we can get that fleet out for customers.

“We apologise to our customers who are experiencing delays. I would like to assure them we are doing as much as we can to get as good as service as we can given the fleet we have.”

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Glynn Barton, COO of TfL at the Hainault train depotGlynn Barton, COO of TfL at the Hainault train depot
Glynn Barton, COO of TfL at the Hainault train depot | Lynn Rusk

Alongside repair work, the Central line is undergoing a £500m transformation with newly refurbished trains featuring CCTV cameras and new moquette seating.

All 85 trains on the line will be overhauled and given more reliable motors and better accessibility.

The refurbishments will not be completed until 2029, with each train out of service for about four months during its overhaul.

Mr Barton said refurbishments are “absolutely essential” but that the process has been delayed due to an “uncertainty with government funding”.

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City Hall Conservatives transport spokesman Keith Prince said: “Sadiq Khan must come clean on how much longer the chaos on the Central Line will last. Sadiq Khan is chairman of TfL so the buck stops with him.

“In the past few days, TfL has gone from saying the chaos will last a few more weeks to saying they don’t know how long it will last. We now hear TfL intends to publish an emergency train timetable. 

“While Sadiq Khan and TfL like to blame the government for their failures, the awkward truth is TfL has received over £6bn in taxpayer bailouts since 2021. In recent weeks, Sadiq Khan has found £177m for election gimmicks - £30m to stave off Tube strikes, £123m to freeze some TfL fares for one year and £24m to pause peak fares on Fridays for three months. These are clear political choices. This money could be spent speeding up the refurbishment of Central line trains.”

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