Mayoral Election: Transport Promises You Shouldn’t Trust

By jamesup Last edited 75 months ago
Mayoral Election: Transport Promises You Shouldn’t Trust

Every four years (well, twice now) we’ve had a few proposals come up from one candidate or other that sound like great ideas. They're the sort of things that everyone would agree with, but then never happen. Why? Mostly because they are (technically or financially) impossible. Here are four regular manifesto perennials that you should take with an air-conditioned tube train full of salt.

“I’ll give you air-conditioned Tubes!”

Many a Mayoral candidate has tempted us with air-con for the tube – that is, the deep lines: Bakerloo, Central, Jubilee, Piccadilly, Northern and Victoria (the shallow lines are already getting air-con). What a wonderful idea! Who could possibly disagree with this? Well the second law of thermodynamics, that’s who. Air-conditioning doesn’t destroy heat – it moves it from one place to another; from inside the train, to outside the train — and doing so creates more heat. Unfortunately, 'outside the train' on the Tube is a few inches of hot, stale air. Without massively upgrading the ventilation the running tunnels would get hotter, making the air-con’s job even harder and bringing the platforms to boiling point (visit the New York Subway in August for an example of this).

We’ve had competitions that came up with nothing, but at least two ideas of how tube trains might be cooled are under research: Siemens have a plan (PDF) to make a lighter, more efficient train so that some air-conditioning can be used without increasing overall heat output, and there was an idea that we could run air-conditioning only on the above sections of lines. But at heart, when some electioneer promises you a freezer-cold Victoria line they are either willfully lying or an idiot.

“I’ll open the Tube later!”

This one isn’t physically impossible, so much as very, very hard. Could the Tube run later? Yes, it does on New Year’s morning. However, they only manage that by missing out regular maintenance and safety inspections. Could these be rearranged to avoid Friday and Saturday evening? Maybe, but not while the Upgrade Programme is running (unless you want it to take even longer), and — as per the 2006 proposals — only by delaying Saturday and Sunday opening times (causing huge inconvenience for shift workers reliant on early trains). Then there are our dear unions, who don’t want to work later for the most part and would relish the opportunity to renegotiate their contracts. Better for everyone that we all get a night bus; mayoral candidates who don’t think so are very courageous indeed...

“I shall give South London Express Buses!”

The provision of express buses in London is a lovely idea — sadly the absence of any express roads for the express buses to run on makes it a non-starter. With lots of main roads in south London two lanes wide, and the best being only four, and all of it busy, any express bus would probably sit in the bus lane indicating despondently to overtake its non-express counterpart. Comparing the existing express X68 against its stopping brother the 68, between Norwood Library and Kingsway, you save four minutes according to the timetable. If your candidate tempts you with this they are a profound optimist, have never driven in London or have secret dreams of finishing the Ringways.

“I’ll make a no strike agreement with the RMT!”

No, you will not...

Last Updated 24 February 2012


I fell for the "I'll open the tub later" last time round from Boris. Tsk.

Patrick in London

Good to know the truth about the above as a new London transplant..


Treat any suggestion of an Oyster bus ticket where you can change as many times as you like within one hour with similar scepticism 


Well, I have experienced NYC at +100F (in July, though) and the heat on the subway platforms is simply astonishing. Like standing in an oven. BUT - how long do you wait for a train? Four or five minutes. How long are you ON the train? A lot longer, usually. And if the station is too hot, you can always just walk away. On the train, you're trapped. I'll take hot stations for cool cars.

And, hey, while we are at it perforating London for Crossrail, why not add a few ventilation shafts for the Tube? I have been told (probably a myth) that there really isn't any ventialtion of Tube tunnels - they rely on the movement of the trains to push air through. 

And if anyone from London Underground ever gets to NYC - check out that fanstastic idea where trains can pass each other - so "express" and local". Mind blowing!


The NYC subway was an example - they have sub surface tunnels, not tubes so the effect would be a lot worse. Any delays to the service, or peak hour congestion, and you wouldnt be able to get out of the station. It would also be insufferable for the poor staff. While more ventilation shafts would be great, can you imagine the cost? Its just feasible.


The tube will run '24 hour' on Sat/Fri nights from 2015...