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PSDs: you may not be familiar with the acronym, but chances are you've seen one. Platform screen doors are the glass walls with sliding doors that separate the platform and the track at metro stations. First employed on the Singapore Metro system in 1987 (and now mandatory in China), they have multiple uses — everything from climate control, to stopping errant litter from getting on to the tracks, to halting accidents and attempted suicides. With PSDs, there is no gap to mind.
They're also notoriously difficult, and expensive, to retrofit on older metro systems.
London's underground system — the oldest in the world — does have PSDs, but only 476 of them — all on the Jubilee line. Even then, the PSDs are only at certain stations, which were part of the 1999 extension. Could that be about to change though?
A TfL video, tantalising us with the prospect of futuristic Piccadilly line trains from 2024, suggests that platform screen doors will be fitted, as part of an extensive overhaul — one that will also witness the first air conditioned carriages on the deep level tube.
TfL tells Londonist that not only will the Piccadilly line be fitted with PSDs, but all deep line tube stations are under review for retro-fits. That could make a striking difference, on a network where almost 650 people might attempt suicide over a decade.
Still, platform screen doors can't be fitted until the entire fleet of trains on any one line is switched out. That's because the PSDs have to match precisely with the carriage doors — and the new fleet of Siemens trains will be fitted with double doors only. At the very earliest, then, expect to see PSDs installed late 2026.
There may well, says TfL, also be sections on some lines — including the Piccadilly — where a retro-fit isn't possible. Chances are, we'll end up with a Jubilee line-style scenario, where some, but not all, stations have the protective wall.
Some Londoners may be happy with this; in an increasingly mollycoddled world, feeling the warm rush of an approaching tube train can be an invigorating experience. Then again, after Hong Kong's MTR fitted PSDs in 2006, it recorded a year of zero fatalities. 25 years from now, perhaps it'll be a stretch for London's commuters to imagine that the only thing once separating them from the platform and the track, was a dour voice instructing them to mind the gap...