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London Is Getting Its New & Futuristic Tube Trains

Last week, London unveiled the new cars to the public for the first time, and when the trains finally hit the tracks starting in the mid-2020s, they'll bring an appreciable list of improvements to riders.

With the new design, you'll be able to walk the entire length of the train, which frees up lots of space that was wasted just from closing off individual cars in the past.

The entrances are now all evenly spaced and feature double-wide doors, which means it should be a lot faster to get on and off the trains. And you won't have to "mind the gap" anymore: the cars are all shorter, which makes the trains more flexible and able to come much closer to the platform edge.

There are smaller improvements, too, like strips of LED lights along the doors that clearly flash red to warn passengers as they're about to close.

In addition, all of the advertising and signage on the cars will use digital screens instead of paper inserts, and some of the deepest lines in London will get air conditioning for the first time with the new cars. And did we mention that there will be Wi-Fi on board? Perhaps most importantly, the new trains will be future proofed to run entirely operator-free (though they'll be staffed for the foreseeable future).

The improvements are certainly good news for London residents, but when it comes down to it, the new trains just look like they belong in the future. The only part that seems firmly rooted in the past is the interior, which retains the Tube's classic fabric seating. Take a look for yourself below.

'Improved' capacity

For the first time on deep-level sections of the Tube, the 250 trains, which are expected to cost up to £2.5bn, will have a mechanised air-cooling system built in.

They will also have improved accessibility, with step-free access from the platform and more space for wheelchair users.

London Underground said the trains would improve capacity by:

  • The Central line by 25% (the equivalent of up to 12,000 customers per hour)
  • The Bakerloo line by 25% (the equivalent of up to 8,000 customers per hour)
  • The Waterloo & City line by 50% (the equivalent of up to 9,000 customers per hour)
  • The Piccadilly line by 60% (the equivalent of up to 19,000 customers per hour)
  • It is hoped that the trains will remain in service for more than 40 years.

Mike Brown, the managing director of London Underground, said the trains would help them keep pace with the city's growing population.

Automated trains

In his re-election manifesto of 2012, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson promised driverless trains on the Underground within the next 10 years, saying he would not buy Tube trains with drivers' cabs.

But Aslef spokesman Mr Brennan said: "Trains won't be capable of going driverless until at least 2030 so promises of quick change is fantasy," said Mr Brennan.

Mr Johnson responded: "What we are doing now is getting a new tube train that will allow full automation and you can't bring them in from day one with a fully driverless system as you have to have them all running on the line."

He added "automation is going to come" and the new trains were a "great step forward".

The images of the trains, which were designed by PriestmanGoode, will be on show at King's Cross St Pancras station until 16 November.

A formal invitation to tender is expected to be issued early next year and a contract to build the new trains to be awarded in 2016.

The first train is expected to come into service on the Piccadilly Line in 2022.

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