2022 Rail Transit Session


Rail Damage Functions Associated with Automatic Train Operation

Andy Vickerstaff

Andy Vickerstaff
Transport for London

Transport for London like many metro systems around the world saw an unprecedented drop in passenger numbers during the Covid-19 pandemic as lockdowns were imposed which reduced commuters to essential workers who were not able to work from home and completely removed leisure and tourism passengers. Passenger numbers were as low as 5% of pre-pandemic figures in the first lockdown of 2020 with journey levels not seen since the 1800s.

The world’s first Automatic Train Operation (ATO) railway was the Victoria line when it was opened in 1968 and since then nearly all London Underground (LUL) lines have been upgraded to ATO. A 36 trains per hour service can be operated on the Victoria line since its upgrade in 2009 (a headway of just 90 seconds) and prior to 2020 this was required to meet demand in morning and afternoon peaks. However, as London starts to recover there is major uncertainty over whether demand will return to pre-pandemic levels and therefore whether such an intense service will be required.

Two types of rail damage are extremely closely associated with ATO: squat type defects and corrugation. This presentation will describe how LUL has responded to the challenges posed by these two rail damage modes and the potential changes to ATO systems which may be able to reduce the impacts on track assets.