Government funding shortfall pushes back Piccadilly Line upgrades

Image above: New Piccadilly Line trains

New trains by 2027, signalling upgrades delayed until potentially 2033

The recent Government funding allocation for Transport for London (TfL) means that new signalling upgrades on the Piccadilly Line will be significantly delayed, according to the transport provider. The £250 million designated for capital spending was half what they expected.

Despite the shortfall, TfL said they are determined to forge ahead with crucial upgrades, including new trains for the Piccadilly line. Although the funding gap has prompted revised payment terms with the manufacturer, Siemens Mobility, TfL assures that this w ill not impede the train delivery schedule.

The one-year duration of the funding package restricts commitments to major infrastructure enhancements, notably the crucial signalling upgrade vital for optimising the new trains’ performance.

TfL’s plea for a multi-year capital funding agreement, akin to those received by other major transportation entities, has not been met. The Government’s partial funding agreement aims to facilitate the upgrade of rolling stock, primarily at a factory in Goole, Yorkshire, set to generate around 700 direct jobs and potentially 1,700 more in the supply chain. Post-Piccadilly line, this facility will start on work to upgrade the ageing Bakerloo line trains, the oldest in UK passenger services.

The first new trains, due to be delivered in 2024, will undergo testing before potentially being introduced for operational use in 2025. The complete overhaul of the Piccadilly line’s stock is projected for completion by 2027, promising an increased capacity of 23% and a more frequent service.

Achieving the full potential of these upgrades hinges on securing additional funding, particularly for the £1.3 billion signalling enhancement. This upgrade would significantly elevate service levels, potentially accommodating 36 trains per hour during peak times, a 64% capacity boost.

Yet, TfL’s commitment to this ambitious program remains uncertain due to the unpredictability of future government support. The inclusion of the signalling project in capital spending plans from 2025/6 onwards is contingent on meeting 50% of its funding requirements.

With estimations suggesting a complex seven to ten-year timeline for the Piccadilly line’s full signalling upgrade, the earliest completion forecast stands at 2033. Signal failures are a regular occurrence on the Piccadilly Line

Image above: Sadiq Khan

TfL to be financially sustainable “for the first time in its history”, says Sadiq Khan

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said:

“These past few years have been the most challenging in TfL’s history, but following a programme of work to rebuild ridership, increase income and reduce costs, I’m pleased that TfL is now on track to be financially sustainable for the first time in its history in terms of its day-to-day operations.

“As the Government has only provided half of the capital funding that TfL needs, TfL has had to make difficult decisions about their business plan to ensure they can continue to make vital upgrades to London’s transport network.

“That’s why it is still vitally important that we agree a sustainable long-term funding settlement from the Government that allows us to plan and invest for the infrastructure London will need over the coming decades. Expanding our transport network and supporting jobs and economic growth in London has real and sizeable benefits for the economy of the whole UK.”

Andy Lord, London’s Transport Commissioner, warned of ‘difficult decisions’ relating to future business plans adding:

“While we can now deliver our full Business Plan for 2024/25, our shortfall in Government capital investment has only been mitigated in the near term and will reduce the amount of valuable investment we can make in future years, unless further funding is agreed.

“We, alongside London’s business stakeholders and others, will continue to make the case that ongoing Government support for capital investment in transport is needed if we are to be able to continue to deliver vital improvements to London’s transport network, unlock new homes and support growth across London and the UK.”