Severe delays on Piccadilly Line as union urges total closure until fleet is fixed

Passengers on the Piccadilly Line are suffering from severe delays as Transport for London (TfL) carries out urgent repairs on rolling stock – but RMT has called for the line to be closed altogether.

TfL said it has to take the trains out of service because the wheels are locking on tracks that have been made slippery by wet autumn leaves, leading to excessive wear and rendering them unsafe.

Around half the trains were taken out of service on Friday, and the TfL website is currently warning passengers to expect severe delays while it carries out repairs.

Tony Matthews, general manager for the line, said: “‎I sincerely apologise to Piccadilly line customers for the ongoing disruption to their journeys.

“We will continue working around the clock to repair the wheels so that we can return to giving our customers the high level of service that they deserve as quickly as possible.‎”

TfL is advising passengers that their tickets will be accepted on local buses, Chiltern Railways, Great Western Railway, London Midland, Great Northern and London Overground, although the Overground is also currently reporting severe delays because of a signal failure at London Liverpool Street.

Meanwhile, Mick Cash, general secretary of RMT, argued that the delays were due to “a major engineering problem” with flatted wheels on the entire Piccadilly Line fleet, which meant the trains would have to be taken off the line altogether to have their wheels checked and lathed back to safe tolerance.

“RMT has been told the problem could take weeks to fix properly,” he added. “Trying to do it on the hoof with our members taking the rap is no way to proceed. That's why consideration has to be given to the service being suspended until the trains are repaired and signed off as safe.”

The union called for TfL to discuss closing the Piccadilly Line, arrange a summit meeting led by London mayor Sadiq Khan and transport commissioner Mike Brown, and for the upcoming launch of Night Tube services on Piccadilly to be postponed.

RMT has also announced 24-hour strikes of its Piccadilly and Hammersmith & City drivers on 6 December, alleging a “wholesale breakdown of industrial relations” on Piccadilly Line.

TfL is due to move its maintenance contract on the Piccadilly Line in-house from next year because of concerns about costs, and is also seeking a contractor to carry out £3.6m of repairs on the trains.

A TfL spokesperson insisted the Night Tube launch would go ahead on 16 December as planned.

(Image c. Yui Mok from PA Wire)

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Lee   29/11/2016 at 12:27

Why is the RMT's first and only response to anything to stop working? No trains, no service, no service no pay to union members, unions coffers depleted. Who benefits? The unions should shut up and let their members knuckle down to providing the service they are being paid to provide!

Mark   29/11/2016 at 12:59

The existing Piccadilly line trains have operated since 1973; why the problem now with leaves? Surely trackside maintenance will have kept the trees back. This is RMT sabre rattling - not content with messing up Southern Services they are now finding excuses to mess up other line. A court injunction to stop these strike must be implemented. Sack ALL staff who go on strike. They are better paid and have far better conditions than many other workers across the capital

Roger (Insider)   29/11/2016 at 14:56

Having worked on just the tail end of 73 Stock mid-life upgrade at the late Bombardier Wakefield all of SEVENTEEN YEARS ago, I can't help feeling that LU's decision to delay replacement until "New Tube for London" appears to be looking a bit misguided.

Mark Bott   29/11/2016 at 18:13

This time last year the Piccadilly Line was in exactly the same trouble this time last year. So clearly the trackside vegetation control has not been effective. Perhaps if TfL were not so arrogant they could learn lessons from other companies. Network Rail run rail head treatment trains through out the leaf fall season. Also the train operators run special timetables that take account of the increased braking time required to stop in poor railhead conditions. Not really sure that just sacking everyone is the way forward. But perhaps a working group to understand why the problem is so acute Piccadilly Line. There is a perception that there is a problem with the 73 stock. I suspect that the RMT response is a continuation of the problem caused when a Piccadilly Line train had an alleged wrong side door failure, and arrived at a station with a set of doors open. But no clear resolution seems to have been arrived at. It may also be the case that the drivers need to adopt a defensive driving style in poor rail conditions, but an engineering assessment should be made to the condition of the wheelsets during the summer. so that routine wheel lathe work can be undertaken then. This would leave lathe capacity free in the Autumn free to address tread damage caused by sliding wheels. Something else those nasty private train operators tend to do. At the end of the day there is no engineering solution to November. But good management should be able to mitigate its affects.

Jerry Alderson   29/11/2016 at 20:51

On Friday 25th November I was at KGX/STP LUL station and passengers were restricted from passing through the barriers because of severe congestion on the Piccadilly Line platforms, which was caused by a large number of cancelled trains. Not unreasonable, but... There seems to be no way of separating people who want to use the Piccadilly line from those wanting the Victoria and Northern lines, so we all had to wait (I was in the nothern ticket hall area). There needs to be a better way of segregating routes lines.

Tom Gupta   01/12/2016 at 15:18

Firstly Sacking Strikers is not the answer...I mean for starters you would then have more people out of work and less people to operate train services. Secondly I use (although not the Picadilly line) the Underground (along with the Overground and Mainline) to get to work each morning. Closing a whole line down, especially in a week day rush hour, is not an option. I mean I do understand, to a degree, the reason why (Health & Safety) however these trains have been running for decades and, those which haven't been fixed and are still running at the moment, can probably keep running for a few weeks more without the wheels disintergrating. There are also plenty of on (and off) train safety systems to keep Passengers, trains and crew safe on the London Underground, which is one of the safest in the world.

Howard Smith   02/12/2016 at 10:17

Tony Matthews, general manager for the line should resign as soon as this is resolved. Of course he won't, the RMT as usual are of no help to customers in fact they seem to resent that their members have to work during the day never mind a night time service. There are several very sensible suggestions on this thread about what could have been done TO STOP THIS HAPPENING. As usual with any problems like this it just ends up with the RMT and TFL using it as an opportunity to rubbish each other in the press. Who are the rael losers in this? The customers, who have absolutely no recourse. Will commuters be compensated? No Will there be the usual price hike in 2017? Of course there will. Prices go up service gets worse. I can't wait for Crossrail to open so that can be closed as soon as a leaf lands.

Alan Short   03/12/2016 at 12:01

I'm no expert in these matters but why doesn't the Bakerloo suffer as well. I understand the trains are of a similar design and even older and I believe they also travel outside of tunnels for part of their journey.

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