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Machine to make tube passengers’ journeys smoother is first in UK

Tube Lines invests £500,000 in mobile wheel lathe at Stratford Market Depot to improve train maintenance

Tube Lines, the company rebuilding the Tube’s busiest lines, has introduced the United Kingdom’s first ever mobile wheel lathe to protect Jubilee line tracks and trains and ensure passengers enjoy smooth journeys.

The wheel lathe, located at Stratford Market Depot, will enable Tube Lines to make sure all 3,528 wheels on Jubilee line trains stay perfectly round. At present, very slight flats can occur following sudden braking. These hit rails hard, increasing the amount of maintenance required and sometimes creating a slightly bumpy, noisy ride for people in the train.

Introducing the lathe means Tube Lines will be able to improve maintenance efficiency, freeing up more trains for testing on the new signalling system which will be introduced in 2009 whilst delivering a full service to people travelling now. The upgrade will enable trains to safely run faster and at shorter intervals, meaning quicker journeys for passengers and shorter waits on platforms.

Tube Lines made the decision to introduce the wheel lathe after analysing the long-term needs of tracks, trains, passengers and the environment. The public private partnership tasks the maintenance and upgrade company with ensuring that its work takes into consideration the way every single part on the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly line will perform for the entire duration of its use and how its lifespan can be safely maximised through efficient, effective maintenance. The wheel lathe helps address this.

Since it will avoid unnecessary journeys for maintenance, it will also contribute in a small reduction in Tube Lines’ carbon footprint, which is currently being calculated. The metal removed from wheels by the lathe will be recycled.

Wheel lathes are already used elsewhere on the Underground but the installation of one at the Stratford depot has been complicated by archaeological relics in the foundations, as typical wheel lathes require excavation below normal ground level. These monastic remains were discovered when the depot was built in the late 1990s and forced architects to revise where they placed the main depot shed. To overcome these problems, Tube Lines has opted for a mobile wheel lathe, the first ever in the United Kingdom.

Dave Higginson, night infrastructure manager at Tube Lines said:
“We’re determined to maintain the Jubilee line as effectively as possible to ensure the trains work properly and provide a reliable, comfortable service to passengers. Tube Lines strives to identify new, better ways working and this new wheel lathe is just one of many initiatives to make sure we deliver an outstanding Tube for London.”

Tube Lines has obtained the wheel lathe from the manufacturer, Hegenscheidt MFD.

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