Signals upgrade to shut Northern line early on weekdays for up to 18 monthsRoss Lydall
The Northern line is to close early on weekdays for up to 18 months for a major upgrade of signals.It will shut at 11.30pm — an hour earlier than normal — north of Kennington between Mondays and Thursdays from July. In addition, its southern section — from Stockwell to Morden — will be closed for 16 weekends from March because Transport for London has refused to allow it to close early during the week.
The early weekday closure will mean that there will be fewer trains in the evening, probably from around 8.30pm, as they have to be returned to their depots.
Tube Lines has been given permission for 16 weekend closures, from Friday evening until Monday morning. These will only involve sections of the line being shut, rather than the entire line.
However a Tube Lines spokeswoman admitted that many more closures would follow as TfL had yet to agree to all its requests for track access to instal a new signalling system - the same as on the Jubilee line - to enable trains to run more frequently.
Tube Lines is required to complete the upgrade by the end of 2011, in time for the London Olympics, though fears have been raised that its financial difficulties could see the work overrun.
The practice of closing Underground lines early during the week was first used on the Victoria line, with services ceasing at 10pm. This is considered preferable to the recent practice on the Jubilee line of a seemingly endless series of weekend closures, which has sparked anger with work eight months behind schedule and not due to be completed until autumn.
Tube Lines's outgoing chief executive Dean Finch will be grilled on his company's plans tomorrow when he appears before the London Assembly's transport committee at City Hall.
He has previously told the Evening Standard that the Northern line's Bank branch was likely to close early as passenger numbers at stations such as Bank and Moorgate dropped dramatically after the evening rush-hour.
There were fears that early closures could leave passengers trying to get home to the suburbs stranded in central London.
But Brian Coleman, Tory London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, said: “It's not perfect but it's better than it could be. We need the upgrade work to be done, and done to timetable and to budget. As long as people know where they are, they can plan around the early closures. We just need to keep a rush-hour service going.”
Meanwhile, Tube Lines has indicated that it may challenge an independent ruling that it is liable for a £327 million compensation bill caused by delays to its work on its 30-year contract on the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines.
“Tube Lines might decide there are aspects of that claim which are worthy of further challenge," Mr Finch told the Financial Times.
The Assembly meeting will also question Chris Bolt, the arbiter on disputes between Tube Lines and TfL on the cost of the PPP (public private partnership) deal to upgrade the Tube, and London Underground interim managing director Richard Parry.
The two parties are at loggerheads over the cost of the second 7.5-year contract to continue work on the three lines for which Tube Lines is responsible. TfL believes the bill should be £4 billion but Tube Lines wants £5.7 billion.