London Underground: Piccadilly Line Upgrade

New London Underground trains costing £1.5 billion will be launched on the Piccadilly line in 2025. Described as “Tube trains of the future”, the 94 Siemens-built Inspiro London trains were ordered in 2018 to replace the existing locomotives from the 1970s.

The major upgrade sees a new generation of London Underground trains going into service, complete with innovative new features. Transport for London has revealed they will have air conditioning, better accessibility and walk-through carriages. They will also be more spacious in general.

In addition, the new trains will improve sustainability by being lighter than the existing trains and by recovering energy when they brake. The lighter weight will also reduce the amount of track damage through wear and tear.

Piccadilly Line history

The Piccadilly line serves 53 stations, including Heathrow Airport, running from the north to the west of the city. A deep-level line, it is also near the capital’s popular attractions, including Buckingham Palace. As the fourth-busiest Underground line, it serves more than 210 million passenger journeys per year.

The first section opened in 1906 and ran between Hammersmith and Finsbury Park. It was known as the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway in the early years. In the early 1930s, it was extended to Uxbridge, Cockfosters and Hounslow West.

It received further extensions in the 1970s, mainly to serve Heathrow Airport, with the Heathrow Central extension being opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 16th December 1977.

Currently, 352 ft, six-car Tube trains serve the Piccadilly Line, after being launched in 1973, with further stock added by Metro-Cammell between 1974 and 1977 – these were 6 ft longer than the 1959 stock that they replaced. This meant there was more luggage space.

There had been no major stock upgrades on the line since the 1970s – until Siemens was awarded the contract to build 94 new Tube trains on 20th November 2018.

When will the new trains arrive?

Deliveries of the new trains will begin in 2023, before they enter into general service in 2025. They are being jointly manufactured in Goole, Yorkshire, and Vienna, Austria. The order has created work for around 700 people at the manufacturing plant in Goole.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has described the new trains as “a great step forward” for the city. He says the modernisation of the Tube network is a key part of his transport strategy to make London greener and more accessible.

With 10% more capacity than the current 50-year-old trains, the new models will use 20% less energy and will be the first air-conditioned trains to be launched on a deep-level Tube line.

The air conditioning will create a much more pleasant environment for passengers, especially in summer, when the temperature on the Underground can reach an uncomfortable 47°C in a heatwave.

In 2010, new S-stock trains were introduced on the subsurface lines of Hammersmith and City, Metropolitan, District and Circle, providing standard air-conditioning. The new Siemens stock will provide an even greater level of AC comfort for passengers on the deep-level Tube trains.

More investment needed

TfL has repeated its calls for further investment from the government to deliver a long-term funding model for more upgrades to the Underground’s ageing infrastructure.

Once launched, the new state-of-the-art trains will transform the passenger experience on the Piccadilly Line. However, with TfL’s finances significantly reduced due to the coronavirus pandemic, in November 2020, it needed a £1.8 billion Government bail-out to ensure services could continue.

In 2027, the frequency of trains on the Piccadilly line at peak periods will increase from the current 24 to 27 as part of the improvement programme.