“I can’t imagine a more relaxing job: I sit here and I drive an armchair. It’s wonderful!” — 1995-stock Train Operator
“They’re rubbish, one hundred per cent rubbish; I don’t like ’em.” — 1995-stock Train Operator
This page was last modified on 12 August 2002 (title picture re-scanned 15 December 2007).
The 1959 stock and 1972 MkI stock trains on the Northern have now been replaced by 106 brand-new six-car trains; unlike other stocks, these trains are provided to LUL on a day-by-day basis for a 25-year period by Alstom Train Services Ltd, who took charge of the depots and workforce. Alstom, formerly GEC Alsthom and before that Metro-Cammell, built the fleet in Birmingham; the bodyshells for these and the 1996 stock were fabricated in Spain.
This type is designated as 1995 Tube Stock (although the year 1996 appears on the step-plates of all cars). The Northern Line's new trains are outwardly similar to the Jubilee Line's 1996 stock, but they actually have more modern traction equipment (Insulated Gate Bi-polar Transistor power electronics instead of Gate Turn-Off Thyristors), which means that, unlike the Jubilee trains, the Northern ones don't make the "gear-changing" noise when accelerating from rest.
These trains share many features with the 1992 stock, including externally-hung doors, car-end windows, digital voice-announcements. The Northern Line one is called CELIA which, as well as being the name of the nice lady who spoke them, actually stands for "Complete Electronic Line Information Announcer"; some folk have come up with alternatives, the politest being "Creates Excellent Line Information Ambience". The 1995 stock is currently being operated at 65% of its potential; an option in the Train Management System is used to de-tune the trains' performance until new track and signalling work has been carried out in the future. '95 stock has the ability to be driven automatically: however, Automatic Train Operation on the Northern Line isn't ready yet (actually, it won't begin to be installed until the re-signalling which is expected to happen in about 2005) and the trains are driven manually. They are also equipped with in-car recorded video surveillance, which operates on a time-lapse basis until an emergency-alarm handle is operated, at which point it records in real time. Some features which are not shared with 1992 stock include tip-up seats (8 per car) which create more room for standees or wheelchair users, and a lack of the large windows found on the Central stock. The latter difference is because the bodyshells are of similar design to the Jubilee 1996 stock, whose profile and window-arrangement was designed to fit in with the 1983 stock shape. The two Jubilee types were expected to run together, but with the scrapping of the 1983 stock this is now not going to happen.
As with all new rolling stock, the '95 stock had its fair share of problems to begin with. Following testing between Golders Green and Edgware only (necessitating installation of tripcock-testers at Colindale, both roads), trains entered service on 12 June 1998. The stock was only cleared to run services over the whole Northern Line in October 1998 after a substantial delay whilst Alstom made the platform-to-train CCTV to work over various troublesome sections (particularly on the Bank branch, apparently). Alstom produced these trains at the staggering rate of nearly two per week, although this should be put into context by noting that the bodyshells were imported ready-build from a Spanish manufacturer. However, it took much longer than half a week per train to commission them, especially as that process involves running fault-free over a considerable distance (it used to be over 1000km, but was reduced to 600km to speed delivery): even more so when it is appreciated that the Northern Line is busy enough carrying passengers as it is, without out-of-service trains on test being slotted into the timetables!
Accordingly, a great many of the new trains were delivered to Ruislip from Washwood Heath, Birmingham (by rail via Didcot and Greenford), acceptance tests were carried out and then they were sent off to be stored out of the way at places like MOD Kineton in Warwickshire, and Fordingbridge in Hampshire. All the trains have at last been delivered for the final time; the last unit to be (re-)transferred from Ruislip to Golders Green was 51646 on 2 March 2000, using 1962 ex-Central-Line stock-pilot unit 1560, and the 106th and last train to enter service on the Northern Line was 51598+51599 on 10 April 2001.
This unit is formed of cars
51705-52705-53705; the circle
after the car number as shown indicates that this is a de-icing unit.
This means that the centre car (a trailer) is fitted with a tank and
applicators for spraying the current-collection rails with something akin
to anti-freeze. The driver has just entered what will become the leading
cab (and can be seen hanging up his coat) but has not opened up yet,
hence the lack of headlights or destination indication (it was to become
a train to High Barnet via Bank). The railing in the foreground has a
metal sheet mounted on the side facing the train, which is painted green
with yellow and black symbols to show drivers the correct stopping-point.
Mounted beneath the platform-edge coping at the correct distance from
this stop marker, a transmitter loop sends information to a sensor at the
rear of the leading car, which allows the train doors to be opened (part
of the Correct Side Door Enable (CSDE) system).
When this platform opened in 1914 as Charing Cross station on the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway, it was the only platform on that line: the southbound tube from what was then Strand station ran 180 degrees round to the right, forming a turn-round loop. This one platform was built partly on the loop, which is why today's Embankment northbound platform curves sharply to the right at first, straightening out by the far headwall. For a fuller and more concise explanation, see the [Northern Line file of Clive's UndergrounD Line Guides]. Subsequently, the line was extended to Kennington, a new alignment with southbound platform built, and the loop line abandoned; the latter was plugged with concrete, partially filled with rubble, and during World War II was flooded.
Both Northern Line platforms at Embankment had wartime-installed floodgates at their north ends, despite the river being at the south ends; presumably the station tubes themselves could, if hit by a bomb, provide a path for the river to enter the system. This means that floodgates are also fitted over three passageway entrances to each platform: the heavy iron doors are shaped to match the curvature of the station tube, and are winched down their tracks from winding-gear located above the platform and train. The winding-gear and supporting beams can clearly be seen in this view. Note that there are now four passageway entrances (the fourth one bypasses the iron doors), and that all floodgates on the Northern are disused.
A separate item worthy of mention is the thick yellow stripe seen at the platform-edge beyond the first "Mind The Gap" marking. This is for aligning the OPO CCTV cameras whose pictures are transmitted to the cabs of 1995 stock, allowing the Train Operator (driver) to see the platform as he drives out of the station; such stripes (sometimes of a different shape or colour) can be found on all subterranean platforms on LU. These OPO markings must be just visible at the bottom of each on-screen picture, ensuring a positive overlap and therefore no blind spots. This platform manages with four OPO cameras (although there are six, Nos 1 and 2 are for the Guard's screens at the rear of the platform, and do not relay into the 1995-stock cabs); at the most sharply-curved platforms, Bank (Central Line), there are six cameras in use to provide coverage round the corner for the Train Operator.