Thursday, July 21, 2011

My recent trip to Canada feels almost like a dream now. Montreal and Toronto were hazy and hot, with the Biosphere pavilion, in Parc Jean-Drapeau, a strange utopian vision in the distance. But what interested me particularly was trying out the Underground – or Metros, as they call them - in the two cities, and comparing the result with London. Both had large, wide tunnels with trains running both ways, leading to air being able to flow. The London network was nicknamed ‘The Tube’ for a reason – namely that the narrow tunnels are literally like a tube, with heat unable to escape anywhere. Consequently, even if the grills on a London Underground train are opened in the summer in order to let in air, they are essentially just blowing hot air into the train. On top of this, the ancient, creaking, Byzantine nature of the LU infrastructure of signals exacerbates many of the problems which any frequent user will attest to.
Having viewed underground metros in other cities, it seems to me that the only way that the LU’s conundrums can be really solved is by building entirely new tunnels, this time suitably large in length, right near the existing ones. This would mean that an entirely new track and infrastructure could be built. These new tunnels could then eventually link up with the existing stations. There could then also be exits in the stations to the old tunnels, which could be used as underground cycling tunnels. In the cycling tunnels you could have bright lighting and places to drink water.
Admittedly the idea sounds far-fetched – try convincing any member of TfL, as I have - but it would certainly iron out the Underground’s endless cycle of problems. It would also cost billions upon billions of pounds, of course – but then, in all likelihood, so is Crossrail.