Firstly thanks to Chris n Neil for looking after the blog while I've been away, but what a welcome back from Cuba to read what seems like a science fiction headline in the Evening Standard. "Air-conditoned Tubes on way". It's not jet lag, or an illusion caused by too many mojitoes:
Sheriff Ken who's also not been long back from a trip to Cuba (at least mine didn't cost 30,000 quid) said the £3.1billion upgrade "is the next stage of TfL's investment in the renewal and improvement of LU. Passengers will benefit from air-conditioning and extra space on the trains" (see Metro for more on this)
The cooler, longer, newer trains will only be on the Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith & City and (hoorah, hoorah) District Lines which are used by more than one million people each day and it will take until 2013 before all of the new trains are in service. But it's the first time that the entire fleet of 177 trains on the four lines will be replaced.
Quite how the air conditioning will work on the new fleet tailor-made by Bombardier in Derby, I haven't managed to fathom out yet. End-to-end open gangways and wide aisles will allow each train to fit 340 more passengers than current maximum of 3,881.
There's always a Cassandra in the wings wringing their hands with tales of doom and gloom and this time it's in the shape of Geoff Pope, the Liberal Democrat transport spokesman on the London Assembly who predicts that works to extend platforms would cause disruption.
"The last thing we want is the kind of mess-up that occurred recently due to contractor overruns when Tube lines were not handed back in time for the morning's rush hour.
"London already has one misery line, we don't need another four."
Damian Hockney, leader of the One London party on the London Assembly was in a similarly cheerful mode "Adding a seventh carriage to the Circle line could mean closures and disruption for years. Rather than looking too far into a crystal ball and proposing more disruption, we need to start with the major problems we have at the present."
And Brian Cooke from London TravelWatch added "Obviously, better trains mean better journeys for passengers, but we do question whether the same interior seating design is suitable for the long journeys, of over and hour on the Metropolitan Line and for the short journeys that are the norm on the Circle Line."