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Views on the Metropolitan Line

These pages give my view of the Metropolitan Line from Amersham. At times, my views may paint a negative picture, but I like the line and choose to use it

On these pages you can find - Introduction | The Met's Advantages | Some Reasons for the Met's Problems
The Future | The Met in the 1930s around Amersham | Old Met Tickets
Related Links | Amersham Home Page

Amersham Station 2001
Amersham Station on a Sunday in summer 2001,
looking towards Aylesbury with another A60 train in the sidings

INTRODUCTION - The Metropolitan Line has had a major influence on the development of Amersham over the past 125 years. (See "A Potted History of Amersham" here ). The last major change to the line was in the early 1960s when the line was electrified to Amersham from Rickmansworth. This change meant steam trains were replaced by new electric multiple unit A60 trains and London Transport services were terminated at Amersham, leaving only British Rail services running north to Aylesbury.

Amersham Station
Amersham Station on a Sunday in summer 2001,
looking towards London. The NHBC office block and multi story car park occupy the site of the former goods sidings and shed

Since then, not a lot has changed on "The Met". In the early 1980s there was a proposal to close Marylebone Station and terminate the Aylesbury / Marylebone trains at Amersham, passengers then having to continue their journey to London on the Metropolitan trains. However, this proposal was defeated and since then the British Rail services have undergone a major refurbishment with new trains and rail company - Chiltern Railway Company Limited, trading as Chiltern Railways. Now the service into Marylebone from Amersham is fast, reliable, fairly comfortable and seems popular. At peak times it is often hard to get a seat on the Chiltern services. There are also "express" services running non stop to and from Marylebone

Amersham Station
A Chiltern 165 unit prepares to leave Amersham for Aylesbury in April 2004

By comparison, the Met trains (now over 40 years old) are slower and not as comfortable. They have been refurbished, but they will not be replaced for some years. Following the change in funding of London Underground which took place in 2003, a private company is now responsible for running the Metropolitan Line (along with the District, Circle and Hammersmith and City) and there are plans to introduce new trains to a standard design to run on all the "sub surface" lines.

A60 Inside View
The inside of a refurbished A60 train.

Since their introduction in 1960/62, the Met's trains have had a major refurbishment which saw windows introduced at the end of the cars, new lighting and colours inside and out. The old unpainted aluminium finish was hard to clean when covered by graffiti, the units now have a vinyl like finish which makes cleaning easier.

Quick links - Introduction | The Met's Advantages | Some Reasons for the Met's Problems
The Future | The Met in the 1930s around Amersham | Old Met Tickets
Related Links | Amersham Home Page

Amersham StationAmersham Station
Amersham station in April 2004 showing the two types of service serving Amersham,
the Metropolitan service to Baker Street and the City and the Chiltern Aylesbury / Amersham service

THE METROPOLITAN'S ADVANTAGES - Even though the Met trains are slower and not as comfortable as the Chiltern Railways trains to Marylebone, they do have advantages -

1 They start at Amersham, so you always get a seat

2 They have great interchange with other tube lines - you do not have to go through ticket barriers like you do at Marylebone

3 If the trains are over 15 minutes late, you can claim the cost of your ticket back from London Underground through their Charter Claim system

4 The fares seem to be cheaper than similar lines (Beaconsfield / Marylebone or Hemel / Euston)

Baker Street
The Met enjoys quick interchanges with other tube lines without the need to go though ticket barriers.
Above the escalators to the Bakerloo and Jubilee lines at Baker Street

There is also another factor to consider. The data indicates the service is often late, but are other lines any better? Reports in the media would suggest other services into London can be unreliable.

In addition, comparing the Met to my experience of using other lines, the stations on the Met are better lit, have better information and seem to have more staff than stations on other lines. This makes the travelling experience seem safer and more pleasant. The A60 stock is also much better than other rolling stock elsewhere, even though it is now over 40 years old.

Bakerloo Train
The Bakerloo Line - a typical "Tube" line. The trains are smaller (above left) and whereas this is OK for inner London,
the Bakerloo travels far out into north west London through Queens Park (above right) to Harrow and Wealdstone.
The line sort of runs parallel to the Met and used to go out as far as Watford Junction. North of Queens Park it shares tracks
with London Overground (which runs a service from Euston to Watford). By comparison, the Met's A60 trains
are nicer than the Bakerloo stock and the stations on the Met are far superior with regards to lighting and staffing levels.

A point for concern is the lack of information often given to passengers when delays occur. On many occasions irate passengers are told by staff that they do not know why there were delays and cancellations. Drivers on several occasions apologies over the train loud speakers that they were unable to contact the line control room. If this lack of information and poor communication systems for staff is correct, it is rather worrying.

Quick links - Introduction | The Met's Advantages | Some Reasons for the Met's Problems
The Future | The Met in the 1930s around Amersham | Old Met Tickets
Related Links | Amersham Home Page

Baker Street
Baker Street in March 2004. Here the Met Main Line joins the Circle and Hammersmith and City Lines.
Any delay on these lines or signal or points failure at Baker Street or towards the City
causes great problems for all three lines which have to operate a high capacity integrated service.

SOME OF THE METROPOLITAN'S PROBLEMS - In my opinion, the Met has a number of reasons why it suffers from delays and problems -

1 The trains and signals are over 40 years old, reliability is an issue

2 When the Met gets to Baker Street, the line joins the Circle and Hammersmith & City Lines. A delay on any of these lines will cause a delay on the others. If there is a delay between Baker Street and Aldgate there is no easy way to move / cure the delay, trains back up and get out of sequence causing disruption to the timetable

3 The Met has to share track with Chiltern Railways trains, if one is late, it holds up the Met (and of course, the opposite can happen)

4 The Met has several branches which combine at Harrow on the Hill, a delay on one branch can cause problems on the others

5 During the autumn, the track is covered in fallen tree leaves. This poses problems for braking and acceleration of the trains. A special timetable is run giving the trains longer planned journey times and special trains run to clear the leaves from the track. It is not just a question of sweeping away leaves, the leaves are compared onto the track and form a slippery coating which is hard to remove

6 Like the rest of the Underground, investment has been delayed while the financing of the system was sorted out.
7 Perhaps the introduction of private companies to run and maintain the lines (different companies I believe) is causing problems of planning and coordination. The Met's services were badly affected by a cold snap in the winter of 2004, I heard one of the problems was that the line iced up, de icing trains could not run because another company was doing engineering works. If this is true, then it is another problem the Met has to solve

Quick links - Introduction | The Met's Advantages | Some Reasons for the Met's Problems
The Future | The Met in the 1930s around Amersham | Old Met Tickets
Related Links | Amersham Home Page

Edware Road April 2004
Unlike "tube" stations in central London (as in Edgware Road Bakerloo line above)
most of the Met's stations are above ground and have better facilities and staffing than many National Rail stations

THE FUTURE - In 2010 new S stock trains are to be introduced. They will be part of a standard fleet for use on all the sub surface lines of London Underground (Circle, Hammersmith & City and District). They will have air conditioning, should give a better ride, but will have fewer seats (the met trains will have more than the Circle and District trains, but fewer than the A stock). The fewer seats are to allow for heavier loadings in central London. They will have better acceleration and braking with a top speed of 60 m.p.h. (the A stock when first built had a top speed of 70 m.p.h., the world's faster 4th rail trains. A new singalling system will be introduced between 2014 and 2020 which will increase capacity on the line.

Amersham Station
A Baker Street service pulls into the platforms from the sidings at Amersham in April 2004

If London Underground is allowed a period of planned investment and funding, hopefully the service will continue to improve. It has to be said that in my opinion, since the revision of the timetable, the delays appear to be fewer, although there can still be major problems and the speed of the journeys is not what it used to be.

Chiltern had their franchise renewed for a 20 year period. This should allow them to plan and improve their services. They have provided new trains for their Birmingham service through Wycombe. They have also refurbished their current fleet introducing air conditioning (although I think the seats are not as comfortable!). There are plans to provide a service north of Aylesbury to Milton Keynes, a new station at Aylesbury park Way opened in late 2008. Perhaps if the line does extend one day to Milton Keynes then Amersham will again have a "long distance" train service again as it used to have pre the late 1960s.

There is one project on the Metropolitan which has been talked about for years, but because it is not within the Greater London area there are funding problems - no one can agree who will pay for it. The Croxley Raul Link is a scheme for a minor connection between Metropolitan at Croxley and the disused Croxley Green rail branch to allow Met trains into Watford High Street and Watford Junction. This link should provide more details. In my opinion this would be a very useful service. If the north curve at Rickmansworth was used, many interesting services could be run - Amersham / Chesham to Watford, or Chiltern services connecting to the West Coast Main Line, thus avoiding the need to go into Euston for connections. In addition a better station for Metropolitan passengers in Watford would benefit the Met.

Amersham Station
A recently arrived service from Aldgate at Amersham on an April 2004 evening

LINKS - You may find the following links of interest -
The Federation of Metropolitan Line Users' Committees

Just a quick note about the pictures on these pages. They have mostly been taken with an Orange SPV E200 camera phone (no flash - you must not use flash on the underground), so don't expect too higher quality images!

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