Canadian Consulting Engineer

Merciless heat engenders cool ideas for the London Tube

June 29, 2007
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

The London Underground has been trying to find ways to cool off its trains, which according to reports have reached...

The London Underground has been trying to find ways to cool off its trains, which according to reports have reached untenable temperatures. Temperatures are regularly more 30 C and as one politician pointed out, conditions on the crowded trains are so bad they would not be legal for carrying livestock in Europe.
The problems of heat build up in the deep tunnels 60 metres below street level have been made worse by hot summers and underfunding, which has left station ventilation fans fall into disrepair. Unfortunately the system’s tunnels are small and leave no room for adding air conditioning units to the carriages. The BBC also reported that even if the trains were air-conditioned, the heat transferred to the tunnels would be dangerous.
In search of fresh ideas, three years ago the city’s mayor, Ken Livingstone, offered a 100,000 pounds sterling prize for new ideas in a program called “Cooling the Tube.” Suggestions ranged from the more serious ideas such as adapting the escalator shafts to move cool air downwards, to installing temporary ice blocks, or giving out packs of frozen vegetables or ice pops to passengers.
Now the London Underground engineers are tackling the problem. One solution being tested at Victoria Station uses groundwater cooling, drawing on water from an underground river.
At other stations, temporary portable industrial fans are being used to increase air circulation, while a mechanical chiller is being installed at the Oxford Circus station ticket hall. A new ventilation shaft is being installed at Liverpool Street station.
The system’s first air-conditioned trains are due to come into service in January 2010. In the meantime, London Transport is advising passengers to carry water and not to board if they feel unwell.
To see the ideas generated by the Cooling the Tube competition in 2003, see


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