Piccadilly Line on holiday in Europe as new trains take a test trip to Germany
While rumours have been swirling that the Piccadilly Line on the London Underground is getting an extension all the way to Berlin, RailTech is here to set the record straight. Sightings of the distinctive new units taking a quick European vacation have been verified, but the real reason for the Continental crossing is entirely on business. The Tube trains have broken cover for the very unleisurely requirement of extensive testing, prior to being released for service beneath the streets of the UK’s capital.
The first of the shiny new Piccadilly line trains, set to start carrying passengers in 2025, has been spotted heading to a test track in Germany that will, forever be a corner of England. Before any patriotic readers get too excited at the prospect of a new British invasion, rest assured that the rest of the new trains are being lovingly crafted by all-British engineers at Siemens, in their spanking new factory in the very un-German town of Goole, deep in the white rose heart of Yorkshire. It just so happens that the first few units are being crafted at their Vienna factory in Austria.
Training at an air base
Now, these swanky little trains need a little holiday before they can dazzle Londoners. Siemens, being the genius they are, own an old British military base in Germany. Handily for the Piccadilly Line trains, they’ve set up railways for the sole purpose of testing trains. So, it’s no surprise that photos of a London Underground train taking a leisurely trip to Germany via Sankt Pölten in Austria have been popping up on social media.
New trains for the Piccadilly in Germany. These will be a huge upgrade for London when they’re introduced. Hopefully feeding into a wider line and signalling upgrade in the next 5-10 years (subject to funding) 🇩🇪 pic.twitter.com/sG40Ygjd1k
— Ed Dawes (@mindthedawes) July 19, 2023
The historic RAF Wildenrath air base – so close to the border that an enthusiastic landing would end up in The Netherlands, is now in the hands of Siemens Mobility, and has been since 1997. The eager Austrians have transformed into a rail playground, covered in railway tracks and loops for running trains in various scenarios – mostly involving going round and round. A dedicated track was even built especially for the Piccadilly line trains, completed earlier this year to welcome the first train to its temporary home away from home – something most RAF personnel might say it never was.
All aboard the hype train
These new Piccadilly Line trains are more than just pretty. They are the business, as every unit to emerge from the Goole factory is expected to attest. The current trains have been chugging along for over 45 years, and are ready for a well-earned retirement. The order to replace them was made in 2018, and the first of the 94 new trains are expected to join the London Underground fleet in 2025. These new trains are not just a cosmetic upgrade. There is half-a-century of new high-tech development behind the super-bright LED headlights that will light up the tunnels beneath Central London like never before and leave Ratty and his subterranean mates blinking in the white heat of technology. They’re fully walkthrough from end to end, come equipped with the world’s first deep-level tunnel air conditioning system (no more sweaty commuters), and have live in-tunnel information screens to keep passengers updated on transport services (and probably updated on advertising opportunities too).
Wider doors, for faster boarding and alighting, mean that more trains can run per hour. Transport for London expects peak capability on the Piccadilly line to increase from 24 to 27 trains per hour from 2027, resulting in a capacity increase of about a quarter compared to today. Before you question their arithmetic, there is a list of other tricks that make that possible. There’s a potential plan on hold to upgrade the signalling system too. If that goes ahead, capacity could increase to a whopping 36 trains per hour. So, while the Piccadilly Line won’t be reaching Berlin anytime soon, it’s all aboard the hype train for these new, sleek, and oh-so-modern trains that are set to spruce up London’s underground travel and bring joy to millions of commuters – well, bring more trains to millions of commuters. Until then, check out RailTech regularly for any other trains that might be enjoying their European holidays in style.