London Underground Rolling Stock

Sizes of cars - Types of Train - Rolling Stock Summary - Links to Rolling Stock details

Sizes of Cars

The London Underground operates two different types of rolling stock - tube stock and sub-surface stock. The sub-surface stock is similar in loading gauge to full-size British main line rolling stock but the tube stock is considerably smaller in order to fit in the single track circular tube tunnels. Although this size restriction imposes some special design requirements, particularly in the area of bodies and bogies, much of the train equipment was standardised for both tube and surface stock. Recent advances in power electronics have reduced the levels of standardisation.

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Fig 1:  Diagram showing the principal differences in dimensions between tube and surface stocks.

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Fig 2:  London Underground tube stock and the larger surface stock at Rayners Lane.  The 1973 Tube Stock is in the reversing siding used by the Piccadilly Line while the A Stock (on the right) has come from Uxbridge.

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Types of Train

One FAQ often heard is why a standard tube train design is not used on all tube lines and a standard surface stock design for all surface lines. There are a number of answers. Firstly, almost every line has individual characteristics. The Central and Victoria Lines, for example, have 132 metre (450-foot) platforms and can accommodate longer trains than the 107m (350-foot) platforms standard on many other tube lines. Another example is the use of Automatic Train Control (ATC) on the Victoria Line and a newer form of electronic ATC on the Central Line. Both these lines need special stock. The Piccadilly Line serves Heathrow Airport and its stock is also special, being provided with additional spaces in each car for passengers to store luggage.

The surface lines also have differing characteristics which call for different stocks. The dense traffic on the Circle Line, for example, is better catered for by stock with fewer seats and more doorways than the Metropolitan stock which serves the outer suburbs on the Amersham, Watford and Uxbridge routes. The District line also requires high capacity stock, even though it makes long journeys into the suburbs. The present D Stock has a door arrangement quite unsuited for dense traffic but it was built in an era of dwindling traffic and expected falls in service levels.

Another reason for the different types of stock is that replacement has to be spread over many years. Suppliers could not be expected to re-equip the whole of the Underground in a few years with almost 4000 new cars and then remain idle for 30 years until new stock was needed again. Cars are therefore replaced in batches, usually on a line-by-line basis, taking into account changed traffic requirements, extensions built, technical improvements and modern design expectations.

Currently, the London Underground has nine main types of passenger stock; three surface stocks and six tube stocks. The tube stocks are identified by their date of ordering, e.g. 1967 Tube Stock, which is the oldest tube stock now in regular passenger use. Surface stock is identified by a letter followed by two digits which indicate the year ordered or production started, as in A60 Stock. Entry into service is usually a year or so later and may be spread over a year or two after the production run starts.

Another number which appears on the train is the "set number". This is displayed at each end of the train to identify its duty in the timetable. The number is set up by the crew preparing the train for service and it is retained by that train as long as it works that particular path in the timetable for that day. It provides a useful means of quickly identifying trains and is used whenever reference made to particular service trains.

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Rolling Stock Summary
Type of Stock Line Number of Trains and (Cars) Builder Delivered Refurbishment
TUBE STOCK          
1967 Tube Stock Victoria 43 x 8 (344) Metro-Cammell 1967-69 Tickford/Rosyth
1972 Tube Stock Bakerloo 36 x 7 (252) Metro-Cammell 1972-74 Tickford/Rosyth
1973 Tube Stock Piccadilly 86.5 x 6 (519) Metro-Cammell 1974-77 Bombardier
1992 Tube Stock Central 85 x 8 (680) BREL 1991-94  
1992 Tube Stock Waterloo & City 5 x 4 (20) BREL 1991-94  
1996 Tube Stock Jubilee 63 x 7 (441) Alstom 1996-98  
1995 Tube Stock Northern 106 x 6 (636) Alstom 1996-00  
Total tube cars   2805      
‘A’ Stock Metropolitan 56.5 x 8 (452) Cravens 1960-63 Adtranz
‘C’ Stock Circle, Hammersmith & City & District 46 x 6 (276) Metro-Cammell 1969-71 & 1977-79 RFS
‘D’ Stock District 75 x 6 (450) Metro-Cammell 1979-83 Bombardier
Total surface cars   1178      
Total all cars   3983      

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Links to more detailed information on Underground rolling stock:

Car Numbering, Sizes and Dimensions - A page showing the car body dimensions and numbering systems of the various types of trains used on London Underground, plus a list of destinations available on trains.

A Stock - The surface stock trains used on the Metropolitan Line.

C Stock - The surface stock trains used on the Circle and Hammersmith & City Lines, plus the District's Edgware Road to Wimbledon services.

D Stock - The District Line's main fleet of trains.

1967 Tube Stock - The Victoria Line's fleet

1972 Tube Stock - The Bakerloo Line's fleet

1973 Tube Stock - The Piccadilly Line's fleet

1992 Tube Stock - The Central Line's fleet

1995/96 Tube Stock - The Northern and Jubilee Lines' fleet

1967 Tube Stock Photo List - Several pages of photos of features and descriptions of the 1967 Tube Stock on the Victoria Line.