Commuters at end of London Underground Metropolitan line slam 2-hour journeys into London

It’s a Metropolitan malaise. The world’s oldest underground railway line is facing a heap of ongoing problems: staff shortages, train cancellations and random gaps in services.

Residents who live at the end of the line in the Home Counties and the tip of North West London have now had enough. All the way out in Zone 9, a group of commuters in despair have now rallied together to start a petition to force Transport for London (TfL) to make improvements to the line.

Although those in the Home Counties do not live in London, they pay TfL fares, work in the capital and are the worst affected by the ongoing disruption.

READ MORE: ‘We were sold a lie’: East Londoners hit breaking point over Crossrail delays

Posters such as this are being posted at stations between North Harrow and the end of the line, the lack of precision regarding the ‘special timetable’ is confusing and frustrating passengers

3 centralline

We’ve created a Facebook group for people who travel on London’s bus, rail, Underground, Overground and DLR services.

We will keep you informed about the latest news that affects your daily commute to work, as well as at the weekend.

We’ll also let you know in advance if there are any roadworks, railworks or closures you should know about, or if there are any problems on the city’s tube network.

Join the group here.

How it all got like this

The Metropolitan line is unique on the London Underground in that it operates more like a railway than a Tube line. In fact, Chiltern Railways trains use the exact same tracks, platforms and operational systems when running between Harrow and Amersham.

It means that specialists are required to manage the service day-in day-out at the control room, which is now located in Hammersmith (not actually on the Metropolitan line). During the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of Metropolitan line controllers available shrank because some retired and some had to self-isolate.

Normally London Underground would be able to train people up to replace them but social distancing measures which were in place for months meant they couldn’t carry out the training. It means that for a year, there have been numerous occasions when there has been only one or no controllers available and the service has collapsed. The line cannot run without a controller and if there’s only one controller, nothing can move if they need the toilet or a lunch break.

Although TfL is now able to carry out the training, the situation is still ongoing as the complexities of the line means it takes months to train controllers fully and an industrial relations dispute with the RMT over controller working conditions means its not a popular position.

Combine that with drivers needing to self-isolate, peak hour travel suppressed but a boom in weekend travel meaning the timetable has to adapt, still needing to complete engineering works and continuing industrial disputes between train drivers and management and the Metropolitan line passengers are suffering.

0 Chesham station

Chesham station only has only platform and is at the end of a single track so can only take a train every 30 minutes

Fast or semi-fast

One of the most annoying things about the Metropolitan line is that what it says it’s doing and what it’s actually doing are recently turning out to be two different things.

Although TfL publishes a formal, public timetable for the Metropolitan line (unlike other lines), these stipulate that there is an all stations train every 15 minutes to Watford, plus all stations trains every 30 mins to Amersham or Chesham (which are fast or semi-fast in weekday peak hours).

However, MyLondon has observed over 12 consecutive weekends where either fast or semi-fast trains have been running, or that trains to destinations such as North Harrow, Pinner and Northwood are down to every 20 minutes.

There have also been occasions of tube trains running from Amersham/Chesham to Watford instead of Central London, using a branch which does not even appear on the Tube map as it is only served by two or three trains per day.

Passengers have told MyLondon of instances where trains have started off as all stations and then turn into semi-fast or fast trains or are diverted from Amersham to Chesham and vice versa. Many are now reporting two hour-long journeys between Chesham and the capital.

1 Met Line fast

Trains can run fast or semi-fast meaning they skip out stations, which then have busier trains

A game of Chesham

Chesham, the station furthest north on the Tube, gets a single Tube train every 30 minutes because it only has one track and one platform. It means that if one train is cancelled, there’s nothing for an hour. If a train is delayed, the next one is almost guaranteed to be too as it will block the single track for too long. Amersham, with three platforms and sidings does not have this problem.

Will Burrell, a commuter from Chesham tells MyLondon: “What annoys me most is that the Metropolitan line control are consciously cancelling Chesham bound trains, as opposed to Amersham bound trains (which has a Chiltern train service as well) because it is easier for the signallers to manage trains from Amersham than it is from Chesham. So it is just laziness on their part.”

Lauren, who as a nurse has been travelling on the line throughout the pandemic, adds: “The constant cancellations or last minute terminations of the already sparse services to Chesham adds to the stress and time of what is already a difficult job.”

I feel that TfL treats the Chesham line as the poor relation, and that there are far less Amersham trains cancelled. The customer service communication at Chesham also leaves a lot to be desired.”

MyLondon put these concerns to TfL which insisted that London Underground prioritises Chesham services wherever possible but this is sometimes difficult owing to the single line and shortage of drivers.

A TfL spokesperson said: “We apologise to Metropolitan line customers who have been impacted by short-notice cancellations caused by pandemic-related staffing issues. Our service control centres and pool of train drivers have been particularly impacted by Covid-related absences, due to the relatively close proximity nature of working, and we have also seen delays in being able to train new staff members as a result of Covid-related restrictions.

“We are working hard to address this and have a number of drivers due to qualify in the coming weeks, which will help us to run a more regular and reliable service. We are working on measures to improve communication around delays and cancellations and in the meantime encourage customers to check before they travel.”

Unsatisfied passengers have now started an e-petition and have contacted the newly-elected Amersham and Chesham MP Sarah Green who will be requesting meetings with TfL and has submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests regarding specific cancellation figures.

Passenger numbers are expected to rise in the coming weeks, with TfL reporting as much as 70 per cent of pre-pandemic usage on certain portions of the network..

1 Met line dep board

If a train to Chesham misses its slot on the single track, trains are terminated early at Rickmansworth or diverted to Amersham leaving passengers stuck of with longer waits

0 GettyImages 1028621910

MyLondon’s brilliant new newsletter The 12 is packed with news, views, features and opinion from across the city.

Every day we’ll send you a free email at around 12pm with 12 stories to keep you entertained, informed and uplifted. It’s the perfect lunchtime read.

The MyLondon team tells London stories for Londoners. Our 45 journalists cover all the news you need – from City Hall to your local streets.

Never miss a moment by signing up to The 12 newsletter here.

Are you affected by ongoing disruption on the Metropolitan line? Email [email protected] as MyLondon continues its reporting

You can also leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the situation.

Read More
Read More

Recommended For You