London Underground is hotter than maximum legal temperature for transporting cattle

Temperatures on the Tube have soared above 30C during the summer heat
Hello,London Underground have known about this situation for many years, but as an organisation appear singular inept in resolving this long standing problem.

A few years ago they announced a programme to build a great many ventilation shafts, and we were expecting to be tendering to build them, but then it was all put off. I don’t know what happened subsequently.

About 6 years ago I attended a meeting at Portcullis House along with a number of other industry representatives about grid security and the large scale investment that was necessary.  One of the speakers spoke about the fear government has of a grid failure in London Underground on a hot day.

There have been several occasions when this has happened (one in February a couple of years ago).

It would be very easy for several trains to be halted at a peak period in Summer time in tunnels simultaneously, and these trains would take many hours to evacuate, by which time it is probable that even most fit people would have become ill.  The hospital emergency services would be overcome by sheer numbers of casualties because they have little if any spare capacity due to the normal everyday demand.

With our increasingly hot summers civil servants are very aware of the fact that the temperatures can often exceed levels that in the 1990’s killed over 3,000 people, over and above normal deaths, outside the Metro.

London Undergrounds only visible (to me at least) response is to advise passengers to carry a bottle of water with you at all times in hot weather when using the Tube.  If you are not aware of this, look out for the signs when you are next in London.

In my day to day job I have to write risk assessments for construction projects, and I am aware of what my and my colleagues legal responsibilities are under Health & Safety Legislation.  The Courts and HSE would come down onto my colleagues and I like a ton of bricks for ignoring, or proceeding with far lower risks of hazards occurring, and quite rightly so.

What puzzles me is why London Underground, Transport for London and Government can continue to have such a head in the sand attitude to the appalling hazard and risk that most of the Tube presents in hot weather.

It would make Hillsborough or the Kings Cross  events look relatively small scale by comparison.

Then consider the daily overcrowding on platforms in most central London stations.  If I was to write a method statement that suggested that my workforce were similarly crowded into a Manrider or crew bus I would quite rightly be in serious trouble.

Why is this not the case with the Underground?

Why do these bodies “exercise” their responsibilities in such a poor way, when almost all other bodies would not be allowed to do so.

These days when I go to London on a hot day I nearly always walk from the mainline stations to my destinations. It is surprisingly fast once you know the way, and I can get from Kings Cross to Holborn sometimes quicker than my colleagues have by tube, more safely and less hot and bothered by the conditions on the journey.





that is a very interesting idea – a large heat network to suck heat out of the London tube tunnels and use it to heat building in the winter.


Most office blocks do not need heating rather cooling, but there are large residential areas that do need heating and large HV heat pumps could do this as per the two x 90 MWe heat pumps in Helsinki and similar installations in Sweden.


As you say, the problem is caused by the tunnels heating up over decades, so the thing is to cool them down.  this could in principle be done by increasing winter ventilation at night to draw in cold night air, if necessary assisted by fine water spray systems which are widely used in eg Thailand to cool air by evaporation, an do not actually wet surfaces.




On 24 July 2014 19:13, Alexander Clarke [Claverton] <> wrote:


A long time ago in the early 1980’s when I worked for an energy consultancy doing work for GLEB, we received a report on London Transport underground trains consumption of electricity, which turned out to be a surprising proportion of London’s total consumption. We proposed energy efficiency measures, such as more regenerative braking (as opposed to rheostatic) in trains, efficient lighting, escalators, lifts etc.

One of the more radical proposals was that office buildings in central London close to the tube could be heated by waste heat from the tunnels, which would also serve to cool the tunnels. Heat pumps and a heat grid would have been required. Apparently, as the climate gets warmer and London’ more populous and the tube busier, the tunnels are gradually heating up over time, storing the heat and getting warmer each year. Ken Livingstone ran a competition for solutions to cool the tube. I believe the winner was cooling water pipes in the tunnels -or something like that.

Just adding air conditioning to trains won’t solve the fundamental problem of the build up of waste heat in the tunnels. More ventilation of the tunnels would help but London is already a heat island in summer. Solutions need to concentrate on energy efficiency and using the waste heat elsewhere to substitute for energy input.

Time to get thinking again on such lines, and another reason for putting in district heat grids.


Subject: [Claverton] London Underground is hotter than maximum legal temperature for transporting cattle
To: “” <>
Date: Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 12:52


Why not put a layer of water retaining textile on the carriage roofs, and then install water sprayers at the entrance and exits to tunnels.  you would presumably get significant evaporative cooling both  within the tunnels and outside?
If installed some way from tunnel entrances, then carriages would have at least been pre cooled by the time they enter the tunnel.

London Underground is hotter than maximum legal temperature for transporting cattle

So it may come as no surprise to learn that it would be illegal to transport livestock at the temperatures passengers are subjected to on the Tube.

EU legislation specifies that cattle should not be transported at temperatures higher than 30C.

But the mercury soared to 34.8C on the Central Line at Oxford Circus during rush hour yesterday, while the air humidity hit 45 per cent, the London Evening Standardreported.


Meanwhile, on the bus network, some services were subject to 35.5C heat.

Twitter users have taken to the social networking site to voice their exasperation and dread of travelling over the past few days.


And Transport for London conceded that it “still has much to do” to make the Underground more comfortable during the summer months, but promised that change was on the way.

David Waboso CBE, LU’s Capital Programmes Director, told theLondon Evening Standard: “We are investing millions to keep temperatures cool for passengers. New air conditioned trains are now operating on the Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith & City and are currently being rolled out on the Wimbledon to Edgware Road branch of the District line.


“By 2016, an air conditioned service of 191 trains will be in operation covering 40 per cent of the Tube network.

“But we know there is still much to do and cooling the other deeper lines of the Tube remains a considerable engineering challenge. However, we are making significant steps and Londoners should be assured that we are not complacent about finding solutions.”


Why not put a layer of water retaining textile on the carriage roofs, and then install water sprayers at the entrance and exits to tunnels.  You would presumably get significant evaporative cooling both within the tunnels and outside? If installed some way from tunnel entrances, then carriages would have at least been pre cooled by the time they enter the tunnel.



2 comments on “London Underground is hotter than maximum legal temperature for transporting cattle

  1. My solution would be to create shallow gullys and pump a small stream of water around the network alongside the tracks. The water could be taken from the bottom of the river and would cool the air as it went round the system.

  2. Pretty easy … district cooling for London. In other words, the same pipes as for winter heating, probably using the same temperature water too.

    The COP of absorption chillers falls as the water distribution temperature falls and it can’t go below a cut-off temperature which from memory is at least 75/80 degC. On the other hand, the COP of the CHP system rises as the water temperature falls.

    The trains used to have resistor braking. It’s hard to believe an ordanisation is sincere about saving energy if that practice continues. I wonder if any regenerative braking has now been introduced.

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