Work to upgrade the Victoria line will make it the most frequent Tube service in Europe, Underground bosses said today.
They said it would set the “gold standard” for public transport, with 36 trains an hour – double the number when it first opened in 1968.
An £11 million programme to replace a “scissors” track-crossing outside Walthamstow Central station has forced the closure of the northern end of the line for three weeks and disruption for thousands of east London commuters.
But Tube bosses said insist the long-term gain will be worth the short-term pain, with passengers seeing train frequencies increase from 24 to 36 trains an hour when a new signalling system is installed next summer.
David Waboso, capital programmes director at London Underground, said: “We are renewing the ironwork, track, foundations signalling and power so we can get trains to come in faster and leave faster.
“Because of that, we can get more trains per hour into Walthamstow, which will mean we can increase the number of trains in this section of the line from 24 to 36 an hour from next year. It will be a massive improvement for our customers.
“We think 36 trains an hour will make it the most frequently used line in Europe, apart from Moscow, which runs 40.
“I think the Victoria line now sets the bar for where we want to take our next lines. Thirty-six trains an hour is really pushing at being the best in the world.
“Across most of our modernised lines now, we are pushing the barrier to 30 trains an hour on the Jubilee line, the Central line and increasingly the Northern line when we get the next section of the upgrade finished.”
The three-week closure has taken three years to plan. About 300 contractors are working round the clock to complete the project by August 30, with services resuming for the August bank holiday and Notting Hill carnival.
The Standard was given access to the tunnels and saw how a new interchange will allow trains to be “turned around” at Walthamstow Central much more quickly.
As a driver gets out of the cab at one end of the train, another will be ready at the other end of the platform to drive it back towards Brixton. At peak times, trains will be about only 50m apart.
Programme manager Mark Maher, 42, is continuing work started by his father Harry, now 81, who helped dig the tunnels for the Victoria line in the Sixties.
Mark Maher said: “When the original tunnel was being dug from 1964 onwards, him and a few other parts of my family were working here as tunnel minders and pit bosses for the duration of construction.
“He would probably like to come down here and check my work to make sure the quality was there.
“People of today’s age don’t really understand the complexity of the work there was to build it.”