What would happen if the power failed totally?

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Comstock

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In The Taking of Pelham 123* the guard simply pointed out the live rail with his torch...

* The original of course, not the rubbish remake. Still my favourite train based movie of all time.
 
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Lewlew

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Greenwich Power station is still available for use to provide emergency power, this is intended to keep communications and lighting running as opposed to moving trains though.

It's not ideal but it's safe enough to walk along the track to the nearest station.
 
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In The Taking of Pelham 123* the guard simply pointed out the live rail with his torch...
Worse here, though, we've got the fourth rail to get you if the third doesn't...

* The original of course, not the rubbish remake. Still my favourite train based movie of all time.
An absolute classic. One of a number of perfect 70s films capturing what New York was like back then. There was a TV-movie version in between as well, but I haven't seen it. Perhaps it was truer to the original plot.
 

Mojo

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So if there was an region wide power cut some tunnels and stations would immediately go dark?!
No, because that isn't how power feeding arrangements work.

There are six Bulk Supply Points (BSPs) across the network which take in supplies from the DNOs (Distribution Network Operator - these are the organisations that supply electricity to businesses/houses/etc.) At the BSPs, supplies are transformed and distributed at high voltage to substations and transformer rooms where it is transformed & rectified to provide traction power, station lighting, lifts & escalators, pumps, compressors, and certain other services. Hence, the substations, which supply traction current and other local services, do not receive their power from local sources (so if there was a local power cut affecting the area around a traction current substation or a station, trains would not stop running and the lights won't necessarily go out).

Having said that; most stations work on a mixture of supply sources, with part of the supply coming from the DNO (ie. local street power), and the rest of the supply coming from LUL power supply (ie. originating from the BSPs). Further to this, sub-surface stations are fitted with an Off Line Battery Inverter, which is effectively a battery backup for use when both the DNO AND LUL supplies both fail. Note there is more detail to this, however I have not included it here, because it is not obtainable in the public domain. Some stations (none of which are sub-surface) have the majority of their supplies straight from the DNO and these would be affected by a local power failure and would have to close.

A failure of one or more of the BSPs would result in services running in a very short timescale (as well as other services provided by a BSP) as switching can be carried out in a fairly short time. Usually this would be from other BSPs however the emergency generation from Greenwich may be needed in exceptional circumstances.

Apologies for any mistakes in advance - I'm fairly tired and also trying to avoid posting anything from my own knowledge that cannot be obtained from publicly accessible documentation/websites as this is obviously a security issue. I shall have a read tomorrow again of what I've posted but any clarifications won't be taken personally!
 

Meerkat

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No, because that isn't how power feeding arrangements work.

There are six Bulk Supply Points (BSPs) across the network which take in supplies from the DNOs (Distribution Network Operator - these are the organisations that supply electricity to businesses/houses/etc.) At the BSPs, supplies are transformed and distributed at high voltage to substations and transformer rooms where it is transformed & rectified to provide traction power, station lighting, lifts & escalators, pumps, compressors, and certain other services. Hence, the substations, which supply traction current and other local services, do not receive their power from local sources (so if there was a local power cut affecting the area around a traction current substation or a station, trains would not stop running and the lights won't necessarily go out).

Having said that; most stations work on a mixture of supply sources, with part of the supply coming from the DNO (ie. local street power), and the rest of the supply coming from LUL power supply (ie. originating from the BSPs). Further to this, sub-surface stations are fitted with an Off Line Battery Inverter, which is effectively a battery backup for use when both the DNO AND LUL supplies both fail. Note there is more detail to this, however I have not included it here, because it is not obtainable in the public domain. Some stations (none of which are sub-surface) have the majority of their supplies straight from the DNO and these would be affected by a local power failure and would have to close.

A failure of one or more of the BSPs would result in services running in a very short timescale (as well as other services provided by a BSP) as switching can be carried out in a fairly short time. Usually this would be from other BSPs however the emergency generation from Greenwich may be needed in exceptional circumstances.

Apologies for any mistakes in advance - I'm fairly tired and also trying to avoid posting anything from my own knowledge that cannot be obtained from publicly accessible documentation/websites as this is obviously a security issue. I shall have a read tomorrow again of what I've posted but any clarifications won't be taken personally!
Thanks for that, and I totally accept that you shouldn’t be giving out data useful for an attack!
i was thinking one of the huge events like when the vast area of the US went dark, so the answer I was looking for, and you gave, was that all sub surface has battery back up plus a generator.
 

Chris M

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In theory it would be possible to have a detrainment take place without any controlling minds knowing.
This (sort of) happened on the Overground at Peckham Rye in 2017 where passengers were detrained onto live track, although the detainment in this instance was due to a train fault not a power supply issue, and the power had never been turned off. It wasn't so much a "controlling minds not knowing" as a complete cock-up of communication between the overloaded driver and several different controlling and non-controlling minds (RAIB report).

More directly relevant perhaps are the uncontrolled self-evacuations, e.g. at Lewisham and Kentish Town. It's theoretically possible for something similar to happen on the sub-surface lines, but obviously not in a deep tube where the only possible exits are through the front or back cab. LU also has much more robust procedures on evacuation and passenger communication than NR so the chances of it happening are very slim. SCDs will be placed before any organised evacuation takes place, and in the event of an uncontrolled one (other than perhaps directly from a train to a station platform) then the driver will arrange for power to be turned off as soon as they are aware of it.
 

jumble

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I have been evacuated from a train and was walked down the tunnel just once which must be 20 years ago
We were stuck on the train for at least 1 hour
I cannot remember if it was power or train failure
It was on the Waterloo and City and I had my three sons with me

In those days TFL issued family travelcards which cost me £4.00 odd for the day for all of us but TFL kindly gave back £16.00 in vouchers which was nice of them
 

simple simon

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Many years ago I was on a 1992 tube stock Central line train when most of the lights went out and the train suddenly came to a gentle* halt. This was in a tunnel somewhere near to Mile End.

*) ie: slowly, not as if the emergency brake had been invoked.

I never got to find out why it happened and I do not recall the train driver making an announcement explaining what was going on, the expected time duration, etc. Happily the emergency battery powered lights remained illuminated, so whilst it was darker than usual it was not any anyway 'pitch black'.

I think that some very early tube trains (pre-WW1) carried candles for the ultimate emergency lighting system!

However....... I have been in a tunnel in pitch black. In the days of the 1962 tube stock on the Central line the guards would switch the train lights off when travelling above ground on bright sunny days. Especially for trains to Epping the lights could be switched off at Leyton and would stay off for a long while. But, my journeys were to Gants Hill and of course trains on that route re-enter the tunnels immediately after leaving Leytonstone.

There was the one occasion when the guard forgot to switch the lights on at Leytonstone - and since I travel at the front of the trains (so that I will be near the platform exit at Gants Hill) so for a few seconds I was on a train in a tunnel in pitch black. At least, I think it was just a few seconds. In such darkness time is different. Oh and without visual input the usual 'sounds' seem louder. This is not something that I would welcome experiencing again.
 
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AM9

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Many years ago I was on a 1992 tube stock Central line train when most of the lights went out and the train suddenly came to a gentle* halt. This was in a tunnel somewhere near to Mile End.

*) ie: slowly, not as if the emergency brake had been invoked.

I never got to find out why it happened and I do not recall the train driver making an announcement explaining what was going on, the expected time duration, etc. Happily the emergency battery powered lights remained illuminated, so whilst it was darker than usual it was not any anyway 'pitch black'.

I think that some very early tube trains (pre-WW1) carried candles for the ultimate emergency lighting system!

However....... I have been in a tunnel in pitch black. In the days of the 1962 tube stock on the Central line the guards would switch the train lights off when travelling above ground on bright sunny days. Especially for trains to Epping the lights could be switched off at Leyton and would stay off for a long while. But, my journeys were to Gants Hill and of course trains on that route re-enter the tunnels immediately after leaving Leytonstone.

There was the one occasion when the guard forgot to switch the lights on at Leytonstone - and since I travel at the front of the trains (so that I will be near the platform exit at Gants Hill) so for a few seconds I was on a train in a tunnel in pitch black. At least, I think it was just a few seconds. In such darkness time is different. Oh and without visual input the usual 'sounds' seem louder. This is not something that I would welcome experiencing again.
Between Redbridge and Gants Hill in 1960, a Central Line 'standard' tube stock train had a major electrical arcing issue that caused a fire. The passengers were led out to the next station and the motorman had problems communicating and then isolating the track suppies. The MoT Ministry of Transport investigation and report gave a full account of the event and it's cause. See here:
http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/documents/MoT_Redbridge1960.pdf
The procedure for removing traction power on the track is explained and how in that instance, the procedure was not fully adhered to. The report makes an interesting read.
I remember this in my youth and saw on TV news the rather charred and smoke stained unit drawing into Gants Hill station.
 
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bluegoblin7

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I think that some very early tube trains (pre-WW1) carried candles for the ultimate emergency lighting system!

This was certainly the case on A60/62 stock at delivery, and I believe up until refurbishment. Indeed, trailer car 6036 - latterly used as the Rail Adhesion Car - retained a candle in its holder right up until withdrawal in 2018.
 

rebmcr

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This was certainly the case on A60/62 stock at delivery, and I believe up until refurbishment. Indeed, trailer car 6036 - latterly used as the Rail Adhesion Car - retained a candle in its holder right up until withdrawal in 2018.
Was any thought given to them after the Kings Cross fire? Potentially they were deemed acceptable for emergency-only use, or perhaps never considered?
 

pitdiver

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Let me throw this into the mix. The power failure occurred on the hottest day of the year, On one of the trains a lady had gone into labour. The train was on the Picc between Turnpike Lane and Manor House. On the Northern one train had come to a halt on one of the junction this particular train was crushed loaded as were the trains on the Vic and the Central.
Which trains get priority,. When I worked for LUL I was seconded to Staff development. We created a desk top exercise along these lines (Pardon the Pun). It was very interesting seeing how various groups resolved the issues.
 

simple simon

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Was any thought given to them after the Kings Cross fire? Potentially they were deemed acceptable for emergency-only use, or perhaps never considered?
I recall discarded newspaper causing a track fire one morning (prior to Kings Cross) when I was on my way to school. This was at Liverpool street station (subsurface) on the eastbound track where it exits the tunnel from Moorgate. It was caused by discarded newspaper being ignited by negative pick-up shoe arcing - in those days there was a point here so that trains could access the track for the bay platform. I used to meet a group of friends here and catch the 8:14 to Amersham (from the bay platform). We noticed the flames licking the negative rail and informed a member of station staff who came to see for himself. I remember him saying "ooh theres a fire!" in a rather shocked tone of voice. He ran off and quickly returned with a bucket of sand and within barely a few minutes the fire was out. By this time however an eastbound C stock train had arrived on the scene - the train driver stopped in the tunnel a safe distance away from the flames.

Nowadays a similar incident would have seen the station evacuated, the fire brigade called and thousands of people (passengers) have their travel disrupted. Quite possibly the station staff would not have even tackled the flames, even though it was very small, risking it become a bigger fire by the time the fire brigade had arrived.

btw, re: Kings Cross, I recall there being much fuss in the media in the days before the fire because a government-inspired economy had decreed that escalator shaft cleaning should be reduced from nightly to alternate nights, thus allowing for a greater build-up of combustible things like discarded cigarette butts. Even during the height of WW2 the escalator shafts were cleaned nightly. As a non-smoker I was pleased to see smoking banned - but also horrified in the way this was achieved

This was certainly the case on A60/62 stock at delivery, and I believe up until refurbishment. Indeed, trailer car 6036 - latterly used as the Rail Adhesion Car - retained a candle in its holder right up until withdrawal in 2018.
A stock?! I was thinking of much older trains! I recall the A stock having battery fed tungsten lights... two above the guards' area plus singles scattered through the rest of the train
 

Dstock7080

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Nowadays a similar incident would have seen the station evacuated, the fire brigade called and thousands of people (passengers) have their travel disrupted. Quite possibly the station staff would not have even tackled the flames, even though it was very small, risking it become a bigger fire by the time the fire brigade had arrived.

A stock?! I was thinking of much older trains! I recall the A stock having battery fed tungsten lights... two above the guards' area plus singles scattered through the rest of the train
That’s not quite fair as small fires are dealt with locally by staff using extinguishers, red buckets of sand and water no longer adequate.

A Stock certainly had candleholders when built as did District CO/CP Stock
 

Mojo

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That’s not quite fair as small fires are dealt with locally by staff using extinguishers, red buckets of sand and water no longer adequate.

A Stock certainly had candleholders when built as did District CO/CP Stock
Agreed, Train Operators and station staff regularly attend to and put out fires on the track. Whilst the fire brigade legally have to be called, in most cases they do not have to go on the track; if the fire has successfully been put out by staff, confirmation can be given by LU staff on site to the senior fire officer in attendance that the fire is all out.
 

jopsuk

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I don't know what LU training is like, but when working in labs where it was important our fire extinguisher training (including live fire exercises- much fun!) emphasised that extinguishers are for clearing a path to safety
 

sharpley

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Do they still do 'operation Bismarck' once a year?, where the power is turned off during engineering hours to test backup systems / UPS etc. Used to be done on a Saturday night as I remember, but not sure if it's still done what with night tube. Been a few years since I worked on LUL.
 

rebmcr

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I don't know what LU training is like, but when working in labs where it was important our fire extinguisher training (including live fire exercises- much fun!) emphasised that extinguishers are for clearing a path to safety
It's easier to be ultra-cautious when that doesn't strand thousands of people in tunnels. On the operational LU, there is justifiable weight placed on keeping the trains moving, to avoid causing more medical incidents than are prevented.
 

simple simon

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That’s not quite fair as small fires are dealt with locally by staff using extinguishers, red buckets of sand and water no longer adequate.

A Stock certainly had candleholders when built as did District CO/CP Stock
Oh, thanks for the correction.

re: the candles, I was thinking of trains from even before the CO/CP stocks, that said I am not surprised they had these too.

But I am surprised that the A stock also had candle holders. Maybe I did see this - but did not realise / recognise what I was seeing. Any chance of a photo anyone, please?
 

philthetube

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Let me throw this into the mix. The power failure occurred on the hottest day of the year, On one of the trains a lady had gone into labour. The train was on the Picc between Turnpike Lane and Manor House. On the Northern one train had come to a halt on one of the junction this particular train was crushed loaded as were the trains on the Vic and the Central.
Which trains get priority,. When I worked for LUL I was seconded to Staff development. We created a desk top exercise along these lines (Pardon the Pun). It was very interesting seeing how various groups resolved the issues.
No train would be prioritised, should this be a network wide failure then local staff would have to organise evacuation, (they are trained to do this). passengers walking forward to the next station unless there are strong reasons not to, people not fit to walk will be left on the train until everyone else is off then a decision will be made about then, as I have said before, a few people on a stalled train is not a big issue, a rammed train is.

Paramedics, and probably a doctor will be called to the pregnant lady, a decision will be made which may well be for have to have the child on the train.
 

simple simon

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