Robert Preston samples the first of 75 six-car London Underground trainsets to be refurbished

Bombardier Transportation's Derby works is now executing a £77m contract to refurbish the fleet of 75 six-car D78 trainsets that operate on London Underground's District Line.

Undertaken by Metronet as part of its 30-year Public-Private Partnership contract to upgrade and maintain rolling stock and infrastructure on LU's Sub-Surface Lines, the project aims to provide a modern passenger environment on what is now London's oldest unrefurbished metro fleet until new trains from Bombardier arrive on the District Line between 2010 and 2016.

Inside the train, new seat shells from MTB Equipment have been fitted, with seat cushions covered with moquette supplied by John Holdsworth & Co. The original seating layout has been retained, except at one end of each car where a 'multi-purpose area' with two tip-up seats and space for one wheelchair has been created. As they were delivered new to LU before 1999, the D78 cars are exempt from the UK's Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations specifying provision for disabled passengers, but the refurbishment has attempted to meet RVAR standards wherever feasible within the 10-year service life of the renovated trains. Passenger grabrails have been installed in a new configuration, coloured green to contrast with the rest of the interior as the RVAR require.

Interior materials fitted during the refurbishment including new floor coverings meet improved standards of fire resistance, offering some of the best performance on any LU fleet. New windows have been cut in the car ends as LU specifications now require, helping to create a lighter, safer atmosphere, and each car is fitted with two CCTV cameras as well as new passenger alarms.

The passenger information system has been supplied by Focon Electronic Systems, including in-car displays and, for the first time on LU, dot-matrix destination indicators on the side of the cars. Sound quality of the public address system has been improved and additional speakers fitted, with the name of the next station now announced automatically. The driver has a menu of 450 pre-recorded messages that can be broadcast to warn passengers of disruption on the District Line and other routes.

Air-conditioning has been installed in the driver's cab, and in the passenger saloons thermostats have been moved away from opening hopper windows to improve the performance of the heating and ventilation system.

Under the PPP, Metronet is obliged to complete the refurbishment of the D78 fleet by March 2009, but its contract with Bombardier specifies completion by February 2008. The third refurbished trainset entered service on June 20, with the fourth expected to return from Derby on August 31. A total of 68 trains is required to operate the peak-hour service on the District Line, and Bombardier and Metronet have agreed to share any LU performance penalty incurred by having four trains out of service at any one time for refurbishment.

  • CAPTION: Metronet's refurbishment of the D78 fleet has focused on creating a modern passenger environment equivalent to that on a new train. Wooden floors and orange moquette dating from the late 1970s have given way to new materials, while grabrails have replaced strap hangers, and in-car displays (left) now provide passenger information. The substantial metal armrests installed during the refurbishment programme (below) should prove more resistant to vandalism