Aerodynamics of Underground Trains Extended Essay

Full Essay Title

Can London ‘Tubes’, travelling in the Underground part of the network, be improved in a way that results in a greater economical benefit to TFL, by focusing on the aerodynamics of the bodies?



This was a project that was conducted after the finish of my AS-Level exams, in a similar fashion to the Extended Project Qualification (offered as an AS-Level). It was a largely self-guided research task, though under the supervision of academic staff from my school. Under marking, this essay scored an A (the highest grade offered).



Aerodynamic Design is something that while prevalent in other transport industries, such as automobiles and various over ground train services, seems to have taken a backseat through multiple iterations of London Underground’s Rolling Stock. The aim of this project is to determine why TFL and their designers/engineers must have consciously rejected prototypical aerodynamic design in favour of literally tube shaped trains. It has become apparent through research that in this industry, while the underlying Physics and Engineering concepts play a large part in design, in some instances like this, practical considerations, such as Safety, Air Conditions and the cost of Physical Space have to be taken into account too. It’s also possible to say that even with scientific factors, there is sometimes a trade-off between making one better and another worse, for example here a decrease in frontal drag force represents an increase in Rolling Resistance, in a way that would not be expected on an above ground network. Therefore, the current design is a compromise between efficiency and usability/suitability for this particular network, and takes into account the unique challenges of an underground situation built over 150 years ago.