Behind the scenes: Escalators and lifts

Liverpool Street station construction

Like our other Tube assets such as trains and track, we regularly maintain and renew our escalators and lifts. Find out why their maintenance is critical to ensure reliability and safety.


Keeping escalators and lifts in top condition helps ensure the safety and accessibility of our network.

Our escalators are heavy-duty machines that carry millions of people each year. We refurbish them every 20 years and replace them every 40 years. 👷

Our lifts get a routine maintenance check every two weeks, a full MOT every six months and a partial refurbishment every five years. Older escalators were bespoke but the new ones are modular, which makes them easier to refurbish and replace. We’re using new traction lifts which are faster and more energy efficient. 👍

Over its 40-year Lifespan, an escalator travels the equivalent distance of a trip to the moon and back. 🌑🚀

It’s essential that we keep our escalators and lifts in top condition so that the network is safe and accessible. Due to the nature of the work, replacement and refurbishment can take a number of months to complete.

Why escalator and lift work takes time

Our escalators are different from those in places such as shopping centres, supermarkets and department stores. Escalators at shopping centres are only used during opening hours only and cope with fewer people than a public transport escalator. 👫

Escalators and lifts on the Tube network are used around 1.2 billion times a year! Most of them are in operation in both directions for up to 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, 364 days a year. 👇👆

Now that the Night Tube is running some escalators also operate 24 hours a day at weekends.

Escalator and lift replacement and refurbishment can be a lengthy process because of the size and difficulty of the task. 👷

The reasons for this are:

  • Old escalators often support other structures which we need to carefully manage during replacement and refurbishment works
  • In some stations, the escalators form part of the station structure
  • Escalators are heavy-duty machines, custom built for each station
  • Parts are manufactured from scratch and installed deep underground in confined spaces
  • Because of their size, teams deliver escalator parts in short engineering hours
  • A typical heavy-duty escalator weighs 40 tonnes and has a vertical rise of 15 metres. If laid flat, it would be over 37 metres long
  • For a typical 15-metre rise escalator, there are approximately 15,000 moving parts
  • All Tube escalators have full communication, fire detection and suppression systems. We test and declare the escalators operational before the public can use them
  • Lift replacement work often takes place deep underground, in cramped lift shafts

All of this means it can take a number of months to complete. 📅 We’re always looking at ways to reduce disruption to customers while we undertake lift and escalator work. For example, we sometimes replace more than one lift at a time to reduce the overall time they are unavailable.

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