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At the current pace, transforming every subway line could take half a century and cost billion.
It is further along in its ambitious effort to modernize its signals and has emerged as a global leader in how to upgrade an aging subway, offering lessons to New York and other cities.
London has installed a computerized signal network on four of its 10 main subway lines, and work is underway on four more. In New York, the plans have been hobbled by an anemic schedule for upgrading tracks, a struggle to secure necessary funding and logistical challenges on a system that never stops running.
And when it fails, trains stop, delays pile up and riders fume.
With a modern signal network, trains on the system could run closer together and therefore more frequently, allowing the subway to absorb more riders as the city’s population grows. Another major city with an even older — although smaller — subway system is also confronting soaring ridership: London.