"... remote Pimlico, a distant outpost of Empire where even the bus numbers were unrecognisable."
- Flat On My Back
The Victoria Line has always been tied up with plans to relieve loadings on the Charing Cross branch of the Northern Line and to provide a route from the Lea valley area of northeast London to the West End.
The first plan which was a recognisable precursor of the Victoria Line appeared in 1937. A new express tube line would run from Victoria to Finsbury Park via stations at Piccadilly Circus, Tottenham Court Road, and Camden Town, after which it would surface and take over the LNER branches from Liverpool Street to Palace Gates, Enfield Town, and Chingford (in the same way as the LNER Fairlop Loop and Ongar branch were taken over by the Central Line and the Northern Heights branches by the Northern Line). The GN&CR branch of the Northern Line would also be extended north from Finsbury Park to join it, providing a route into the City as well as the West End (the branch would continue to serve the Northern Heights branches as well).
In 1939 this was expanded into plans for an express tube that would be built in three stages. The first stage would run from Morden to Victoria with two intermediate stations, at Tooting Broadway and Clapham Common; however, in service the new line would have taken over the existing Northern Line tubes and all-stations service south of Clapham Common, while the Northern Line from central London would use the new "express" tunnels to reach Morden with only one stop. Stage 2 would continue to Finsbury Park, but now via Green Park, Bond Street, Great Portland Street, and Camden Town. From there, the third stage would involve two branches northwards as well as continuing to accept some trains from Moorgate via the GN&CR; one would replace the LNER services to Cuffley, surfacing north of Bowes Park and replacing four surface stations with tube ones, while the other would run to Enfield Town, surfacing just beyond Seven Sisters.
After World War II, a 1946 plan for London envisaged providing a completely separate express route under the Northern Line, allowing the Victoria and Finsbury Park route (now called "route 8") to serve new markets. It would now be a main-line tunnel connecting the SR just north of Norbury with the LNER north of Finsbury Park, with stations at Streatham, Streatham Hill, Brixton, Stockwell, Vauxhall, Victoria, Hyde Park Corner, Bond Street, Euston, and King's Cross St. Pancras. The following year London Transport published its rival "scheme D" for a conventional tube line. This would have started just north of South Croydon, with four new stations south of Norbury and three north of there; trains would run from Coulsdon North and Sanderstead. North of Victoria the route slipped eastwards, calling at Green Park, Oxford Circus, King's Cross St. Pancras, Barnsbury, Finsbury Park, Manor House, and Seven Sisters before splitting, with one branch to Blackhorse Road and Walthamstow Central and the other surfacing south of Northumberland Park where it would use the LNER tracks to Waltham Cross.
In 1949 the two plans were merged, now under the name "route C". In essence this consisted of the 1946 route from East Croydon south of Victoria and the 1947 route north of there. The Barnsbury station was dropped while the Waltham Cross route was cut back to Angel Road and remained in tube throughout. This line would also be tube-train sized; main-line size tunnels could not be fitted through the Oxford Circus interchange. By 1951 the Angel Road branch had been dropped, the tube swinging north to call at Tottenham Hale instead. At the east end the line would now surface at Walthamstow Wood Street and take over the NR line from there to Chingford. Around the same time Warren Street station and the Highbury & Islington interchange with the GN&CR were added. For a while there were plans for a further station at Manor House, either providing interchange with the Piccadilly Line or allowing the latter to be diverted on to a shorter alignment, but these were dropped in 1954.
Parliamentary powers were finally sought in 1954. The line would only run from Walthamstow to Victoria initially, but two separate southward extensions were intended.
Though the route was decided and Parliament had approved it, the line was now stuck for lack of finance. Savings were identified by abandoning the connection at Walthamstow Wood Street, instead terminating the line in tubes at Walthamstow Central, and by adopting new, cheaper, tunnelling techniques (tested along the line of route in 1960 and 1961). These savings, together with the adoption of new financing rules allowing social benefits to be taken into account, were sufficient to justify the cost of the line and allow the go-ahead to finally be given in 1962. Finally, in 1965 - just in time to allow continuity of the construction work - authority was given to extend the route as far as Brixton, with Pimlico station being a last-minute addition to the plan.
The name "Victoria Line" was chosen through a lack of any better ideas; attempts to repeat the (accidental) success of "Bakerloo" produced only the rather dubious "Walvic Line" and the better, though historically irrelevant, "Viking Line".
key to symbols
|1968-09-01||4||Walthamstow Central to Highbury & Islington opened|
|1968-12-01||2||Highbury & Islington to Warren Street opened|
|1969-03-07||2||Warren Street to Victoria opened|
|1971-07-23||||Victoria to Brixton opened|
|1984-11-23||Warren Street to Victoria closed (fire damage at Oxford Circus)|
|1984-12-18||2||Warren Street to Victoria reopened|
|2000-03-20||Walthamstow Central to Blackhorse Road closed (escalator repairs at Walthamstow Central)|
|2000-03-21||Highbury & Islington (escalator repairs)|
|2000-03-31||0||Walthamstow Central to Blackhorse Road reopened|
|2000-04-03||Highbury & Islington|
|2000-08-04||?||Victoria to Brixton closed (track work at Brixton)|
|2000-08-26||3||Victoria to Brixton reopened|
|2003-12-21||Stockwell to Brixton closed (asbestos removal at Brixton)|
|2004-01-04||0||Stockwell to Brixton reopened|
|2005-07-07||King's Cross St. Pancras (bomb explosion on Piccadilly Line)|
|2005-07-15||King's Cross St. Pancras|
|2006-04-07||Stockwell to Brixton closed (asbestos removal at Brixton)|
|2006-04-18||0||Stockwell to Brixton reopened|
|2007-12-21||Victoria (refurbishment works)|
|2010-||?||Walthamstow Central to Seven Sisters closed (track replacement at Walthamstow Central)|
|2010-||? 2||Walthamstow Central to Seven Sisters reopened|
The line is in tube throughout (though the depot itself is on the surface). The southbound tube crosses over the northbound between Highbury and King's Cross, and back under again just south of Warren Street. This allows for cross-platform interchange at Euston (there was insufficient room to put the crossings any closer).
The line is equipped for automatic operation throughout, and trains are normally driven in this mode, with the drivers' work being limited to starting the automatics at each station and operating the doors.
The tubes were the first constructed with the new increased diameters chosen to reduce air resistance. Depending on the type of lining (concrete, bolted iron, flexible iron), the actual diameter varies between 3.71m (12'2") and 3.86m (12'8").
Because the line was deliberately designed to interconnect with existing lines, it has an unusually large proportion of interchanges: every station but one is either served by National Rail or another Underground line. Cross-platform interchange was also viewed as important; it is provided at five different stations. In two cases - Oxford Circus and Stockwell - the tracks were taken around the outside of the existing platforms, which were then shared. At Euston and Highbury & Islington the work was more complex: the existing island platform became the interchange platform for one direction of travel, while a new island was created for the other direction and one track of each line diverted into it. Finally, at Finsbury Park, there were two separate island platforms for the Piccadilly Line and the Northern Line; these were reconstructed as northbound and southbound platforms and the Northern Line was cut back to Drayton Park in consequence.
The normal service runs between Brixton and either Seven Sisters or Walthamstow. Currently no trains terminate at Victoria.
Between Seven Sisters and Brixton the peak service is 34tph and the off-peak 24tph (27tph on Saturday afternoons). Between Walthamstow and Seven Sisters it is 26tph in the peak and 18tph off-peak.
The minimum end-to-end running time is 30 minutes.
key to notation
Locations are listed down the page in the southbound direction.
|26.98||[end of track]|
|315847||36.29||Highbury & Islington|
|[tubes cross over]|
|302829||38.72||King's Cross St. Pancras|
|[tubes cross over]|
|49.02||[end of track]|
|349909||28.56||[north end of Northumberland Park Depot]|
|347902||29.45||[south end of Northumberland Park Depot]|
The line is served by Northumberland Park Depot. Because there was nowhere along the line to build it, it was placed next to the National Rail line south of Northumberland Park station, and is connected by a separate pair of tubes to the north end of Seven Sisters station.
A southbound Victoria Line train can become a southbound Piccadilly Line train at the south end of Finsbury Park station; a northbound Piccadilly train can become a northbound Victoria Line train, also at the south end.
This connection was not ready when the first trains were ready for test running, and therefore a temporary connection was made between Northumberland Park Depot and the adjacent National Rail line.
The line is operated by 2009 Tube Stock; the previous 1967 Tube Stock was withdrawn during 2011. The line is fitted with the Invensis Distance To Go - Radio (DTG-R) signalling system, which is only fitted to the 2009 Tube Stock; previously it was fitted with a bespoke Automatic Train Operation ("ATO") system. 2009 stock is fitted with both systems, while 1967 stock was only fitted with the older system. Both types are not normally fitted with tripcocks.
2009 Tube Stock is 40mm wider than 1967 Tube Stock, to take advantage of the wider tunnels, and therefore cannot run on any other line.
1967 Tube Stock trains were normally 8 cars (two 4-car units) but 4-car trains could run in service if they are "double-ended" (some units only had ATO equipment in one of the cabs and were thus "single-ended"). The stock could run empty on certain other lines if tripcocks were fitted, and were then limited to a maximum of 30 mph.
Some 1972 mk I Tube Stock trailers (formerly used on the Northern Line) were combined with double-ended units 1967 Tube Stock to produce single-ended units called "1967 mk III Tube Stock".
Other Tube Stock may run only under an engineering possession.
Back to the CULG index. Back to the Rail index. Back to Clive's home page.