The Victoria line is a deep-level London Underground line running from the south (Zone 2) to the north-east (Zone 3) of London. It is coloured light blue on the Tube map and, in terms of the average number of journeys per mile, is the busiest line on the network. It is the only line on the Underground, except for the two-station Waterloo & City line, which is operated entirely underground, with the only section of track to emerge above ground being the route from Seven Sisters to the line's depot at Northumberland Park. The line has hump-backed stations which allow trains to store gravitational potential energy as they slow down and release it when they leave a station. This provides an energy saving of 5% and makes the trains run 9% faster. 183 million passengers use the Victoria line each year making it the fourth busiest line on the network. Each platform constructed specifically for the Victoria line from new is long.
A new tube railway running from Victoria to Walthamstow was first proposed by a Working Party set up by the British Transport Commission in 1948. The main purpose of the line was to relieve congestion in the central area. The Private Bill necessary for construction was introduced into Parliament in 1955. The Bill described a line from Victoria to Walthamstow (Wood Street). There was also a proposal, although this was not included in the Bill, for a subsequent extension from Victoria to Fulham Broadway station on the District line.
Construction work began in 1962 on the Walthamstow — Victoria section and continued until 1972, when Pimlico station was opened. A test tunnel from Tottenham to Manor House under Seven Sisters Road had been constructed in 1959 and this was later integrated into the running tunnels.
Barbara Castle, the Minister of Transport, gave approval on 4 August 1967 for the Brixton extension to be built. Preparatory work had already started at a site at Bessborough Gardens near Vauxhall Bridge Road in May 1967, and on 28 June 1968 Richard Marsh, then Minister of Transport, approved the proposal to build a station at Pimlico.
The name "Victoria line" dates back to 1955; other suggestions were "Walvic line" (Walthamstow - Victoria) and "Viking line" (Victoria - King's Cross). During the planning stages, it was known as Route C and then was named the Victoria line after Victoria Station by David McKenna, whose suggestion was seconded by Sir John Elliot.
The Victoria line was designed to relieve congestion on other lines, in particular the Piccadilly line, as well as to maximise possible interchanges. It had been intended to build the line past Walthamstow Central to Wood Street (Walthamstow), where it would surface to terminate next to the British Railways station. Proposals were also made to extend the line as far as South Woodford or Woodford, to provide interchange with the Central line. However, a late decision in 1961 saw the line cut back to Walthamstow (Hoe Street) station which was renamed Walthamstow Central in 1968.
Each Victoria line station apart from Pimlico was built as an interchange station, and several existing stations were rearranged to allow for cross-platform interchange with the new line. In some cases this was achieved by placing the Victoria line platforms on either side of the existing station, while in others the Victoria line uses one of the older platforms and the existing line was diverted into a new platform.
At Euston, northbound Victoria and Northern line (Bank branch) trains run along adjacent platforms, although they travel in opposite directions. "Same-direction" cross-platform interchanges are available at Stockwell (with the Northern line), Oxford Circus (with the Bakerloo line), Highbury & Islington (with First Capital Connect, originally the Northern City Line) and at Finsbury Park (with the Piccadilly line).
All Victoria line stations were originally tiled in a nondescript cool blue/grey colour fashionable at the time. Each station was decorated with tiled motifs in seating recesses to help identify the station. During the construction of the Jubilee line in the late 1970s, the original motifs on Green Park station were replaced by motifs matching the new design for the Jubilee line platforms. These were in turn also replaced in 2009 by replicas of the origin design.
The first section to be opened was between Walthamstow Central and Highbury & Islington. There was no initial opening ceremony, instead the normal timetable started on Sunday 1 September 1968. The first train left Walthamstow Central for Highbury & Islington at about 6.30am. Later that year, the section between Highbury & Islington and Warren Street was opened, again without ceremony.
The official opening ceremony took place at Victoria station on 7 March 1969: Queen Elizabeth II unveiled a commemorative plaque on the station concourse. After a short ceremony, she purchased a 5d ticket (five old pence = 2.08p) and travelled to Green Park.
Princess Alexandra opened the Brixton extension on 23 July 1971, making a journey from Brixton to Vauxhall. The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh had previously made a visit to the line during its construction. In July 1968, they visited tunnel workings under Vauxhall Park.
Service and rolling stock
Trains run every two minutes during peak periods. In normal service all trains run from Brixton to Seven Sisters with roughly three out of five continuing to Walthamstow Central.
When the line was first opened it was served by a fleet of 8 car (carriage) trains formed of 1967 Tube Stock trains. These were later supplemented by a number of cars of 1972 Mark I Tube Stock converted to be compatible with the 1967 stock. Ultimately there were 43 trains each of which were made up of two four-car units.
In the early planning stages of the line an articulated type of rolling stock was considered but the idea was dropped because of difficulties in transferring the stock to Acton Works for heavy overhauls. With the demise of Acton Works this requirement no longer exists and the new 2009 tube stock has a wider profile and slightly longer carriages which currently prevent it running on other deep-level tube lines.
The line is equipped with an Automatic Train Operation system (ATO); the train operator (driver) closes the train doors and presses a pair of "start" buttons, and if the way ahead is clear, the ATO drives the train at a safe speed to the next station and stops there. This system has been in place since the line opened in 1968, making the Victoria line the world's first full-scale automatic railway.
The replacement of the 1967 stock commenced on July 2009 as part of Transport for London's 5-year £10 billion redevelopment project. The replacement for the line's 1967 Tube Stock will be the 2009 Tube Stock built by Bombardier Transportation. The first prototypes were built in 2006 and tested out of service from 2008, with the main fleet introduced into revenue service from 2009 to 2012. Information posters on the new trains state that, from early 2010, there will be one new train introduced into full service every two weeks. The signalling will also be replaced with a more modern ATO system from Westinghouse Rail Systems during the Victoria line upgrade.
When the Victoria line was constructed, severe budget restrictions were imposed and as a result the station infrastructure standards were lower than on older lines and on later extension projects. Examples of these lower standards include narrower than usual platforms and undecorated ceilings at Walthamstow Central, Blackhorse Road and Tottenham Hale, adversely affecting lighting levels. At most stations there is still a concrete staircase between the up and down escalators, where an additional escalator could be installed. The lack of a third escalator can cause severe congestion at peak times. However in recent years an additional escalator has been installed in place of the fixed stairway at Brixton (2004) and Vauxhall (2006).
There have been station closures for safety reasons, when both escalators have been unserviceable. Over many years, heavy equipment has been installed in unsightly fenced-off sections at the ends of platforms owing to the lack of anywhere else to install them. It is not clear from Transport for London's Five-Year Investment Programme whether these shortcomings are likely to be remedied.
Supporters of Tottenham Hotspur (and the club itself) have campaigned for a surface station to be opened next to Northumberland Park Station, adjacent to the line's depot. This would improve the football ground's transport links, seen as essential if the club's wish to redevelop their ground and increase crowd capacity is to become a reality. The idea was looked into, but Network Rail own the necessary land and need it for their own expansion plans.
If the Chelsea–Hackney line were to be built then it would relieve a lot of congestion on the Victoria line, offering an alternative route across Central London between Victoria and King's Cross St. Pancras.
For many years there have been proposals to extend the line one stop southwards from Brixton to Herne Hill. Herne Hill station would be on a large reversing loop with one platform. This would remove a critical capacity restriction by eliminating the need for trains to reverse at Brixton. However this would be expensive and cannot currently be justified on cost-benefit grounds. Because the current line is heavily overcrowded this is considered to be the only extension proposal with any realistic prospect of coming to fruition; but to have any hope of being built, it would have to be seen to be effective in reducing overcrowding (by enabling trains to run more frequently) and not to increase it.
The depot at Northumberland Park, the service and storage area for trains, is the only part of the Victoria line above ground. Trains access the depot via a branch line in a tunnel to the north of Seven Sisters.
The depot opened with the first stage of the line in September 1968. It is next to Northumberland Park railway station, on Tottenham Marshes in the London Borough of Haringey, over a mile from the Victoria line. When built, it was 900 feet (270 m) long and had working space for 22 eight-car trains. As part of Transport for London's tube upgrade scheme, the depot has been expanded and upgraded to accommodate all the 2009 Tube Stock trains.
- Northumberland Park Depot. Metronet Rail. Retrieved on 2008-06-30.
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- Although the system was tested on the Tube on a smaller scale before that, initially on a short section of the District line; then a larger trial was carried out on the Central line between Woodford and Hainault. See:
- Driverless metros poised to expand, http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/single-view/view//driverless-metros-poised-to-expand.html, 2000-03-01, (Accessed: 2007-10-25)
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- House of Lords, Column 747, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199798/ldhansrd/vo980225/text/80225-09.htm, 1998-02-25
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