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Tube History: A Brief History of the Victoria Line

Tube History: A Brief History of the Victoria Line

It might be hard to believe, but the Underground line, named after the United Kingdom’s second-longest serving monarch, is actually one of the babies when it comes to the Tube.  It’s also one of the only Tube lines to have just one extension.  Running from Brixton in South London to Walthamstow Central in the northeast of the city, the Victoria Line first opened in 1968, but its history starts well before that.  The first mention of the new line came in 1943 as part of the County of London Plan.  Five years later, the British Transport Commission set up a working party that proposed a line running from Victoria to Walthamstow Central. 

The line as proposed would help to alleviate congestion that had been a problem in Central London since the 1930s.  The proposed line would also link several important railway stations, including Victoria, Euston, King’s Cross, and St. Pancras.  To accomplish its goals, the BTC looked at the possibility of a deep-level tube and got a bill approved by Parliament in 1955.  That same year, the line was christened the Victoria Line after several other names were suggested, such as the Mayfair Line, the West End Line, Walvic (Walthamstow-Victoria), and the Viking (Victoria-King’s Cross).  Ultimately, British Transport Advertising decided on Victoria because it “sounded right.”

Despite the approval from Parliament and the new name from British Transport Advertising, nothing began immediately due to funding issues.  It wasn’t until 1959 that the first test tunnel was constructed between Tottenham and Manor House underneath Seven Sisters Road.  This test tunnel was eventually incorporated into the line.  Construction on the rest of the Underground line started in 1962 and continued until 1968.  The Victoria Line opened on September 1, 1968, and the first train rain from Walthamstow Central to Highbury and Islington.  Queen Elizabeth II then formally opened the line on March 7, 1969, when the rest of the line was completed all the way to Victoria. 

The Victoria Line was revolutionary when it opened as it was the first automatic passenger railway in the world.  All the driver had to do was close the doors and press a couple of buttons to send the train on its way to the next station.  The train is operated by a central control room, sending coded impulses along the railway.  Additionally, the initial design for the stations was in blue and grey tile, and the designers had some fun working puns into the decorations based on the station’s name, such as a ton of bricks for Brixton.

Meanwhile, even before the Victoria Line came online, London Transport was already planning the line’s first and only extension.  The extension from Victoria to Brixton was intended to be a “park and ride”, with commuters parking at Brixton Station and taking the Victoria Line further into the city since the station was located at the southern section of the motorway box.  Construction began the same year that the Victoria Line opened and completed in 1971, with Princess Alexandra taking the first ride from Brixton to Vauxhall.  Further extensions were considered but, to date, have not progressed beyond the proposal stage. 

Beyond the Brixton extension, not much more has changed in the ensuing years, with the exception of stock and facility upgrades.  In 1991, a walking path was constructed to connect the Victoria Line with the Circle Line at Victoria Station.  Platform bumps were added in 2010 and 2011 to increase accessibility by providing no-step access to the trains.  Twenty-four-hour Night Tube service was then introduced in 2015.  Today, while the Victoria Line is one of the newest and shortest of the London Underground railways, it remains an important part of transportation services in the city. 

Tube History: A Brief History of the Victoria LineLondontopia – The Website for People Who Love London

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