History Of The London Underground

History Of The London Underground



The London Underground, or Tube, is an iconic symbol of the city, much the same as the New York Subway is.  The Underground has been in operation for a very long time, and serves to help residents, visitors and business people get around the city, without fighting the congestion on the surface streets.

London underground

The London Underground contains 270 stations and serves approximately 3.4 million people on a daily basis (weekdays).  The system actually started in 1863, though it has grown immensely since that time, and has become an integral part of London’s transportation network.

For those seeking a rewarding career, the choice to become a London Underground train driver can be a remarkable one.  The job offers plenty of stability, excellent earning potential and numerous other benefits.  How do you go about getting started?  What sort of career path can you look forward to?  What sort of education is required to enter this field? This book will give you all the information you need to know about embarking on a rewarding career as a train driver on the London Underground.  You will learn more about the history of this iconic, vital transportation system, how to get the selection process started and even how to pass the interview for the job.

The history of the London Underground is one of gradual changes, as the system evolved from its simple beginnings into the modern transport system, which has become so important to Londoners.  In fact, you might even call the beginning of this monolithic system “inauspicious”.

A Need for Change

Before we delve into the history of the Underground, it is important to touch on the subject of why such a system was even begun.  While London has always been a hub of activity, dating back to pre-Roman Britain, an increase in traffic is what spurred the development of the Underground.  It was actually a combination of foot, road and train traffic that necessitated the beginning of the Underground system.

In the first half of the 1800s, train travel boomed.  In fact, there were numerous train lines that led to London.  However, many of these terminated relatively far from the city centre, making it difficult for passengers to reach their destination if it was in town.  This time was called “the Railway Mania”, and saw explosive growth of railways all around the world, not just in England.

During the 1830s, the need for alterations to the current train terminus system was noted.  In fact, an early plan was to bring a cut and cover type of track through the River Fleet valley toward the city.  However, the plan was never acted on, though it was revived in later years, and there were many different plans proposed and subsequently abandoned.

The plan that was eventually adopted was to run a broad-gauge line from Paddington Station on the Great Western Railway toward the city.  Paddington was, at the time, the furthest station from the city, and the completion of new stations only served to make the situation worse.  The plan was adopted by the GWR, as well as vouched for by the Great Northern Railway (GNR).  The entire plan was adopted as the Metropolitan Railway on the 7th of August, 1854.

Problems in the Early Years

Of course, the best-laid plans can often come to nothing.  For a long time, it seemed that the Metropolitan Railway would be one of those, as no progress was made for several years after the formal adoption of the plan.  This was due to the simple fact that there was little or no funding available.  Without funding to pay the workers, there was simply no way to build the railway.

However, in 1858, Charles Pearson (the driving force behind construction of the railway) announced that the system would provide working class people with affordable, simple transportation from the outlying areas into the heart of the city for work.  After this announcement, funding became available and construction continued.

Construction of the system advanced relatively quickly after that point, though there were still many problems that would crop up.  The line from Paddington to King’s Cross was completed as a cut and cover style, while the line after that point was simply open cut.  Throughout the process, excavations collapsed, causing a tremendous amount of additional work.  Later, the Fleet Ditch Sewer actually burst and flooded the entire system with sewage.  Finally, when the Board of Trade inspected the system, it required that the owners make additional changes.

With all the changes, problems and hurdles, the line finally opened in January of 1863.  The first day, more than 40,000 passengers were carried.  This set the tone for the rest of the development.  During the first year, the MetR faced another problem when GWR backed out of its decision to operate the line.  The MetR turned to GNR and LNW for locomotives, though, and GWR eventually began running a handful of trains again, as well.

It also took some time for the system to settle on fares.  Early on, the line charged 3d per return fare.  Later, though, this fare was reduced to a single penny per train.  With affordable transport fees, the MetR became an enormous hit.  In fact, by 1880, it was carrying 40 million passengers per year to and from the city and the Inner Circle was under construction.

Additional Growth Comes to Town

By 1871, the MetR line was in deep financial trouble, but it continued to serve the portion of the city’s Inner Circle that had been completed, in conjunction with the Metropolitan District Railway.  It was in 1884 that the MDR finally opened the City Lines and Extensions.  This completed the Inner Circle and passengers were able to ride the District trains throughout the southern half, or the MetR trains through the northern half of the circle.

Deep Tubes – The Beginning

Until the development of the deep tubes, the entire system was either open cuts or cut and cover.  However, in the 1890s, the first successful deep tube line was opened to the public.  This ran from King William Street to Stockwell.  Technically, the first deep tube system was located beneath the River Thames, but it was not successful and was closed shortly after opening.

However, the story was very different with the City and South London Railway (the one linking King William Street to Stockwell).  While the system was not particularly comfortable or spacious, it was popular.  The success of this line spurred a host of other plans for similar lines, many of which were approved.  However, a lack of funding kept almost all of them from even the beginning stages of construction.

By the end of the decade, only two new tube lines had come into existence.  These were the Waterloo and City Railway, which opened in 1898, and the Central London Railway, which opened in 1900.  The Waterloo and City Railway operated from Waterloo to Bank Station within the city, and the Central London Railway served what would become the Central Line in modern times.

However, there were other changes coming in 1900 – the birth of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London (UERL) was near at hand.  The power behind this process was Charles Yerkes, an American with experience operating electric trains and trams in the city of Chicago.  By 1902, he had purchased several lines and built a power station to supply electricity to deep trains.  This same year, the UERL launched.

Soon, UERL controlled many of the once-independent companies.  The only ones to remain out of the conglomeration were MetR, W&CR and the GN&CR lines.  However, things were to change after the end of WWI.

The Birth of the Underground

While UERL had been making headway by using the name Underground to promote the many lines under its control, a recognisable modern Underground system had to wait for the aftermath of WWI to evolve.  It was during this time that Parliament recommended that the city of London have a single traffic authority.  This was enacted to reduce high fares, unfair competition and ease the burden on the city’s passengers.  The post of Minister of Transport was created in 1919.

The London Passenger Transport Board (LT) was created during this time, and was actually an amalgamation of MetR, the Underground Group and the city’s bus and tramlines, as well.  The new board set several plans in motion for expansion and modification of the city’s subway system.  In fact, the entire system saw new growth, with lines being extended, new stations designed and built, and a number of other elements, until the outbreak of WWII caused it to halt.