Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
East London Line
The section beneath the Thames was originally a foot tunnel built by Marc Isambard Brunel between 1825 and 1843, one of several Thames foot tunnels. In 1865 it was bought by the East London Railway Company and adapted for railway usage. The Company never owned or operated trains, instead leasing the use of the line to other railway companies. Five separate companies ran trains over the line, including the Metropolitan Railway and Metropolitan District Railway (now the Metropolitan Line and District Line). The other companies were the South Eastern Railway, Great Eastern Railway and London, Brighton and South Coast Railway.
As part of the completion of the Circle Line, a link was built from the Circle at Aldgate to the East London Railway via a connecting tunnel at Whitechapel. Although no passenger trains now use it, the tunnel still exists and is used to transfer empty trains between the East London Line and other portions of the sub-surface network. The first Underground services on the line began in October 1884, running to New Cross and New Cross Gate. Other railway companies ran services out of Liverpool Street station to destinations as far afield as Brighton. Evidence of this can still be seen at the northernmost station on the East London Line, Shoreditch, where the tracks connected to the mainline railway until the link was severed in 1966. The line was shared for many years by both Underground and mainline goods trains, the latter running from Liverpool Street until as late as 1962.
Underground services originally ran from the East London Railway's southern termini through to South Kensington via Edgware Road. This was eventually diverted to Hammersmith (providing the core of today's Hammersmith & City Line), while through services from the East London Railway eventually ceased altogether in 1941. The line was left as an isolated appendage on the edge of the Underground network, with its only passenger interchange at Whitechapel.
When ownership of the line was turned over to London Transport in 1933 it was operated as a branch of the Metropolitan Line, known variously as the "East London Branch" and later as the "Metropolitan Line - East London Section". On tube maps it was the same purple colour as the Metropolitan, but distinguished by a white stripe. In the 1980s it was quietly renamed to be a line in its own right, and later in the early 1990s its colour was changed.
The opening of the Docklands Light Railway provided a new connection for the East London Line at Shadwell (although the tube and DLR stations are 50 metres apart and the interchange is via the street), and in 1999 a new station, Canada Water, was opened to connect to the Jubilee Line Extension. The line still retains (for now) two distinctions: it is the second shortest Underground line, with an end-to-end journey time of only 15 minutes, and it is the only Underground line not to enter Travelcard Zone 1.
The line has for some years been grouped operationally with the Metropolitan Line and it still uses Metropolitan Line rolling stock in a four-carriage configuration. Until 1985, trains on the East London Line were operated with guards as well as a driver; their withdrawal prompted an unsuccessful strike on the line in May 1985. The current rolling stock, built in the early 1960s, was upgraded in 1994 with improved suspension, lighting, heating and ventilation. Only six individual four-car trains run on the ELL. As of 2003, the line is maintained by the Metronet consortium under a Public-Private Partnership.
In order from north to south
- Shoreditch (opened 31 March 1913)
- Whitechapel (ELL platforms opened 31 March 1913)
- Shadwell (opened 1 October 1884)
- Wapping (opened 1 October 1884)
- Rotherhithe (opened 1 October 1884)
- Canada Water (opened 17 September 1999)
- Surrey Quays (opened as Deptford Road 1 October 1884)
- line splits
Extensions of the East London Line have been discussed for many years, with the intention of expanding the line from a small stub in the network to a major transport artery. In 1998, London Transport announced that it was seeking private funds to realise plans that had been discussed for some years to extend the line into south London, sharing track and stations with the mainline network (as already happens on parts of the Bakerloo Line, District Line and Metropolitan Line).
In 1999, proposals emerged for the East London Line and other "sub-surface" London Underground lines to be transferred to Railtrack (now National Rail), the rail operator responsible for maintaining the national rail network. This will see the line being integrated with the London suburban commuter network. Because of an inability to extend the platforms at the existing Wapping and Rotherhithe stations and make them fully compliant with current rail safety regulations, it was thought that they would be closed; on August 18, 2004, however, Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, announced that both stations will remain open, at least when Phase 1 of the project opens in 2010.
After the Government gave the go-ahead on 9 October 2001, the construction of the northern extension was due to begin in December 2001. However, it was held up when it came to light that a Grade I listed 17th century arch in the former Bishopsgate Goods Yard was to be demolished as part of the project. Campaigners launched legal action against London Underground in an effort to prevent the demolition, but the project finally received legal clearance in the Court of Appeal on 7 July 2003. It is now anticipated that the northerly extension should open in 2010 (at least to Dalston), hopefully in time for London's bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
This triple extension project is the first London Underground project to be funded through a Private Finance Initiative scheme, though the recent Jubilee Line Extension project was funded through a similar Public-Private Partnership scheme. The project will cost some £600 million and is projected to yield £10 billion in economic regeneration. It is still not entirely certain whether it will be completed, as the Treasury has not yet confirmed the full funding. On October 12, 2004, the Mayor of London formally confirmed that phase one of the East London Line Project would be delivered as part of the Capital Investment programme. A month later (on November 16), he announced that control of the project had formally passed from the Strategic Rail Authority to Transport for London, so that the project may be initiated and funded from TfL's five year investment programme.
The route of the northern extension was uncontroversial, as it was essentially confined to reusing the disused viaduct to the former Broad Street station. By contrast, the southerly route has undergone many changes and has not yet been definitively agreed; it has been suggested that an announcement might be made by the end of Summer 2004. The initial 1999 proposal mooted four options, all starting south of Surrey Quays:
- A line through Dulwich and Tooting to Wimbledon;
- One through Dulwich and Crystal Palace to Croydon;
- Through Denmark Hill to Clapham Junction;
- Through Sydenham and Anerley to Croydon again.
As a part of phase one of the extension project, the line is to be extended northwards from Whitechapel, with new stations created at Bishopsgate, Hoxton, Haggerston and Dalston Junction. In phase 2, the line will be extended to run parallel to the North London Line, going through Canonbury and terminating at Highbury & Islington, for interchange with the Victoria Line. The northern extension will require only about 4 km of new railway to be constructed, as existing but disused trackbeds (principally the Broad Street viaduct) will be used for most of the distance.
Shoreditch station, currently only served in peak hours and on Sunday mornings, will be closed, and, along with the track that links it to Whitechapel, will join the already lengthy list of closed London Underground stations. Statutory planning powers for this extension were granted in January 1997.
Early in the project's life mention was made of the possibilities of further extending the line from Highbury to Finsbury Park to the north, following the Network Rail Northern City Line tunnels, and Willesden Junction to the west, by way of Camden Road, Primrose Hill and Queen's Park, following the above-ground Network Rail North London Line tracks. These ideas are not in the present project. Its web site states the Finsbury Park is omitted because of operational complexity and says that the Willesden Junction branch could be considered as a separate project in the future.
As a part of phase two of the extension project, a 2.5 km link is planned to connect the line south of Surrey Quays to the overground Network Rail South London Line to Clapham Junction, by way of Queens Road Peckham, Peckham Rye, Denmark Hill, Clapham High Street, Wandsworth Road and on to Clapham Junction. A single new station at Surrey Canal Road would also be built. Initially, it was planned to run this line via East Dulwich to Wimbledon, but this plan has been shelved, probably permanently.
In phase one, the line will also be extended with a flyover link from New Cross Gate station into the Network Rail Croydon Line , joining Brockley, Honor Oak Park, Forest Hill, Sydenham, Penge West, Crystal Palace (by way of a branch), Anerley, Norwood Junction and terminating at West Croydon. Beyond the construction of a train servicing facility at New Cross Gate, little work will be needed to achieve this. Both of these plans were approved in October 2001.
There was some campaigning for this extension to go even further to Sutton, but estimates indicated that passenger usage would be so great that the line would be unable to take much traffic north of West Croydon and this option was not adopted.
- London Underground: East London Line
- Clive's Underground Line Guides: East London Line
- Thames foot tunnels
- East London Line Project (official home page)
- East London Line extensions map
Various sources have been used in the creation of this article, including the external links above and an email conversation with the ELL Project Team.
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