The Piccadilly line is the fourth busiest line on the London Underground network, however it had its origins in three seporate railways called the Brompton and Piccadilly Circus Railway (B&PCR) proposed in 1896, District Railway deep-level proposed in 1896, Great Northern and Strand Railway (GN&SR) proposed in 1898. These railways where combuned by the merican entrepreneur, Charles Tyson Yerkes who formed the Underground Electric Railways Company. The company was part of a larger group that built three underground railways, the Hampstead, Euston and Charing Cross Railway, the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway and the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway.
Construction on the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway began in July 1907 and the railway officially opened on 15 December 1906 between Hammersmith and Finsbury Park. The short branch from Holbon to Aldwych was delayed and did not open until November 1907. The railway proved popular from its opening, however it became commonly known as its abbreviated name ‘Piccadilly Railway‘. The line we see today is mostly from a series of extensions and changes to running-rights mostly absorbed from the District Railway, an extension northwards to Cockfosters and westwards to Hounslow was constructed during the 1920s and 1930s as a part of a national campaign to invest in the national infrastructure.
The line was further extended to Heathrow in 1977, first calling at Heathrow Central (Heathrow Terminals 1 2 and 3 today) then to Terminal 4 in 1984 and Terminal 5 in 2008. The line serves 52 stations over 71km (44.3 miles), this makes it the second longest line on the London Underground network and the second most number of stations after the District line.
Proposing A New Railway
Notice was given in November 1896 to construct a railway which would be entirely in tunnels and run between Air Street near Piccadilly Circus and Exhibition Road, South Kensington; the railway was going to be called the Brompton and Piccadilly Circus Railway (B&PCR). The railway would run beneath Piccadilly, Knightsbridge, Brompton Road and Thurloe Place with immediate stations at Dover Street, Down Street, Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge and Brompton Road. A short branch would be constructed east of South Kensington the terminus to a depot was planned to be located south of Brompton Road at the end of Yeoman Row. The electricity to operate the trains would be provided by Lotts Road Power Station. Royal Assent for this scheme was given on 6 August 1897 as the Brompton and Piccadilly Circus Railway Act 1897.
The District Railway also presented a bill in November 1896, their proposal was to construct a deep-level line beneath the sub-surface lines between Gloucester Road and Mansion House. The railway operated steam-hauled locomotives in the above tunnels and the new railway would ease congestion on the railway. A plan was also announced to allow the deep-level section to join the rest of the District Railway at Earls Court, this section would be powered by electricity and would be generated from a generating station adjacent to its Walham station (Fulham Broadway today). The bill received Royal Assent as the Metropolitan District Railway 1897 on 6 August 1897.
A further railway was proposed in November 1898, this was called the Great Northern and Strand Railway (GN&SR) and would operate between Wood Green and Stanhope Street in the Strand. The railway was backed by the Great Northern Railway (GNR) who operated the mainline suburban station at Kings Cross and saw the new railway as a way of reducing congestion on their lines. The railway ran directly below the mianline tracks between Wood Green (Alexandra Palace mainline station today) and Finsbury Park, the railway then turned south-west through Central london, running though Holloway, Kings Cross, Bloomsbury and Holborn. There where stations planned at Hornsey and Harringay Great West Railway mainline stations in addition to Holloway, York Road, Kings Cross, Russell Square and Holborn. Power for the railway would be provided by the Great West Railway (GWR) power station located at Gillespire Road. The London County Council planned the construction of Kingsway, with Aldwych and Stanhope Street scheduled for demolition therefore the southern terminus was relocated between the two road. Royal Assent was granted on 1 August 1899 as the Great Northern and Strand Railway Act 1899.
These three railways had permission to be constructed, however they operated in a highly competitive market and needed funding. There were five tube-railways with permission to be constructed and searching for finance by 1899. These where the Baker Street and Waterloo railway, Charing Cross Euston and Hampstead railway, the Great Northern and City railway and the Central London railway. The City and South London railway was also looking for finance to fund a series of extensions to their already operating railway, there were lots of plans for new railways that were also looking for finance before the formal proposal process.
Foreign investors came to the rescue, when Charles Yerkes brought out the District, Brompton and Piccadilly Circus and Great Northern and Strand railways. Him and his backers brought the majority of the shares in the District railway in March 1901. The Brompton and Piccadilly Circus and Great Northern and Strand railways where brought in September 1901. Yerkes created a new company called the Underground Electric Railway Companies of London (UECL) who took over control of the railways Yerkes owned and aimed to raise capital for the District railway electrification.
Creating the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway
The District railway and Brompton and Piccadilly Circus railway established a relationship through a successful joint campaign to oppose a competing proposition from the City and West End railway, while their bills where going through parliament in 1986. The plan was to construct a railway between Hammersmith and Cannon Street, this would render parts of their railways redundant. The District Railway purchased the Brompton and Piccadilly Circus Railway in late 1898 and a bill was quickly entered to extend the proposed Brompton and Piccadilly Circus Railway from Piccadilly Circus to Cranbourn Street, in the West End, and form connections with the Brompton and Piccadilly Circus Railway and the District Railways deep-level route. The eastern extension was rejected by the government, however the connection between the two lines and a capital injections from the District Railway was approved, receiving Royal Assent on 9 August 1899 as the Brompton and Piccadilly Circus Railway (Extensions) Act 1899.
The District Railway published notice for a bill in November 1899, the bill provided provisions for the deep-level route, which the company was unable to construct, and provisions for the extensions for the Brompton and Piccadilly Circus Railway. The bill included the construction of an electric generating station to be constructed at Lotts Road and an extension to the time to complete the planned extensions. The relevant permissions where given and the bill received Royal Assent n 6 August 1900 as the Metropolitan Railway Act 1900.
The Brompton and Piccadilly Circus railway sought permission for two further extensions in November 1900. The first would take the railway eastwards and a more north than the 1899 proposals, with the railway operating via Shaftesbury Avenue, Hart Street (Bloomsbury Way today), Bloomsbury Square, Theobalds Road and Rosebery Avenue to Angel in Islington where the railway would terminate underneath Islington High Street. Interchange stations where planned at Cambridge Circus with the Charing Cross Euston and Hampstead Railway and Museum Street near the Central London Railway station at British Museum. The second extension would take the railway south-west from South Kensington via Fullham Road to connect with the District Railway station at Walham Green (Fulham Broadway today). The bill also included the relevant provisions for the Brompton and Piccadilly Circus railway to take over the responsibility for the section of the District Railways deep-level section between South Kensington and Earls Court and a further time extension for construction.
The Central London Railway opened on 30 July 1900, this stimulated the ambition to construct underground railways and the bill for the Brompton and Piccadilly Circus railway was submitted. A committee was set up by the government, the extension to Museum street was considered and the section to Angel was held back to see the progress of vibration disturbance caused by the Central London Railway. The committee finally published its report however it was too late for the existing session, and the bill would have to be resubmitted.
The Brompton and Piccadilly Circus railway submitted its bill in November 1901, dropping the extension to Angel, and an alternative route eastwards, the railway would run beneath Cranbourn Street and continue under Long Acre and Great Queen Street to connect with the tunnels at Little Queen Street (the northern section of Kingsway today) just south of the GN&SR planned station at Holborn. Two new stations at Covent Garden and Wardour Street where proposed.
A branch would be constructed from Wardour Street to head south-east and connect the District Railways deep-level section east of Charing Cross station. The south-west extension would run to Walham Green and both branches would have a station at Brompton Road. There where stations planned along Fulham Road, at its junctions, College Street (Elystan Street today), Neville Street, Drayton Gardens, Redcliffe Gardens, Stamford Bridge and Maxwell Road. There would be an interchange with the District railway at Waltham Green before the railway followed the District railway route to Parsons Green where the railway operated over the existing District railway lines. The request to construct a deep-level line beneath the District Railway where represented.
The railways where merged and the Brompton and Piccadilly Circus railway and Great Northern and Strand Railway along with the District Railway deep-level line where united under a single identity; the Great Northern Piccadilly and Brompton Railway.
The Great Northern and Strand Railway published a bill to create a short extension of 350m (1,148ft) from its southern terminus to Temple station where interchange with the District Railway would be provided. The railway also wanted to extend northwards from Finsbury Park, further to transferring it responsibilities to the Great Northern Piccadilly and Brompton Railway. The District Railway also published a bill that included the provision of absorbing the railways and the transfer of their responsibilities for its Deep-level ambitions.
The Great Northern Piccadilly and Brompton Railway proposals went to a joint select committee, and the proposals were considered. The extension to Holborn was granted, however the extension to Parsons Green was objected after opposition from the local hospitals who were concerned that the vibrations may affect their patients. The extension from Piccadilly Circus to Charing Cross was rejected because of the sharp bends and gradients that would be required on the line to avoid public building. The extension to Temple was rejected also following objections from the Duke of Norfolk who owned the land above the route of the railway and the route north on Finsbury Park was abandoned. These received Royal Assent on 8 August 1902 as the Great Northern and Strand Railway Act 1902 and the Metropolitan District Act 1902. The Brompton and Piccadilly Circus Railway Act 1902 received Royal Assent on 18 November 1902.
During November 1902 the Great Northern Piccadilly and Brompton railway entered two bills. The first was to request powers which included the purchase of additional land for station buildings and some minor amendments to previous proposals.
The second bill sought permission to extend eastwards and westwards from the approved route. The eastern extension would run west of Piccadilly Circus to Leicester Square and Charing Cross, the railway would proceed under the Strand, where the route would pass beneath Holborn station and provide an interchange at Strnad station. The railway would then proceed beneath Fleet Street to Ludgate Circus, where a station would be constructed with an interchange with the London Chatham and Dover Railways existing station, the railway would then proceed beneath New Bridge Street and Queen Victoria Street to connect with the District Rail deep-level west of Mansion House. The western extension would run east of Knightsbridge station, the station would be equipped with additional platforms for the branch, which would have ran under Knightsbridge, Kensington Road and Kensington High Street; stations would be constructed at Royal Albert Hall, High Street Kensington (already constructed on the District Railway) and Addison Road. The tunnels would then proceed to follow the Hammersmith Road to Hammersmith station on the District Railway, proceeding under Hammersmith Grove and Goldhawk Road terminating at Shepherds Bush.
Two further bills where entered by the District Railway in 1903, this was to finalise a formal agreement between the District Railway and Great Northern Piccadilly and Brompton Railway to operate a deep-level line between South Kensington and West Kensington with deep-level platforms constructed at Earls Court. The second sought permission to extend the deep-level railway from Mansion House to Whitechapel following the subsurface route, and connecting to the subsurface tracks at Mile End.
None of the extension proposals where debated, however in February 1903 the government established a Royal Commision on London Traffic who assessed the manner of what transport links should be developed within the London area. The commission deliberated and any review of bills for new railways and extensions where suspended, the bills where later withdrawn by their promoters. The relevant powers were granted and the Great Northern Piccadilly and Brompton Railway (Various Powers) Act 1903 received Royal Assent on 11 August 1903.
No bills where entered for consideration while the commission continued its investigation between 1903 and 1905, with a report being produced during June 1905.
The Great Northern Piccadilly and Brompton Railway entered two bills once this suspension was concluded. The first bill was to confirm the Strand branch, the layout of the required junction between the main route at Holborn, and to extend the branch southwards to Waterloo and provide an interchange with the mainline station. The station at the Stand would have to be moved to Surrey Street with a single track tunnel continuing to Waterloo, which would be provided by a shuttle. The junction and extension would have to re-sited. The extension to the Stand was permitted however the extension beyond to Waterloo was rejected. Royal Assent was granted on 4 August 1905 as the Great Northern Piccadilly and Brompton Railway (Various Powers) Act 1905.
The second bill proposed extending eastwards and westwards modifying the plans from 1903. The eastwards route would take the same as previously proposed to Ludgate Circus. However, instead of heading along New Bridge Street the route would use Carter Lane and Cannon Street to a station located on the junction of Queen Street and Watling Street, a short distance from the District Railway station at Mansion House. The route then followed Queen Victoria Street to Lombard Street where an interchange would be provided with the City and South London Railway and Central London Railway station at Bank. The route would then continue underneath Cornhill and Leadenhall Street to terminate at Aldgate High Street, adjacent to the District Railway station at Aldgate.
The railway would be extended westwards from Knightsbridge to Hammersmith via Kensington High Street, the railway would then continue beyond Hammersmith under King Street to a terminal station at the junction of King Street, Goldhawk Road and Chiswick Road. The tunnels would be extended a further 350m (1,148ft) underneath Chiswick Road to a junction with Homefield Road. A loop north from Hammersmith to Shepherd's Bush was withdrawn, with a direct route proposed from the Hammersmith extension at Addison Road, the railway would run beneath Holland Road to Shepherd's Bush with a station being constructed opposite the Central London Railway station. The railway would then proceed beneath Uxbridge Road to Acton Vale, where a new depot on the surface would be constructed between Agnes Road and Davis Road. The proposed extension would cost a further £4.2 million, a review of the bill was delayed because the Royal Commission was still sitting, the bill was withdrawn by the Great Northern Piccadilly and Brompton Railway in July 1905, as there was not enough time to complete the process before the end of the parliamentary session.
Construction on the railway began in July 1902 from Knightsbridge, before the formal merger of the Brompton and Piccadilly Circus Railway and Great Northern and Strand Railway. The work proceeded quickly, the Underground Electric Railway Companies of London (UECL) confirmed in their annual report in October 1904 that 80% of the tunneling had been completed and that the laying of track had already began. The stations were designed by Leslie Green in the Underground Electric Railway Companies of London (UECL) inhouse design, this consisted of a two-story building with red terracotta tiles on the exterior and wide semi-circular windows on the upper floors. The platforms where constructed close enough to the surface to enable just straits to be provided, except for at Finsbury Park and Gillespie Road where a ramp was provided and the platforms where provided between two and four lifts with an emergency spiral staircase for use in an emergency.
The works had mostly been completed by autumn 1906, after a series of trials, the railway was ready to be opened in December 1906. A result of the electrification of the deep-level and subsurface tunnels in 1905, significantly increased the capacity of the existing route and the construction of tunnels at South Kensington where deemed unnecessary, and the powers lapsed.
Opening the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway
The Great Northern Piccadilly and Brompton railway officially opened on 15 December 1906 by David Lloyd George, President to the Board of Trade and ran 15.3km (9.5 mile) between Finsbury Park and Hammersmith. Progress on the Strand branch was delayed and opened in November 1907 unceremoniously.
From the opening of the railway, the railway was commonly known as its abbreviated names the Piccadilly Railway or Piccadilly Tube, these began to appear at stations and on contemporary tube maps.
The railway opened using a fleet of carriages manufactured by the Underground Electric Railway Companies of London (UECL) in France and Hungry, they are the same design as used on the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway and Charing Cross Euston and Hampstead Railway and where electric multiple units that did not require steam power. Passengers would board and disembark from a folding lattice gate at each end of the cars, which where operated by gatemen who rode on the outside of the train on these platforms and announced station names. The stock became known as the 1906 stock or Gated stock.
The Underground Electric Railway Companies of London (UECL) had a very successful construction of the railway, taking a mere seven years to construct. However, the opening of the railway did not prove the success that was anticipated, there was a planned 60 million passengers in the first twelve months, although only 26 million journeys were made. This issue did not just affect the Piccadilly line, but all of the railways that where operated by the Underground Electric Railway Companies of London (UECL), they all had approximately half the projected passenger journeys. There was an increase in competition from the new electric trams and motor busses which where taking over from the previous horse-drawn methods of transport.
This additional competition proved damaging to the railway companies, especially the Underground Electric Railway Companies of London (UECL) who were having issues with paying back their loans and could not pay their shareholders a dividend. To improve their finances the Underground Electric Railway Companies of London (UECL) proposed a merger to all of their separate companies to reduce their expenditure and to streamline the management process. The company entered a bill in November 1909 and permission was granted, with the bill receiving Royal Assent on 26 July 1912 as London Electric Railway Amalgamation Act 1912, the act came into force effective from 1 July 1912.
The Underground Electric Railway Companies of London (UECL) also entered into fair agreements between the Central London Railway, City and South London Railway and Great Northern and City Railway in 1907. In 1908, the companies started to issue items as a single identity and the famous ‘UndergrounD‘ signs began to appear in central London.
Earls Court station was the first station to receive escalators during October 1911 between the Piccadilly and District Railway platforms.
A further extension to the railway was proposed in November 1912, this would entail extending the line to Hammersmith then along the District Railway tracks to Richmond and an interchange with the mainline L&SWR station. The District Railway already operated over this section however the introduction of the Piccadily was met with many concerns. The proposal received Royal Assent on 15 August 1913 as London Electric Railway Act 1913. The First World War prevented work on this extension and the works where postponed until 1930s.
The London Electric Railway, along with its subsidiaries, and other transport companies in London where absorbed into the London Transport Passenger Board on 1 July 1933.
Extending the Piccadilly line
Severe congestion at the lines northern terminus at Finsbury Park from the 1920s, where passengers would interchange onto trams, buses and the LNER mainline to other destinations in north and north-east London. An extention northwards was discusessed, however there where different options on the directionof an extension, the popular roures ran towards Tottenham and Edmonton or Wood Green and Palmers Green.
The 1930s where a difficult time, with a high level of unemployment. The London Electric Railway, along with its subsidiaries, and other transport companies in London where absorbed into the London Transport Passenger Board on 1 July 1933. The government, also made money available for large infrastructure projects to reduce the unemployment level.
An extension northwards was approved from Finsbury Park to Cockfosters, intimidate stations where planned at Manor House and Turnpike Lane. A station was planned at the junction between Green Lanes and St Albans Road in Haringey, however this was stopped by a local resident who felt that the bus and tram service was adequate. A ventilation station was constructed in a similar style to other stations on the railway at this location and the station is still there today. Opposition from the London and North Eastern railway (L&NER) to the extension.
The extension began quickly from Finsbury Park to a location south of Arnos Grove. This extension has a length of 12km (7.5 miles) and cost £4 million.
The extension opened in phases, the first section to open was to Argos Grove on 19 September 1932.
The second section to open was from Arnos Grove to Enfield West (Oakwood today) on 13 March 1933, the same day the line reached Hounslow West westerly.
The final section was from Enfield West (Oakwood today) to Cockfosters on 19 July 1933.
The new stations on the extension where designed to be modernist, many where designed by Charles Holden. Inspired by the modernist architecture on mainland Europe, bold vertical and horizontal forms can be seen with a combination of traditional materials such as brick.
The line was also extended westwards. Powers where obtained in 1913 to run the railway beyond Hammersmith, a report in 1919 from Parliament recommended that the railway should run to Ealing and Richmond. However by the 1920s this priority had shifted to providing a service to Hounslow and around north of Ealing big a priority, the outcome was the line would take over the inner tracks from the District railway, and run between Hammersmith and Acton Town providing a non-stopping service with the District Railway providing a stopping service on the outer tracks.
Construction for the alterations to link sections began in 1930.
The lint to Uxbridge was already operated by the District Railway since 1910, this was taken over by the Piccadilly line in stages. The first stage was from Hammersmith to South Harrow opening on 4 July 1932. Then to Uxbridge on 23 October 1933.
The line from Acton Town was quadrupled to Northfields, opening on 18 December 1932. The Piccadilly line quickly began to run to Northfields on 9 January 1933, and Hounslow West on 19 March 1933.
When the Victoria line was in the planning stages, a proposal was brought forward to transfer Manor House station to the new line and construct a new direct tunnels from Finsbury Park to Turnpike Lane to reduce journey times from central London. This proposal was rejected because of the disruption to passengers due to the inconvenience of building new tunnels and the astronomical cost. However there were some alterations at Finsbury Park with the westbound platform being redirected through new tunnels to provide a cross-platform interchange with the Victoria line. These platforms already existed and were previously used by the Northern City line. These works where completed during 1965 and the diversion became used in passenger service from 3 October 19615, three years before the first stage of the Victoria line opened.
A new tunnel section was opened to Hatton Cross from Hounslow West in 1975, with Hounslow West stations becoming inside a tunneled section. The branch was later extended to Heathrow Central in 1977, with the station being renamed from 1984 as Heathrow Terminals 1 2 and 3 with the opening of a one-way loop to Heathrow Terminal 4, south of the central terminal area. Heathrow Terminals 1 2 and 3 station has been renamed to reflect the demolition on Terminal 1 in June 2015, the station was renamed Heathrow Terminals 2 and 3.
The loop via Heathrow Terminal 4 was closed between 7 January 2005 and 17 September 2006 to allow the construction of a spur line to Heathrow Terminal 5. The underground services where diverted to a two-way working into Heathrow Terminal 2 and 3, which became the terminus of the line; a replacement shuttle bus service was introduced from Hatton Cross bus station to serve Heathrow Terminal 4.
The extension to Heathrow Terminal 5 opened on 27 March 2008, the same day the terminal opened its self.
Picaddilly line today
The piccadilly line today remains popular with passengers and is the fourth busiest line on the London Underground network. The line has 71km (44.3 miles) with 53 stations, there is a mere 25 stations below ground level.
Some of the stations the line serves are shared with the District and Metropolitan lines. The line is the second longest line on the London Underground network and has the second highest number of station. The line boasts the shortest distance between stations between Leicester Square and Covent Garden, at 0.26km (0.16 miles), the line serves many vital tourist attractions to the city of London, such as Harrods in Knightsbridge, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace (a short distance from Green Park), Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Covent Garden along with Heathrow Airport.
The line shares its route lines with the Metropolitan line between Rayners Lane and Uxbridge. further to running parallel to the District line between Hanger Lane junction, Acton Town and Barons Court.
The Piccadilly line was the first line to be converted to one-person-operation in August 1987, the driver is now in charge of driving the train and opening the doors at stations.
The Piccadilly line was the victim of a suicide bomber detonating an explosive device at 08:50 on 7 July 2007 between Kings Cross St Pancras and Russell Square. This was a part of a wider attack against the network, with two explosions occurring on the Circle and Hammersmith and City lines further to one bomb being detonated at Tavistock Square. The explosion on the Piccadilly line resulted in the largest number of injuries and 26 fatalities. Emergency evacuations and access to the emergency services proved difficult in the deep-level ine. The line reopened sections on 8 July 2007 and a full service was restored on 4 August 2007, four weeks after the bomb.
The Picadilly line is currently being upgraded as a part of the New Tube for London scheme, this will entail the introduction of new rolling stock and signalling. The works should increase capasity by 27% and reduce journety times by 5%.