It opened two years late and they changed its name halfway through building it, not the Elizabeth line — this is the 40th birthday of the Jubilee line.

Today (30th April 2019) marks the 40th anniversary of the official opening of the Jubilee line, with dignitaries and Royalty, but tomorrow marks the anniversary of the first day that the ordinary commuter could use the line.

Maybe one day they’ll do the dignitaries in the morning and let the public on in the afternoon to avoid these conundrums. In the meantime, pick the anniversary date that fits your opinion about such things.

The Jubilee line is also a bit of a hybrid product, taking in a railway that was built by the Metropolitan & St John’s Wood Railway, run by the Metropolitan and then by the Bakerloo.

(c) TfL

The early years

(for ease of reading, I will generally use modern names)

The Jubilee line as we know it today can trace its origins to an extension of the Metropolitan line, which initially ran from Baker Street to Swiss Cottage in April 1868, and was expected to then head north-eastwards towards Hampstead.

(you can just about make out the beginnings of the tunnel on the southbound Met line tunnels just north of Swiss Cottage)

The line was stuck at Swiss Cottage for some years, until it was finally extended northwest to Neasden, with a spur up to Harrow in 1879. When it opened, in mostly the countryside, Neasden Station was originally called Kingsbury Neasden.

Wembley Park station opened in 1893 next to what was supposed to be London’s rival to the Eiffel Tower – which was only partially built and is now buried under Wembley Stadium.

The Met line grew passenger traffic so much that it was facing overloading during peak hours. One of the problems was that Finchley Road station was a bottleneck, so they planned a new railway line running from Kilburn to Edgware Road.

In fact, the reason why Edgware Road Station has four platforms — which is today useful for terminating the Circle line — is that it was rebuilt for the planned Met line extension.

The extension was obviously never built, but congestion at Finchley Road was still a major problem.

Despite that, the Met line decided to take advantage of urbanisation in the north of Wembley and built a railway up towards Stanmore — calling at Kingsbury (Neasden was renamed), Queensbury, Cannons Park and finally Stanmore.

(c) TfL

By the mid-1930s, congestion was getting worse with all the different services from the North squeezing into the two tunnels at Finchley Road, so it was decided to split the line into two services, the Met and the Bakerloo.

Two new tube tunnels were dug from Baker Street up to Finchley Road, and then the Bakerloo line took over the Met line services up to Stanmore.

The main aim being to double the number of tunnels between Baker Street and Finchley Road. The existing Met line stations at Swiss Cottage and St John’s Road closed, to be replaced with counterparts on the Bakerloo line.

The newly extended Bakerloo line to Stanmore opened on 20th November 1939.

Having solved the congestion bottleneck at Finchley Road for the Met line, the Bakerloo line now started to suffer congestion of its own, as its two lines, from Stanmore and Harrow converged at Baker Street.

The Fleet Line is born

London Transport started planning new railways in the post-war years, but the Bakerloo was suffering rising levels of congestion, made worse by City firms moving to surviving offices in the West End while the City was rebuilt.

By the late 1950s this was becoming a serious concern, and plans were looked at to relieve the Bakerloo line by splitting it in half. Nothing happened though until 1964 when the plans were revisited.

Under the scheme, the Bakerloo line would revert to its original state, while the line from Stanmore would join up with an extension from Baker Street to Charing Cross, then into the City of London.

The earliest public reference to the Fleet line was in 1965, when The Times wrote about plans to dig a new railway from Baker Street to Bond Street, Trafalgar Square, Strand, Fleet Street, Ludgate Circus and Cannon Street (with a link to Bank/Monument), then proceeding into southeast London.

In the end, it was decided to build the line in three stages – Baker Street to Trafalgar Square, phase two to Cannon Street, and then finally under the Thames to southeast London.

Parliamentary powers were finally granted in July 1969 for the line from Baker Street to just a few feet from Aldwych station.

Construction of the new line started in 1972, and at the same time, London Transport secured approval, if not the funding, to extend the line towards Tower Hill, and then later over the East London Line to New Cross.

Approval to extend down to Lewisham was granted later in the same year.

In preparations for the Lewisham extension, a test tunnel using a new tunnel technique was tested in South London’s softer soil. The test was a success, but as we know, the Jubilee line never went in that direction, so the test tunnel is still down there, unused and flooded.

By the end of 1974, the main tunnels for the new line between Baker Street and Charing Cross had been completed, and works were underway on fitting them out with signals, tracks and power supplies.

They also connected the current Bakerloo line to Stanmore to the new tunnels at Baker Street. A slightly complicated arrangement of the railway tunnels at Baker Street enabled simple cross-passage transfers by passengers.

There are still rail connections between the Bakerloo and Jubilee line tunnels at Baker Street, just in case they are needed.

They were still on target for a 1977 opening of the new line.

Meanwhile, Bond Street station was totally rebuilt (again) to allow for the massive increase in passengers expected to interchange with the Central line and go shopping.

Green Park Station, which had only recently been rebuilt for the Victoria line saw more works to add the Jubilee line, although due to the placement of the Victoria line tunnels, the Jubilee line platforms are a long walk from the older platforms — which irks people to this day.

At Charing Cross, the new tunnels were dug towards Aldwych and new platforms were added. The old lifts that used to take people down to the Northern line however had to be taken out of action as the new escalators had to pass right through the middle of the lift shafts.

In the end, it was decided to close the Northern line at Charing Cross in June 1973 — with the public being told it would reopen in 1976.

A shaft was dug down where the National Gallery extension is today, and that gave access to the new tunnels being dug under Charing Cross.

In 1974, for reasons which will become clear later, the station on the District/Circle line at the time called Charing Cross was renamed Charing Cross (Embankment).

The Jubilee line is born

It’s 1977, the year of the Jubilee and a new leader of the Greater London Council, Horace Cutler announced that the Fleet line would be renamed the Jubilee line in the event’s honour as the line was due to open that year.

This was hugely controversial then, and for some die-hards, still controversial.

Not only did London Transport spend an estimated £50,000 on the renaming exercise, it was carried out without any consultation. Although the GLC didn’t formally ratify the decision until later in the year, the name stuck.

But, by now the line was now not expected to open until 1978, the year after the Jubilee.

During the later half of 1976, delays had started to emerge, but they were still optimistic for a 1977 opening date. In the middle of 1977, serious delays with the fitting of the escalators started to cause serious alarm at London Underground, and they pushed the opening date to 1978, possibly towards the end of the year.

Test runs of the trains did not start until August 1978 though, further pushing the opening date back, and in the end they accepted that the line would not open until 1979.

In January 1979, most of the signs for the new Jubilee line had been put in place, with Bakerloo paper strips over the top while the new line was waiting to open — it was noted that people had a tendency to peel off the paper strips to reveal the new line name underneath (Elizabeth line passim).

Somewhat early, Met line trains had their maps also updated by January to show interchanges with the Jubilee line at Wembley Park and Finchley Road (LURS 205).

The controversy over the name flared up again though when a group called “Movement against a monarchy” based in North London produced stickers saying “Fleet line: Don’t Jubilee’ve It” in the style of the tube roundel and started splattering them around the network and vandalizing the maps with felt tip pens to read Fleet Line.

The Jubilee line opens

On 30th April 1979, a repainted “Royal Train” left Neasen depot at 10:57am, and the opening event headboard, which was supposed to be attached at Neasden was hurriedly put in place at Bond Street.

The train was also 15 minutes late as signalling staff at Finchley Road refused to operate the signals from Baker Street to Charing Cross, and the head of the railway union had to negotiate with them to get them back to work so that the official opening wouldn’t be spoiled.

Prince Charles arrived at Bond Street and is said to have driven a tube train from Green Park to Charing Cross for the opening ceremony, although he almost certainly didn’t drive the train to Charing Cross, as photos show him standing on the wrong side of the driver’s cab.

After the ceremony, they headed up to Stanmore, where a sign noting the ticket hall was closed due to lack of staff was swiftly covered over.

At the same time, a very confusing name problem at Charing Cross was solved.

Charing Cross (Embankment) became plain simple Embankment.

Until now, the Northern line had a station called Strand, while the Bakerloo line had a station nearby called Trafalgar Square. With the new Jubilee line platforms open, and linking to both Northern and Bakerloo lines, it was decided to merge all three platforms into one station name — and Charing Cross underground station was born.

Although Prince Charles had officially opened the Jubilee line, the Bakerloo line was still officially running. While the Prince rode in a Jubilee line train, ordinary folk were using the Bakerloo branded trains, and the last Bakerloo line train to Stanmore departed Elephant and Castle at 11pm that same evening.

Although the new line didn’t add any new stations, the additional tunnels and routes south of Baker Street massively reduced congestion on the Bakerloo line, so while it was two years late, and had a different name, the Jubilee line achieved exactly what the Fleet line had been designed to do.

Happy 40th birthday today (or tomorrow) to the Jubilee line!

The Jubilee line extension

…that’s for the 20th anniversary, later this year.


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  1. Chris Rogers says:

    The Strand/Traf Sq walk is surely the longest ‘inside’ one station, save perhaps Bank/Monument. At least two buildings constructed in the City of London at the time had provision for Fleet Line stations – Bush Lane House on Cannon St had an exoskelton to allow the ticket hall beneath and one near Fenchurch St had a massive basement.

  2. richard charter says:

    HAPPY 40TH ANNIVERSARY of the Jubilee line 1979-Present

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