Earlier today, a major upgrade to Victoria tube station was completed, when an entire new entrance and set of escalators was opened to the public.

The new entrance

This is the culmination of planning that can be dated all the way back to 1996 when options were repeatedly looked at to find a way of upgrading the station, without having to close it entirely.

Anyone who uses the station in the mornings will appreciate the need for the expansion. The station caters to around 82 million passengers per year at the moment — more than Heathrow Airport — and this is expected to increase to 100 million by 2020. Add in the possible Crossrail 2 coming through in a couple of decades time, and you have a clear need for a major upgrade of the station.

The easiest and quickest way to show the scale of the works is a couple of before/after images of the layout.

The new section that opened this morning comprises the new northern entrance (at the bottom of the above picture) and the escalators down to the Victoria line.

The new northern entrance aims to encourage passengers to use the entire length of the Victoria Line platform, as the platform will now have exits at both ends. It’s expected that the new ticket hall will suck away around 40% of the congestion in the existing ticket hall, and for those using it, reduce journey times from platform to Victoria Street by an average of 7 minutes.

In essence, those people who can use the new entrance will shave a quarter-of-an-hour per day off their commute, but it’s taken a surprising amount of work to build this new extension.

The new ticket hall

The deep box that houses the new escalators and ticket hall (minus ticket office) is built under the main road, which couldn’t be entirely closed off to allow excavation. So the box was dug in two halves, with the road only half-closed while the works proceeded on one side, then the road was flipped over to the completed half while the rest was dug out.

The new ticket hall

There was a plan to put the entrance on the other side of the road, and embed it into a new office block, but in the end that site is to be used for residential and a new library, so the entrance is on the probably more convenient side of the road, closer to the offices along Victoria Street.

The lower level.

Soil conditions

The area is notoriously difficult to work in, as the area is made up largely of soft sands and gravels, and they cannot support tunnels or deep box entrances being dug through them unless something is done to stop the gravels collapsing during the tunneling work.

This is not an unexpected problem in the area, for example, when Pimlico station was built, they froze the ground for several months to make it hard enough to dig through, but here at Victoria that was not viable.

In the end, some 2,400 pipes were pushed down into the ground, often at odd angles to avoid sub-surface utilities, and a soft concrete pumped into the ground to stabilize it. Only then could they start the tunnelling, in now safe solid ground.

Of the total cost of the tunnels, which come to around £64 million, half was spent on the jet grouting just to prepare the ground to be tunnelled. It’s a prime example of how so much construction work isn’t building the end product, but the enabling works needed before you can even start on the final construction site.

New tunnels

In total, over 300m of tunnels have been constructed beneath the streets of Victoria, between Wilton Road and Allington Street.

The tunnels link the new entrance over to the Circle/District lines, but aren’t finished yet, so will open in a few months time.

One of the new tunnels runs directly under the existing Circle and District lines and a new roof slab had to be installed to support the railway. Originally this called for a three-month closure of the railway, but an award winning design managed it in just one week, over Christmas 2014.

In addition to that, there is something that people using the tube station wouldn’t have seen — because they weren’t there. Props are normally needed to hold up existing tunnels when new entrances are cut into them, but here at Victoria they developed a brand new way of cutting into tunnel walls to create new entrances, without the use of massive bulky props. At most, people saw a bit of blue hording on the platform sticking out a few centimeters, not the massive tunnel congesting props used in the past.

The new intermediate escalators

New Shafts

With a new entrance, comes new emergency access, and here a deep shaft was dug down to the Victoria line, squeezing between the two Victoria line tunnels, with barely inches to spare.

It was exceptionally delicate work, as the Victoria Line tunnels at this specific location were built using an experimental form of tunnel ring, and no one was entirely sure how it would react to a large void appearing next to it.

In addition, the King Scholars Pond Sewer (old Tyburn river) runs right next to the new shaft, which called for a lot of works under the sewer to strengthen its foundations before the new shaft could be dug down beside it.

Although built for fire and emergency access, it has been future-proofed to allow space for a lift in the future.

As with a lot of construction work, we only see the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It took over 11,000 man hours to construct a 24 metre shaft between two live railway tunnels.

Unless there is a major disaster, no one will ever see it.

The new escalators

Existing Ticket Hall

The southern expansion of the ticket hall is still being worked on. That will see the ticket hall roughly double in size and a new bank of escalators added to the Victoria line.

Work on that is expected to be completed in late 2018.

When the £700 million upgrade is finished, Victoria tube station will be three times larger than before, and have gained 9 new escalators and 7 new lifts in addition to the new northern ticket hall.

The view from the new escalators at platform level

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19 comments on “Major Victoria tube station upgrade opens to the public
  1. Violet Maleed says:

    What a wonderful achievement, can’t wait to use it

  2. Paul Foster says:

    It’s great to see the work involved in producing something so superficially simple and taken for granted by millions

  3. Artie Leblanc says:

    Thank you for this really informative article – it explains the very prolonged disruption there has been in the area.

  4. PC says:

    Interesting to read about the fine detail of the construction challenges. I hadn’t realised the corridors to the C&D lines were due to open relatively soon either – that’s a real surprise.

  5. Jack says:

    Please can you elaborate on the ground freezing at Pimlico? How was that done? Sounds fascinating!

  6. Sean O'Brien says:

    Are any lifts open yet?

  7. Melvyn says:

    I exited the new entrance yesterday and had a bank of 3 escalators to myself but I doubt if that will last long …

    There were some people venturing down into the new entrance which will make a big difference to those approaching Victoria on Victoria Street and avoid the major crowds experienced at the mainline station.

    I do wonder if the booking hall will be big enough in future ?

    It’s a pity that the new Nova development nearby did not agree a direct link similar to the subway built at Kings Cross linking that station to a development next to Kings Cross Station .

    We now have a contest as to whether TCR or Victoria will get step free access first ?

    This new entrance might prove useful during construction of new station as it may be kept open if closure of old entrance to Victoria Line is necessary as old and new are brought together .

  8. enid ackers says:

    I was horrified to be confronted by 30 STEPS (2 x 15 sets of very STEEP steps) from the entrance before reaching ticket hall & thence escalators.

    • Ian Visits says:

      The staircase is the normal angle for staircases (it’s a building regulation), and most underground tube stations have steps down to them.

    • Nick H says:

      To me the steps down into the new ticket hall from street level are either steeper or the risers are bigger; I normally can run up the steps from an underground station two at a time, but at this new ticket hall it is definitely more of a challenge. Nevertheless this new entrance is a great achievement and I look forward to the appearance of a similar entrance outside the main railway station

  9. Josh says:

    So the new escalators for the Southern ticket hall? What do they do? Are they there to allow for circuitous diversion as part of crowd control? I know LU do that in busy times. Otherwise, they only take a longer route to both lines for people entering from the South.

  10. Malcolm Dawes says:

    But all the other London Termini have direct escalator access to the Underground. At Victoria you see all the foreign visitors who have just arrived from Gatwick struggling up the stairs with all their suitcases – it is an awful way of welcoming visitors to the to the UK. And it seems we are providing the same welcome at the new entrance. I went to a presentation on the project years ago and the absence of escalators was blamed on a lack of agreement between TFL and Network Rail on who would pay for them. I just hoped that they would have sorted it out – it seems not.

    • Ian Visits says:

      The new entrance is not one that would be used by London terminus users, but there will be step-free access from Victoria mainline station to both lines when the southern ticket hall is completed, provided by two lifts, which are preferable to escalators for people carrying large luggage anyway.

  11. AJ says:

    Hi Ian

    Lift access is definitely required in the station from Victoria platform level direct to street level or platform/ concourse level where one takes Gatwick Express.

    I, living in London, frequently am struggling with luggage from Vic line up escalators up stairs then across concourse to Gawick Express where I meet a stream of commuters coming the other way from the rail. I am young and like to think quite fit but even I struggle with luggage and have been so grateful for the help from male commuters offering to take my luggage up the stairs.

    I have come close to tripping over the my bags on entering and leaving escalators.

    Why is lift access with several strategically placed lifts not mandatory in the station? Goodness me 82million commuters rising to 100million, surely we deserved lifts somewhere in the scheme of things decades ago?

    • Ian Visits says:

      “Why is lift access with several strategically placed lifts not mandatory in the station”

      It will be in the station – one of the points of the rebuild IS to add lifts. Not sure why you think there wont be any.

    • Sheila Higdon says:

      When will the lifts be complete?

  12. Jon Dohe says:

    It seems almost impossible to get information from TFL on when a lift service will be completed, and whether this will provide customers who have luggage or who are disabled, with “step free access” between the main line station and the district line platform!!

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