The hugely overcrowded Holborn tube station is set for a major upgrade to ease congestion, especially for people who use it to swap between the Central and Piccadilly lines.

At the moment, the station suffers from a lack of capacity that often sees people crowding outside in the evening peak hours, and restricted access in the mornings.

There has been talk of an upgrade at the station since at least 2013, but there were delays due to funding being reportedly diverted to other stations.

At the moment though, they are at the design stage, with public consultations starting late this year.

A presentation to the local business group was made earlier this year, and at the latest TfL board meeting, the funding was approved for more work on the upgrade plans.

The proposed upgrade includes a new station entrance and enhanced access and interchange including step free access to all platforms.

To help fund it, there would be the usual requirement to redevelop the over-site buildings. That is conditional on being able to buy some additional buildings in the area though.

A new station entrance

A recent survey found that more than half the people using the current station entrance head eastwards along High Holborn — so a new entrance further to the east would reduce walking distances while also increasing capacity for the station.

The new entrance is proposed to be on a side street that links up with the North side of High Holborn. It’ll occupy part of the pavement and the road, reducing the road width slightly.

Direct connection with the far end of the Central line tunnels would be added, and a new bank of escalators down to the Piccadilly line.

Construction works

Construction of a project this size will always be disruptive, and the lack of space to store equipment and people is a serious constraint in central London. However, here at Holborn there are likely to be two useful bits of old tunnel that should help reduce the problem.

Running near the Piccadilly line is the old spur down to Aldwych station which is no longer in use. A presentation to the London Underground Railway Society suggested that they hope to use the disused Piccadilly line tunnel to bring in heavy deliveries.

The disused Aldwych branch platform would be converted into a new corridor space that then lets people swap between the Central and Piccadilly lines without having to use the existing narrow corridor and escalator. With around 40% of passengers using the station just to swap lines, the new interchange should substantially reduce overcrowding in the middle level where people currently cross over.

The new passage will be linked to both Central Line platforms by escalators and inclined lifts in parallel shafts and to the Piccadilly Line platforms by escalators and also by a further lift.

Another bonus for the construction team is that the old Kingsway tram tunnel just happens to run directly above the likely site of the new connection between the two tube lines. While working inside a tunnel is rarely ideal, the Kingsway tunnel is much larger than most and drilling down inside the tram tunnel has been done by Crossrail before.

Power supplies

As part of the upgrade, there may be an upgrade to the existing electricity sub-station to support increased train frequency on the Central line. The trigeneration facility will make us of heat from the tunnels to generate power, some of which will be used to cool the platforms as part of the cooling the tube project.


If approved, then when complete in 2026 (four years later than originally expected), the upgrade would relieve congestion such that operational controls are not required at the station during normal operations.

Depending on funding and other difficulties, there is some indication that the deep level interchange could still be delivered even if the new station entrance is delayed for some reason.

Images from the TfL presentation, except for the 3D render by Dr Sauer


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  1. Mr Graverol says:

    An upgrade of Holborn station is long overdue. However, do you know if the existing passages at the bottom of the Piccadilly Line escalators for distributing passengers will be lost or not. In the graphic of the new station it is not quite clear.

  2. Graham says:

    The diagram makes clear that the track to Aldwych will be severed by the new passageways, which marks the end of trains being able to run down there.

    There is (or at least was) a train of old 1972 stock kept at Aldwych. I wonder if it’ll be left on the branch?

  3. GT says:

    Pity about the severance of the Alwych brnch … but …
    Holborn is claustophobic & IMHO dangerous, when trying to exit the Piccadilly line even at non-peak times.
    9 years to wait for this is far too long, I’m afraid.

  4. John U.K. says:

    re severance of the Aldwych branch

    The diagram says it will use the *platform area* of the Aldwych branch. “New concourse area using disused Aldywch line platform area.”

    It is not clear from the diagrams whether there will be passageways crossing the Aldwych line on the level. It might be possible to maintain some sort of access to the branch (think of the erstwhile moveable platform at White City).

    With the continued great growth of transport needs in the metropolis, it would seem very short-sighted to irrevocably remove a possible useful link and line.
    However, we never seem to learn from history, as is witnessed by the recent irreversible narrowing of the West London Line to two tracks between West Brompton and Kensington Olympia.

    • Graham says:

      You can see the tunnel to Aldwych in grey in the bottom right corner of the first diagram. I don’t think there’s any ambiguity that the intention is to build out the platform over the track area and cut new passageways in the opposite side.

  5. Melvyn says:

    When it comes to Holborn is more a case of believing it when I see it ….

    Afterall, Crossrail was originally planned to serve Holborn but Station fell victim to cost cutting when earlier Crossrail legislation was introduced and failed during Thatcher years .

    While there were plans to extend the Aldwych Branch to Waterloo Station when Barbara Castle was Transport Minister in the Labour Wilson Government and despite legislation being passed funding was not made available. Think how useful this connection would have been when Eurostars served Waterloo !

    While the same goes for Trams where we had the pioneering Kingsway Subway linking north and south London with plans to bring back cross River Trams under Mayor Ken Livingstone but he lost to Boris in 2008 and it looks like this project is now dead .

    The article mentions that depending on funding the conversion of former Aldwych Branch to an interchange Subway would be very useful so hopefully this part of the scheme will go forward first so it’s benefits can be made much earlier than longer term aspects which will need new escalator shafts tunnelled etc .

    • Ian Visits says:

      There was never a plan for Crossrail to call at Holborn station, as I have the 1974 and 1981 documents that lead to a 1991 private members bill that was supported by John Major’s government but failed at the Private Bill Committee stage.

      There was never a plan during the Thatcher government for a Crossrail line to be built.

    • Melvyn says:

      It seems my memory goes back to further than in my reply above as Holborn was included in the 1974 plans to link railways across London together which formed the basis for later Crossrail and which was more a development of the wartime Abercrombie Plan,

      See link to Crossrail history below for details of 1974 plans …

    • Ian Visits says:

      That refers to a station called Holborn, but we would today call that Thameslink as it was due to be at Ludgate Hill – it’s no where near Holborn station.

  6. Josh says:

    Oh good. With Victoria nearing completion on, we need another one to keep our supply of 3D diagrams going.

  7. harry says:

    Interesting phrase there … “the lack of space to store equipment and people”

    It makes me wonder what sort of people they would be storing if they had the space 🙂

  8. Pedantic of Purley says:

    To be pedantic, it wasn’t a TfL board meeting. It was a Programme and Investments Committee meeting. I am never quite clear whether they approve things to go to a full board meeting for final approval or whether they have delegated authority to authorise the investment. I think it is normally the former.

    The next TfL board meeting is on 19th July and I am fairly sure this will appear on the agenda.

  9. David Winter says:

    I wonder if there’s another graphic that shows the two levels of the Piccadilly line and the Aldwych branch tunnels more clearly.

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