It may seem an implausible tale to tell today but when the Victoria Line opened in 1968 it was the greatest thing to happen to London in a very long time and represented the cutting edge of technology! It had dramatic looking automatically controlled trains with gleaming bodies with a tapered front, no driver side doors and unpainted brushed aluminium bodies. It was the first new deep tube line to be built across Central London since 1907 and the first major investment in the Tube since the Second World War – that’s over 29 years! It is also the only truly “underground” Underground Line with only its Depot at Northumberland Park being above ground and every station (except Pimlico, which was a late addition) is an interchange station.
It looks different today as the graffiti plague which began in 1984 put paid to the somewhat beautiful brushed aluminium skin on the trains, the short sighted budgetary cuts during construction compromised the utility of the line later and it is a victim of its own success with crowded trains and at Victoria the Underground’s busiest station with over 71 million passengers a year. You have to ask, where did all these people go before the Victoria Line was built? Its very success shows how much it has contributed to London’s economy since it first opened.
Amazingly it still has the first trains, known as 1967 Stock, which operated on the original line. Now after 43 years and millions of miles later these are being replaced and the London Transport Museum is organising a special Railtour on the 15th May to mark the passing of these remarkable trains. The line is equipped with an Automatic Train Operation system (ATO); the train operator (driver) closes the train doors and presses a pair of “start” buttons, and if the way ahead is clear, the ATO drives the train at a safe speed to the next station and stops it there. This system has operated since the line opened in 1968, making the Victoria line the world’s first full-scale automatic railway. It is worth remembering in these days of Outsourcing (a process where a company gives its brain away and then pays double to get it back!) that the design and testing both of the trains and signalling system was done in house by London Underground with great success. These trains were also used for the new stock on the Piccadilly and Bakerloo Lines.
But more than that the trains were unique for despite the budgetary cut backs which resulted in a somewhat drab grey and blue tiled interior each station had individual tiled designs commissioned from artists in the seat recesses to represent the history of the locality.
The line’s origins can be traced back to the Second World War when it was included in the 1943 County of London Plan. The constraints of the war years and the subsequent re-organisation and nationalisation of London’s transport caused the plan to be postponed, and Parliamentary Powers to build the line were not obtained until 1955. Further delays in obtaining funds meant that actual construction work did not start until 1962.
The Victoria Line runs for 13 miles from Walthamstow Central at its northern end to Brixton in the south. It was opened in sections, north terminus first, between 1968 and 1971, and so the Victoria Line sections of all these stations date from then. The first section was built between Finsbury Park and Manor House, but after testing was complete and the rest of the tunnels were completed, it was decided not to open a set of Victoria Line platforms at Manor House.
The Victoria Line was built to relieve congestion on other lines, and so some of the interchanges were designed to minimise walking distance. This was done by either building the new tunnels next to the existing ones, or by swapping which line used which platform. The effect is that several interchanges allow you to continue a journey in the same direction, that is to say change from one northbound or southbound platform to the other, by walking about ten metres. The exception is Euston, where instead the northbound Victoria platform is intimately linked to the southbound Northern line (Bank branch) platform and vice versa. These platform-level interchanges of the Victoria line can be seen on a track layout diagram.
As a theoretical rough guide, trains take two minutes to pass from each station to the next, and with 16 stations on the line it takes just over half an hour to travel from Walthamstow to Brixton. However, due to extended stops in tunnels and at stations, trains can take twice that time to make the entire journey. The Victoria Line was the world’s first automatic passenger railway, and the drivers simply operate the doors and then press the start button.
The Victoria line is a deep-level London Underground line running from the south (Zone 2) to the north-east (Zone 3) of London. It is coloured light blue on the Tube map and, in terms of the average number of journeys per mile, is the busiest line on the network. It is the only line on the Underground, except for the two-station Waterloo & City line, that is operated entirely underground, the only section of track to emerge above ground being the part from Seven Sisters to the line’s depot at Northumberland Park.
The line has hump-backed stations which allow trains to store gravitational potential energy as they slow down and release it when they leave a station. This provides an energy saving of 5% and makes the trains run 9% faster. 183 million passengers use the Victoria line each year making it the fourth busiest line on the network. Overcrowding has been a big issue on the Victoria Line and is almost inevitable given the station interchanges on the line. If the moribund Chelsea–Hackney line were to be built it would relieve a lot of congestion on the Victoria line, offering an alternative route across Central London between Victoria and King’s Cross St. Pancras.
When the Victoria line was constructed, severe budget restrictions were imposed and as a result the station infrastructure standards were lower than on older lines and on later extension projects. Examples of these lower standards include narrower than usual platforms and undecorated ceilings at Walthamstow Central, Blackhorse Road and Tottenham Hale, adversely affecting lighting levels. At most stations there is still a concrete staircase between the up and down escalators, where an additional escalator could be installed. The lack of a third escalator can cause severe congestion at peak times. However in recent years an additional escalator has been installed in place of the fixed stairway at Brixton (2004) and Vauxhall (2006). The line was originally to go to Wood Street (Walthamstow) but this was dropped to reduce the budget at a late stage.
The oldest group of tube stock is the 1967/72 type. The 1967 Tube Stock was introduced for the opening of the Victoria Line with automatic train operation (ATO). Although the car body was to the same general dimensions as the earlier tube stocks, there were a number of differences in style and layout such as wrap-round cab windows, double-glazed passenger windows and the provision of all-longitudinal seats in the trailer cars. Cabs were not provided with side doors for safety reasons.
The 1972 Stocks, consisting of two versions known as MkI and MkII, were 7-car versions of the 8-car 1967 Stock. They were designed to operate on manually driven lines with a possible future conversion to automatic operation in mind. They never had this fitted but the MkII stock is now working on the Bakerloo Line under One-Person Operation with manual driving. The Mark I version has been disbanded but some cars have been used to supplement the Victoria and Bakerloo fleets following suitable conversion.
Trains being produced at Derby: the Class 378 Electrostar for London Overground, the S-stock MOVIA for London Underground’s SubSurface Lines and the MOVIA metro for London Underground’s Victoria Line.
The 1967 Stock is now being replaced with new 2009 Stock. The 2009 stock is a type of London Underground train built by Bombardier Transportation as part of their Movia family at their Litchurch Lane Works in Derby, England. Forty-seven 8-car units are being built for the Victoria line, replacing the original 1967 Tube Stock.
Construction of the new trains is on-going and rollout will continue until 2011, when all 1967 Stock trains will have been replaced. The first 2009 Stock train entered passenger service on 21 July 2009 and a new train is now entering service every two weeks. The Victoria Line trains are now effectively in “one in, one out” mode, meaning that as soon as an 09 is dropped off at Northumberland Park depot, a 67 is sent to be scrapped by Booths from Acton Works.
The ’67 stock has been running on the Victoria line for 43 years since the line opened in 1968. It will be decommissioned this summer as part of the Victoria line upgrade. To mark this historic event there will be a special offline tour on Sunday 15 May. Victoria line General Manager John Doyle said:
“The tour is an exciting and unusual event. It will be the first and last time passengers can travel by ’67 stock on the District, Piccadilly and Metropolitan lines. The tour marks the end of more than 40 years of sterling service given to London by the ’67 stock and any money we are able to make from the tour will be donated to the Railway Children charity.”
So what’s so special about the 1967 Stock Railtour? First; because it is the first time passengers have been conveyed by ’67 stock on the Piccadilly, District and Metropolitan lines. Last; because it will never happen again! This unique tour marks the end of more than 40 years of sterling service given to London by the ’67 stock.
The train will leave Seven Sisters on 15th May at 10:13 and return at approximately 16:00, taking the following route:
Seven Sisters platform 4 – Northumberland Park staff platform
Northumberland Park staff platform – Uxbridge via Finsbury Park and Rayners Lane
Uxbridge – Barons Court siding via Rayners Lane and Acton Town
Barons Court siding – Ealing Broadway via Acton Town
Ealing Broadway – Seven Sisters via Acton Town and Finsbury Park
Tickets are priced at £30, with all profits going to the Railway Children Charity. Please note that as this is a full day trip, with limited comfort breaks available, we do not recommend that children are brought on the tour. However, if you do wish to bring children on the trip, the prices are: 0-5 yrs – Free and Under 16’s – £15 (all children MUST be accompanied by an adult).
For tickets, please contact London Transport Museum bookings office on 020 7565 7298 or Book Online;
So farewell to the unique Design Icon which is the 1967 Stock. Hopefully with the new trains, the upgraded signalling and the “new stations” due at Victoria, Euston and Oxford Circus the Victoria Line will regain some of the admiration it enjoyed on opening in 1968 as the first new tube line in London in 61 years.
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