History of the London Underground

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From its creation to the present day, London Underground's 150-year history has been an eventful one.

London Underground milestones[change | change source]


Constructed by Sir Marc Brunel and his son Isambard, the Thames Tunnel opens


On 10 January, The Metropolitan Railway opens the world's first underground railway, between Paddington (then called Bishop's Road) and Farringdon Street


The first section of the Metropolitan District Railway, from South Kensington to Westminster (now part of the District and Circle lines), opens


The first steam trains travel through the Brunels' Thames Tunnel


Running from the Tower of London to Bermondsey, the first Tube tunnel opens


The Circle line is completed


On 18 December, The City and South London Railway opens the world's first deep-level electric railway. It runs from King William Street in the City of London, under the River Thames, to Stockwell


The Prince of Wales opens the Central London Railway from Shepherd's Bush to Bank (the 'Twopenny Tube'). This is now part of the Central line


The Underground Electric Railway Company of London (known as the Underground Group) is formed. By the start of WWI, mergers had brought all lines - except the Metropolitan line


District and Circle lines become electrified


Baker Street & Waterloo Railway (now part of the Bakerloo line) opens and runs from Baker Street to Kennington Road (now Lambeth North). Great Northern, Piccadilly & Brompton Railway (now part of the Piccadilly line) opens between Hammersmith and Finsbury Park


Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway (now part of the Northern line) opens and runs from Charing Cross to Golders Green and Highgate (now Archway). Albert Stanley (later Lord Ashfield) is appointed General Manager of the Underground Electric Railway Company of London Limited


The name 'Underground' makes its first appearance in stations, and the first electric ticket-issuing machine is introduced. This year also sees the first appearance of the famous roundel symbol


London's first escalators are installed at Earl's Court station


The last manually-operated doors on Tube trains are replaced by air-operated doors


  • The Underground Group and the Metropolitan Railway become part of the London Passenger Transport Board, taking control of all the Capital's railway, bus, tram, trolleybus and coach services
  • Harry Beck presents the first diagram of the Underground map


Between September 1940 and May 1945, most Tube station platforms are used as air raid shelters. Some, like the Piccadilly line, Holborn - Aldwych branch, are closed to store British Museum treasures


The London Passenger Transport Board was nationalised and now becomes the London Transport Executive


The first aluminium train enters service on the District line


Sees the end of the steam and electric locomotive haulage of London Transport passenger trains


The London Transport Executive becomes the London Transport Board, reporting directly to the Minister of Transport


The Queen opens the Victoria line


The London Transport Executive takes over the Underground and the Greater London area bus network, reporting to Greater London Council


  • The last steam shunting and freight locomotive is withdrawn from service
  • The Victoria line extends to Brixton


A fatal accident on the Northern line at Moorgate kills 43 people. New safety measures were introduced


The Queen opens Heathrow Central station (Terminals 1 2 3) on the Piccadilly line


The Prince of Wales opens the Jubilee line


A museum about the birthplace of modern urban transportation, called Brunel Engine House, opens to the public


Dot matrix train destination indicators introduced on platforms.


The Hammersmith & City and the Circle lines convert to one-person operation


The Piccadilly line is extended to serve Heathrow Terminal 4


A tragic fire at King's Cross station kills 31 people


New safety and fire regulations are introduced following the Fennell Report into the King's Cross fire


The London Underground Customer Charter is launched


  • Reconstruction work on Angel station ended
  • Work started on the extended Jubilee line from Green Park to Stratford


  • Penalty fares are introduced
  • London Underground takes over the Waterloo & City line and responsibility for the stations on the Wimbledon branch of the District line from Putney Bridge to Wimbledon Park
  • Aldwych station, and the Central line branch from Epping to Ongar closes


  • London Underground is restructured in preparation for Public Private Partnership
  • The extended Jubilee line opens, offering through services from Stanmore to Stratford


  • The Oyster card is introduced
  • Busking is legalised


52 people are killed in bomb attacks on three Tube trains and a bus on 7 July


  • The Tube carries one billion passengers in a year for the first time
  • 14 former Silverlink stations transfer to London Underground (LU)
  • The East London line closes for rebuilding and extension as part of new London Overground network


  • Piccadilly line extension to Heathrow Terminal 5 opens
  • Metronet transfers to TfL control


  • The Circle line changes shape
  • LU is named Best Metro Europe


  • The Queen visits Aldgate station
  • LU achieves Carbon Trust Standard
  • The first air-conditioned, walk-through Underground train runs on the Metropolitan line
  • Through services replace the Chesham shuttle


  • A full fleet of brand new Victoria Line trains become operational;
  • Green Park becomes step-free to provide easier access to the Victoria, Piccadilly and Jubilee lines in time for the Olympics