East London Line

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East London Line
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North London Line to Richmond
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Northern City Line to Finsbury Park
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Highbury & Islington
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Northern City Line to Moorgate
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East Coast Main Line
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Mildmay Park (1880-1934)
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Dalston Kingsland
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North London Line to Stratford
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Haggerston (closed 1940-2010)
Regent's Canal
Shoreditch (closed in 1940)
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Kingsland Viaduct
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Broad Street (closed in 1986)
Shoreditch High Street
Liverpool Street GEML / WAML
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Shoreditch (closed in 2006)
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Station, station
to the District Line / Hammersmith & City Line
Thames Tunnel under the River Thames
Canada Water
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Surrey Quays
after Clapham Jctn ISLL
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South Eastern Main Line to London Bridge
New Cross
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Brighton Main Line
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New Cross Gate
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Nunhead – Lewisham route
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Forest Hill
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Sydenham Junction
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Chatham Main Line
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Penge West
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Bromley Junction
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Crystal Palace
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Outer South London Line
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Norwood Junction
Brighton Main Line
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West Croydon
Route - straight ahead
after Sutton

The East London Line is a line from London Overground . It runs in a north-south direction in the East End and in the Docklands in the east of the British capital London .

The East London Railway Company opened the original route through the Thames Tunnel , the world's oldest tunnel under a river , in 1869 . In the following decades several railway companies operated the route together. In 1933 the East London Line was integrated into the London Underground network, and from 1948 it was publicly owned. The underground service ended in December 2007. After that, the entire route was closed for two and a half years in order to be able to completely renew it and extend it at both ends. It has been navigable again since April 2010 and is part of the London Overground network. With further additions in the following years, the once short underground extension line developed into the heart of a railway ring around central London.


Creation of the East London Railway

The East London Railway was built by the East London Railway Company with a similar name . Six different railway companies were involved in this consortium: The Great Eastern Railway (GER), the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB & SCR), the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR), the South Eastern Railway (SER), the Metropolitan Railway (MR) and the Metropolitan District Railway (MDR). The latter two operated routes, which today form part of the London Underground as the Metropolitan Line , District Line and Hammersmith & City Line .

The consortium intended to use the Thames Tunnel, built between 1825 and 1843 by Marc Isambard Brunel and Isambard Kingdom Brunel . The tunnel was originally built for horse-drawn vehicles, had a generous clearance profile and two lanes separated by pillars. However, the tunnel ultimately only served as a pedestrian connection. He connected Wapping on the north bank of the Thames with Rotherhithe on the south bank. While the tunnel was considered an engineering feat, it turned out to be a total failure commercially. It was also a magnet for prostitutes and thieves in the 1860s.

At that time, the tunnel formed the easternmost permanent connection between the north and south banks of the Thames. It was in close proximity to the docks on either side of the river and not far from the main existing railroad lines. The renovation of the tunnel for rail traffic was an ideal opportunity to connect the various routes without having to build a new tunnel. On September 25, 1865, the East London Railway Company acquired the Thames Tunnel for £ 800,000. Over the next four years, the consortium built a new railway line through the tunnel.

The route was put into operation in sections, depending on the availability of financial resources:

  • December 7, 1869: From New Cross Gate station (then New Cross) to Wapping . The operation was carried out by the LB & SCR, intermediate stations were created on Deptford Road (today Surrey Quays) and in Rotherhithe .
  • March 13, 1871: Opening of a branch from a point immediately south of what is now Surrey Quays station to Old Kent Road station on the South London Line . Operations on this route ceased in 1911, and the rails were then removed.
  • April 19, 1876: Wapping to Shoreditch . The route ran as an under-paved railway, partly on the bottom of an abandoned and now covered harbor basin. At Shoreditch, a connection to the Great Eastern Railway was created to allow LB & SCR access to Liverpool Street Station . Shadwell and Whitechapel train stations also opened .
  • April 1, 1880: Branch to New Cross Station on the South Eastern Railway.
  • March 3, 1884: Connection between the Metropolitan Railway and the East London Railway south of Whitechapel. This allowed Metropolitan Railway and Metropolitan District Railway trains to cross the river. Although the connection was no longer used by passenger trains after 1941, it was still used to transfer empty trains between the East London Line and the rest of the sub-paving network.

Use in the early phase

Northern part of the East London Railway (green) and connecting routes in 1906 on a map of the Railway Clearing House
Southern part of the East London Railway (red) and connecting lines in 1908

The East London Railway Company owned the infrastructure, but did not run any train itself. Instead, it leased the route to the parent companies. At the beginning there were steam trains operated by GER, LB & SCR and SER. There was both passenger and freight traffic. LB & SCR passenger trains ran between Liverpool Street and Croydon , from April 1880 to March 1884 those of the SER operated between Liverpool Street and Addiscombe . The SER offered trains from Addiscombe to St Mary’s from March to September 1884 (joint station for MR and MDR). From October 1, 1884, trains of the MR and MDR used the route from St Mary's to New Cross and New Cross Gate. Six days later, direct trains began operating between Hammersmith and New Cross or New Cross Gate.

Prior to the development of the Kent coal mines in the early 20th century, heating coal from the north, which was transported to south London and as far as Maidstone and Brighton , was an important source of income. Access at the north end of the line was complicated: trains were limited to 26 carriages; they had to be pushed into Liverpool Street Station and then pulled onto the East London Railway. From October 1900, a wagon elevator, which carried wagons from the GER coal depot at Spitalfields to a siding on the East London Railway near Whitechapel, provided greater capacity. The elevator was in operation until 1967.

After the electrification of the MDR route network, from July 31, 1905, no more trains of this company ran on the route, the MR followed on December 2, 1906. LB & SCR and GER trains continued to run, the SER started operations on December 3, 1906 back on. The East London Railway was later also electrified, with the parent companies sharing the costs and MR providing the rolling stock. Electrical operation began on March 31, 1913. MR trains ran from the two southern terminus via Shoreditch and Edgware Road to South Kensington , and from 1914 to Hammersmith. With the entry into force of the Railways Act 1921 in 1923, freight traffic was transferred to the London and North Eastern Railway , while MR continued to be responsible for passenger traffic.

Part of the London Underground

Shoreditch Station was closed in June 2006
Canada Water train station
Platform of the Rotherhithe station

In 1933 the East London Railway came under the control of the London Passenger Transport Board . Although the infrastructure remained privately owned, the passenger traffic was carried out as a branch of the Metropolitan Line , as the "East London Branch". In 1948 the entire subway network was nationalized, which, along with the railway lines, was placed under the supervision of the British Transport Commission . British Rail (BR) freight trains used the route until 1962, the sparse passenger traffic from Liverpool Street until 1966. In the same year, the connection between Shoreditch and Liverpool Street was removed. Operation to Shoreditch itself was also reduced, with Whitechapel serving as the northern terminus of the line for most of the time. Shoreditch was only served on working days during rush hour and on Sundays (due to the popular market in Brick Lane ) until the closure on June 9, 2006 , but not on Saturdays.

The connection to Hammersmith was only offered during rush hour from 1936 and was finally discontinued in 1941. As a result, the East London Line lost its importance and was now an isolated appendage on the edge of the underground network. The only transfer option to the Underground was in Whitechapel, while at the two stations in New Cross you could transfer to trains from British Rail. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, two significant transfer options were added: From 1987 the Docklands Light Railway served Shadwell and in 1999 a new station was built at Canada Water to create a link with the extended Jubilee Line .

Description of the route

The East London Line was the only line on the London Underground that did not touch the Travelcard tariff zone 1. With a length of nine kilometers, it was the second shortest line after the Waterloo & City Line , and the total journey time was just 14 minutes. There were nine stations along the route. Between Shoreditch and Surrey Quays, the line ran in an open pit tunnel, the rest of the route was at ground level or lay in cuts. The lowest point was in the Wapping station at the original entrance shaft of the Thames Tunnel, 18.29 meters below the surface.

Immediately south of Whitechapel station there was a connection to the Metropolitan Line and the District Line, the so-called St Mary's Curve . This connection had been out of service for scheduled traffic since 1941, but was used regularly to transfer rolling stock to the main workshop in Neasden . The curve is easily recognizable from Whitechapel, but a wall was built in January 2008, so it has not been accessible since then.

Most of the line was double-tracked, but Shoreditch station and access to the two southern terminus were single-tracked due to lack of space. There were two farewell trips, one on December 16, 2007 with the historic 1938 Tube Stock and on December 22, 2007, a special train operated by the East London Line employees. On the night of December 22nd to 23rd, 2007, the last trains on the East London Line ran.

Type A train of the Underground


The East London Line formed an operating group with the Metropolitan Line for several years. Until recently, the same vehicle types were used as on the Metropolitan. Up until May 1985 there was a door guard on every train in addition to the driver; the announcement that the latter would be canceled resulted in an unsuccessful strike by the National Union of Railwaymen .

The trains last used, built in the early 1960s, were modernized in 1994 to improve the suspension, lighting, heating and ventilation. A total of five trains with four cars each were used. At New Cross there was a small depot with a parking facility. The Neasden depot was responsible for the main inspections.


East London Line (Underground)
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to Liverpool Street
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Great Eastern Main Line
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to the District Line / Hammersmith & City Line
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Thames tunnel
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Canada Water
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Surrey Quays
to London Bridge
New Cross Depot
New Cross
South Eastern Main Line
New Cross Gate
Brighton Main Line
  • Shoreditch : Opened April 10, 1876; first service by underground on March 31, 1913; closed on March 25, 1995, reopened on September 27, 1998, permanently closed on June 9, 2006.
  • Whitechapel : Opened April 10, 1876 as Whitechapel (Mile End) ; renamed Whitechapel on January 13, 1901; first service by underground on March 31, 1913; closed on February 1, 1902, reopened on June 2, 1902.
  • Shadwell : Opened April 10, 1876 as Shadwell ; first service by underground on December 1, 1884; renamed Shadwell & St. George-in-the-East on July 1, 1900; closed on December 2, 1906; reopened March 31, 1913; renamed Shadwell in 1918; closed on March 25, 1995; reopened on March 25, 1998.
  • Wapping : Opened December 7, 1869; first service by underground on December 1, 1884; closed on December 2, 1906; reopened March 31, 1913; closed on March 25, 1995; reopened on March 25, 1998.
  • Rotherhithe : Opened December 7th, 1869; first service by underground on December 1, 1884; closed on December 2, 1906; reopened March 31, 1913; closed on March 25, 1995; reopened on March 25, 1998.
  • Canada Water : Opened September 17, 1999.
  • Surrey Quays : Opened December 7, 1869; first service by underground on December 1, 1884; closed on December 2, 1906; reopened as Surrey Docks on March 31, 1913; renamed Surrey Quays on October 24, 1989; closed on March 25, 1995; reopened on March 25, 1998.
  • New Cross Gate : ELL opened on December 7, 1869; first service by underground on December 1, 1884; closed on August 31, 1886 and reopened at a new location one day later; closed on July 31, 1905; reopened March 31, 1913; closed on March 25, 1995; reopened on March 25, 1998.
  • New Cross : ELL opened on April 1, 1880; first service by underground on December 1, 1884; closed on December 2, 1906; reopened March 31, 1913; closed on March 25, 1995; reopened on March 25, 1998.

Extension of the East London Line

Project planning

As early as the 1980s, the transport company London Transport had the intention of converting the relatively short East London Line into a long north-south main traffic axis east of the City of London . The plan was to convert it into a light rail system similar to the Docklands Light Railway and - as an alternative - to reopen the connection to Liverpool Street. In 1989 there were plans to extend the route north to Dalston and south to Dulwich and Peckham Rye . Existing railway lines and stations should be used (as was already the case on parts of the Bakerloo Line , the Metropolitan Line and the District Line ). The construction costs would have been 100 to 120 million pounds. The extended line should originally have opened in 1994, but after numerous delays due to financial constraints, the project was eventually abandoned.

A solution to the financing issue finally emerged in 1999 when London Transport announced it was looking for private investors. The project was overseen by the Strategic Rail Authority rather than London Underground, as the new line would have a far greater impact on the rail network than it would on the Underground. There was also the proposal to transfer the East London Line and other large profile railways of the London Underground to Railtrack , the private company responsible for maintaining the rail infrastructure. This would have integrated the line into the suburban railway network. However, for practical reasons, the government rejected this proposal.

Implementation of phase 1

The government issued the building permit on October 9, 2001 , and construction was scheduled to start in December of the same year. However, this had to be postponed when it turned out that a listed arched viaduct from the 19th century on the site of the former Bishopsgate freight yard should have been demolished. Interest groups filed a lawsuit against London Underground to prevent the demolition. But the Court of Appeal approved the project on July 7, 2003.

Construction of the bridge over Shoreditch High Street (March 2008)

Preparatory work by Taylor Woodrow began in June 2005 and continued through 2006; they included the replacement and renovation of 22 bridges along the Kingsland Viaduct . Shoreditch Station was shut down on June 9, 2006. On December 22, 2007, underground traffic on the East London Line ended and replacement buses now connected the stations; however, due to the restricted height of the Rotherhithe tunnel, they did not cross the Thames.

Mayor Boris Johnson reopened the East London Line, which was extended at both ends, on April 27, 2010 . Initially, there was a limited introductory operation between Dalston Junction and New Cross or New Cross Gate stations. Four weeks later, on May 23, 2010, operations were expanded to Crystal Palace and West Croydon.

The last outstanding section of the first phase between Dalston Junction and Highbury & Islington opened in March 2011.

Map of the East London Line with extensions, the line registered here as a future extension has been in operation since 2012

Implementation of phase 2

The second phase of the extension involved the construction of a 2.5 km link from Surrey Quays Station to the South London Line towards Clapham Junction . After some uncertainty about financing, the execution of the second phase was approved in February 2009. An intermediate station on Surrey Canal Road was also planned, but this project was postponed indefinitely. This created a ring line around central London. The second phase was put into operation on December 9, 2012.

Web links

Commons : East London Line  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Brunel's Thames Tunnel. BBC, November 22, 2008, accessed January 7, 2013 .
  2. ^ Railway And Other Companies. East London. The Times , Sep 2, 1869, p. 5.
  3. ^ A b c d Douglas Rose: The London Underground: A Diagramatic History . 8th edition. Capital Transport, Harrow Weald 2007, ISBN 978-1-85414-315-0 .
  4. ^ Charles Klapper: London's Lost Railways . Routledge and Kegan Paul, London 1976, ISBN 0-7100-8378-5 , pp. 94-98 .
  5. Frequently Asked Questions. uk.transport.london, accessed September 23, 2012 .
  6. ^ Last Days of the East London Line. Cravens Heritage Trains, January 16, 2008, accessed January 7, 2013 .
  7. ^ Illegal subway strike called off in London . The Globe and Mail , May 21, 1985.
  8. Booming tube lines may be extended . The Times, April 10, 1987.
  9. Dalston-Dulwich Tube likely to go ahead , Financial Times , December 22, 1989.
  10. ^ Underground to be extended with private funds - London Transport . The Times. February 8, 1999.
  11. ^ Railtrack lines up the prospect of non-stop travel across London . Financial Times, June 16, 1999
  12. Tube line extensions 'approved'. BBC News , October 9, 2001, accessed May 21, 2010 .
  13. ^ Tube scheme back on track. BBC News, July 7, 2003, accessed May 21, 2010 .
  14. ^ Transport for London awards £ 363m contract to build new East London Railway. Transport for London , October 23, 2006, accessed May 21, 2010 .
  15. Tube line shut until 2010. (No longer available online.) Evening Standard , December 21, 2006, archived from the original on June 6, 2011 ; accessed on May 21, 2010 (English). Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.thisislondon.co.uk
  16. ^ East London Line officially opened by Boris Johnson. BBC News, April 27, 2010, accessed May 21, 2010 .
  17. ^ East London Line extension to Clapham to be built by London 2012. New Civil Engineer, February 12, 2009, accessed January 7, 2013 .
  18. ^ Outer London rail orbital opens for passengers. BBC News, December 10, 2012, accessed January 7, 2013 .