The Victoria Line: Truly Underground

Officially opened in March 1969 and named after Queen Victoria, the Victoria line was the first new tube line to be constructed in London for over 20 years

Victoria Line Route Plan (1957-06-15) by London Transport ExecutiveTfL Corporate Archives

A Vital New North-South Link

It was designed from the outset to link 4 main railway termini: Euston, St Pancras, King’s Cross and Victoria. And to facilitate passenger movements, every station (except Blackhorse Road) was to interchange with at least 1 other Underground or mainline rail line

A Victoria line train is deep cleaned at Northumberland Park Depot (2020-05-13) by Transport for LondonTfL Corporate Archives

The Victoria line is fully underground, apart from the maintenance depot at Northumberland Park

Photographs of Victoria Line Tunneling (1963-08-01)TfL Corporate Archives

New Tunnelling Methods Used

These included freezing waterlogged ground to enable tunnelling to take place

A Kinnear Moodie Drum Digger (1963-08-01)TfL Corporate Archives

Rotary diggers of various designs were used

Photographs of Oxford Circus Steel Umbrella (1963-08-01)TfL Corporate Archives

The most difficult section was Oxford Circus

Diagram of Traffic Bearing Steel Umbrella over Oxford Circus (1969-03-01)TfL Corporate Archives

A steel “umbrella” was built at the busy road junction of Oxford Street and Regent Street to enable traffic to flow with the minimum of disruption

'Up Goes The Umbrella' video (1min 21sec)

In just 65 hours, a cage made from 245 pieces of steel was erected over the road and a concrete roadway placed on top!

Traffic Regulation Office for Victoria Line (1969-03-01)TfL Corporate Archives

The first automatic passenger railway in the world

Once the driver closed the train doors and pressed the two start buttons, the train ran automatically to the next station, responding to coded impulses transmitted through the track, managed from a central control room at Euston

Automatic Ticket Barriers on Victoria Line (1969-03-01)TfL Corporate Archives

Automatic ticket gates activated by magnetically encoded tickets were also part of the scheme

Developed by Robert Dell, Director of Signal Engineering, while on holiday on Dartmoor in 1962, the Victoria line had a unique signalling system. It involved thousands of new electronic components, which were tested for months to promote reliability. The signalling system allowed for just full speed and half speed working.

Victoria Line Platform Motifs (1969-03-01)TfL Corporate Archives

At platform level, each station could be identified not only by the traditional roundel sign, but also by its decorative tile panels, with each station having its own motif

Victoria Line Platform Motifs (1969-03-01)TfL Corporate Archives

Some have historical references, such as the 7 elm trees at Seven Sisters, famous since the 17th century, while others have visual puns, like the maze or 'warren' at Warren Street

Mock Up of a Victoria Line Tube Car, 1965-04-01, From the collection of: TfL Corporate Archives
Armrests on Victoria Line Train, 1965-04-01, From the collection of: TfL Corporate Archives
Double Glazing in Victoria Line Trains, 1965-04-01, From the collection of: TfL Corporate Archives
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                    The new trains were distinctive in appearance, with wrap-around front windscreens. The innovation of double-glazing to make trains quieter, and new armrests to minimise elbow contact were designed to encourage passengers to use the new service

Front cover of leaflet advertising the new Victoria Line (1969-03-01)TfL Corporate Archives

Part of the line opened in 1968

But the official opening took place on March 7 1969, with the stage from Warren Street to Victoria coming into operation

A colourful day for London's new tube (1969-04-01)TfL Corporate Archives

HM Queen Elizabeth II performed the Opening Ceremony

The line was extended from Victoria to Brixton in 1972, opened by Princess Alexandra.

Victoria Line Car Line Diagram (2016-01-01)TfL Corporate Archives

Did you know?

Victoria line trains run only 90 seconds apart during peak periods – 40 trains per hour

Credits: Story

Story compiled by TfL using information in records at the Transport for London Corporate Archives. The Corporate Archives seeks to preserve and make accessible records, not to interpret them. A wider range of material is available for physical consultation.

Permission is granted to reproduce for personal and educational use only.

This story uses a video from British Movietone. Any enquiries regarding that footage should be made directly to that institution.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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