Victoria Line Vexations Virtually Vanish

Dave Haste
By Dave Haste Last edited 114 months ago
Victoria Line Vexations Virtually Vanish
Victoria Line

Alliteration aside, it’s not all bad news on the tube. Whilst the East London Line is having to go cap-in-hand to beg for funding to complete its extension, it looks like long-suffering Victoria Line passengers are set to enjoy a resumption of ‘normal’ services from today.

Indeed, the Monday-to-Thursday ‘early closures’ that have inconvenienced Viccy Line regulars since the middle of last year have now ‘officially’ ended, according to TFL. Despite earlier rumours that the disruptions would be extended (again) into 2009, TFL’s own documentation indicates no planned weeknight closures in the next six months, although occasional closures at weekends do seem to be scheduled from mid-January.

To cautiously celebrate this hopeful return to ‘normality’, here are some of the things that we know about the Victoria Line:

  • The line was officially opened by the Queen on 7th March 1969, at a ceremony at Victoria Station. However, it had already been operating in a limited capacity (from Walthamstow Central to Highbury & Islington) since 1st September 1968.
  • It was designed to be a fast, congestion-relieving alternative to other lines (such as the Piccadilly Line).
  • Almost every station on the line provides an interchange with another tube or mainline rail service (Pimlico is the odd station out in this respect). It was designed to make extensive use of ‘cross-platform interchanges’ to help passengers change line quickly.
  • It is the only tube line whose passenger sections operate entirely underground. (OK, so the Drain also qualifies for this, but as a relatively short two-stop ‘shuttle’ service we think this is much less impressive.)
  • It was the first automatic passenger railway in the world (it essentially ‘drives itself’ between stations).
  • During the line’s construction, a tunnel-boring machine inadvertently ploughed straight into a long-forgotten plague pit near Green Park, to the probable distress of the workmen involved.
  • Picture taken from currybet’s Flickr photostream under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike licence.

    Last Updated 21 November 2008


    I wonder if that's the same plague pit that obviates the Piccadilly line to take a circuitous route between Knightsbridge and south Kensington.


    Could well be, although there are just too many plague pits dug deep into London that it would be difficult to know if this was connected.


    'Although macabre, London obviously had a great many plague pits during and after 1665. Among various ghoulish stories of pestilence, there is the fact that the Piccadilly Line tunnel between Knightsbridge and South Kensington follows a rather unusually bendy route in order to go around such a pit.'

    Source – Catherine Arnold’s, Necropolis: London and It’s Dead


    On top of this, Liverpool Street Station is actually built on top of a plague pit, it is under the concourse and platforms, so well away from the underground.

    All the plague pits were outside the city walls, then the city of London and it's walls were only about one square mile, so plenty of space outside. All were dug deep, some up to 30 metres down, hence the problem when the tube tunnelers came to town.

    The largest pit is at houndsditch, named as it says on the tin, it was where the dogs (who at the time were wrongly thought to carry the plague, so were exterminated) are buried.


    Steve Roud in his excellent book London Lore dismisses the Piccadilly plague pit (and many others) as an urban myth, saying the tunnels are simply too deep at this point to encounter any burials.

    To be fair, I don't know if his assertions are any more credible than all the places I've previously read about the existence of this pit, but I think it pays to be a bit skeptical here. 30 metres deep sounds a little excessive.