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In case you haven't heard, the Northern line's being extended. While we're excited for a new bit of track to ride, and new stations to explore, what about the Kennington Loop? Will this unique feature of the Underground cease to exist? Will our rude-sounding t-shirts become meaningless overnight?
What is the Kennington Loop?
First things first, what is the Kennington Loop?
In short, it's a section of track where south-travelling tube trains loop back on themselves to turn around and starting heading back north. We'll allow tube expert Geoff Marshall to explain:
Until now, generally Charing Cross branch Northern line trains terminate at Kennington, while Bank branch trains tend to continue to Morden, although that's not always the case.*
The loop is situated just south of Kennington station, allowing terminating trains to leave the southbound platform, do the loop and turn up on Kennington's northbound platform a couple of minutes later. It's the only place on the Underground where you can leave a station on one train, and arrive back at the same station on the same train at the next stop.
* If you're reading this between May and September 2018, note that no Bank branch trains are currently stopping at Kennington, due to works to prepare the station for the Northern line extension.
Where's the Northern line being extended to?
Two new stations are being added to the southern end of the Northern line, beyond Kennington. Nine Elms and Battersea stations will mainly serve the new developments around those areas, and are expected to open in 2020. Find out more about the timeline on TfL.
The extension may get its own extension to Clapham Junction in the future, although that decision rides a lot on what happens to Crossrail 2.
Will the Kennington Loop cease to exist?
So with the Northern line being extended beyond Kennington, will trains still need to turn around there before heading back north, or will the Kennington Loop become redundant?
TfL addressed this question itself as far back as 2012, in response to a consultation it had put out regarding the extension (the fact that it features in TfL's response suggests that someone specifically raised queries or concerns regarding the continuation of the Kennington Loop. If you are that person, we salute you).
On page 3 of the response [PDF], TfL states that the number of trains using the loop to turn around "will be significantly reduced once the NLE is built". So it doesn't look like the Kennington Loop will become completely defunct, but if you're in the mood for riding the loop, you'll have a longer wait than you currently do (look out for trains which terminate at Kennington rather than going all the way out to Battersea).
It's currently rumoured among tube fans (although unconfirmed by TfL) that 24 trains per hour are planned to come down the Charing Cross branch, of which 16 will continue to Battersea, while eight will terminate at Kennington and turn round via the loop.