East London
Colour on map Orange
Year opened 1869
Line type Sub-Surface
Rolling stock A Stock
Stations served 8
Length (km) 7.4
Length (miles) 4.6
Depots New Cross
Journeys made 10,702,000[1] (per annum)
Rail lines of
Transport for London
London Underground lines
  Hammersmith & City
  Waterloo & City
Other lines
  Docklands Light Railway

The East London Line was a line of the London Underground, coloured orange on the Tube map. It ran north to south through the East End and Docklands areas of London, entirely in Travelcard Zone 2. It closed temporarily on 22 December 2007[2] for construction work, replaced by bus services.

It is being extended and converted for use as the East London Railway and, from 2010, will be part of the London Overground network of Transport for London (TfL). It could be seen as the second line to "secede" from the London Underground (the Northern City Line was the first). The line will change from a minor stub to a key transport artery, an orbital railway linking London's suburbs.

Opened in 1869 as the East London Railway, it runs under the Thames through the Thames Tunnel, which was the oldest part of the Underground's infrastructure. The line was originally operated by six different railway companies (later reduced to two) and became part of the London Underground in 1933. Of the eight stations, four are below ground.

History Edit

Establishment of the East London RailwayEdit

The East London Railway was created by the East London Railway Company, a consortium of six railway companies: the Great Eastern Railway (GER); London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR); London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR); South Eastern Railway (SER); Metropolitan Railway; and the Metropolitan District Railway, the last two of which operated what are now the Metropolitan line, Circle line, District line and Hammersmith & City line of the London Underground.

File:Inside a A60 Stock Train, Whitechapel 2007.jpg

The companies sought to re-use the Thames Tunnel, built by Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel between 1825 and 1843. The tunnel was built for horse-drawn carriages and so had generous headroom with two separate carriageways separated by arches, though it was only used for pedestrian traffic. It connected Wapping on the north bank of the Thames with Rotherhithe on the south bank. Although it was a triumph of civil engineering, it was a commercial failure and by the 1860s it had become an unpleasant and disreputable place.

The tunnel provided the most easterly dry-land connection between the north and south banks of the Thames. It was close to London's docks on both banks of the river and was not far from mainline railways at either end. Converting the tunnel to a railway thus offered an ideal means of providing a cross-Thames rail link without having to go to the great expense of boring a new tunnel. On 25 September 1865, the East London Railway Company took ownership of the Thames Tunnel at a cost of £800,000.[3] Over the next four years the company constructed a railway line running through the tunnel to connect with existing railway lines.

File:East london railway 1915.jpg

The line's development progressed in several stages as money became available:

Early utilisationEdit

The East London Railway Company owned the infrastructure but did not work the line, instead leasing it to its controlling railways. Steam trains were initially operated by the GER, LB&SCR and the SER. The LB&SCR used their LBSCR A1 Class Terrier locomotives, which William Stroudley designed partly with this line in mind. It carried both passenger and goods trains; the LB&SCR operated between Liverpool Street and Croydon, the SER introducing a service between Addiscombe and Liverpool Street from April 1880. Until October 1884 there were no intermediate stations along the line, when several stations opened, and two more in 1913.

Before the development of the Kent coalfields in the early part of the twentieth century, housecoal from the north, for distribution in south London and as far afield as Maidstone, Kent, and Brighton, Sussex, was an important source of revenue. Access at the north end of the line was difficult: trains limited to 26 wagons had to be shunted into the Great Eastern's Liverpool Street Station and then drawn forward onto the East London line. From October 1900 additional capacity was offered by a wagon lift, carrying two ten-ton wagons, from the Great Eastern coal depot at Spitalfields to a siding on the ELR near Whitechapel station. The surface junction was taken up in 1966 and the lift closed in 1967, after a fire at the Spitalfields depot.[4][5]

When the Metropolitan and District Railways were electrified in 1905-1906 they ceased using the ELR; it was electrified on 31 March 1913, with the controlling railways funding the upgrade and the Metropolitan Railway providing the rolling stock. After the 1923 Grouping, the goods service was operated by London and North Eastern Railway with the Metropolitan Railway continuing to provide passenger services.

Passenger trains originally ran from the two southern termini to Shoreditch and South Kensington via Edgware Road and High Street Kensington. The Metropolitan Railway also briefly provided a passenger service to Liverpool Street but abandoned this in 1906. In 1914 the service to South Kensington was diverted to Hammersmith.

The London Underground eraEdit

Template:East London Line original

File:Wapping tube station 1.jpg
File:Shoreditch to Liverpool St.jpg

In 1933 the East London Railway came under the control of the London Passenger Transport Board. Although the infrastructure was still privately owned, passenger services along the line were operated under the auspices of the "East London Branch" of the Metropolitan Line. In 1948 the railways were nationalised and became part of the newly-created British Transport Commission along with the Underground. Goods services continued to use the line until 1962 and occasional passenger trains from Liverpool Street traversed the line until 1966. The short length of track connecting Shoreditch to Liverpool St station was removed in in 1966. The service to Shoreditch was also reduced, with Whitechapel becoming the northern terminus for much of the time; by the time Shoreditch station closed in 2006, it was openat peak times on weekdays, most of Sundays (for Brick Lane Market) and closed on Saturdays.

Westbound services were steadily curtailed during the early part of the Underground era. The service to Hammersmith was reduced to peak hours only in 1936 and was withdrawn altogether in 1941, leaving the East London branch as an isolated appendage on the edge of the Underground network. Its only passenger interchange to the Underground was at Whitechapel, with interchanges to British Rail trains at the two New Cross stations. In the 1980s and 1990s the line gained two important new connections: Shadwell became an interchange with the Docklands Light Railway in 1987 and a new station was added at Canada Water in 1999 for interchange with the Jubilee line.

The identity of the East London line changed considerably during the London Underground era. On Tube maps between 1933 and 1968 the East London line was depicted in the same colour as the Metropolitan line. In 1970 it was renamed the "Metropolitan Line - East London Section" depicted in Metropolitan line purple but with a white stripe down the middle. In the 1980s it was renamed as a line in its own right (though it was still grouped operationally with the Metropolitan line) and from 1990 the colour was changed to the present orange.

The maintenance of the line passed to the Metronet consortium in 2003 under a Public-Private Partnership, although the operation of trains continued to be the responsibility of TfL.

According to TfL, the line carried 10.702 million passengers per year before its temporary closure in 2007. [1]

Physical characteristicsEdit

File:London Underground Zone 2.png

The East London line was the only Underground line not to enter Travelcard Zone 1. It was the second-shortest line (after the Waterloo & City line), with an end-to-end journey time of 14 minutes. Its length was nine km (five miles), with nine stations. At the time of its closure in 2007 it ran in a continuous tunnel from Whitechapel to Surrey Quays, with the remainder on the surface or in cutting. Much of the line is constructed in the cut-and-cover fashion that is typical of London's sub-surface railways. The deepest point is at Wapping station, constructed in the Thames Tunnel's original entrance shaft 18.29 m (60 ft) below the surface.[1]

At time of closure, the line connected with Southeastern mainline services at New Cross and Southern at New Cross Gate. Underground connections were at Canada Water (Jubilee Line) and Whitechapel (District Line). A non-contiguous connection with the Docklands Light Railway was at Shadwell, with a separate DLR station some 50 m (150 ft) away. Although the interchange was via the street, through ticketing was permitted at time of closure in 2007.

A link with the Metropolitan and District lines still exists just south of Whitechapel via the St Mary's Curve. This has been out of passenger use since 1941 but was still regularly used to transfer rolling stock to and from the Metropolitan line's main depot. The curve can easily be seen on the northbound and eastbound approaches to Whitechapel station, although a temporary wall was built across the line in January 2008, close to the junction with the District Line[citation needed].

Most of the line is double track, although Shoreditch station and the final sections into the southern termini are single track due to the lack of space available at those locations. This required southbound trains to alternate between the two termini.

Rolling stockEdit


The East London line used Metropolitan line A60 and A62 sub-surface rolling stock manufactured by Cravens of Sheffield in two batches between 1960 and 1962. It was upgraded in 1994 with improved suspension, lighting, heating and ventilation. The rolling stock was regularly interchanged with that used on the main Metropolitan line and usually carried both East London and Metropolitan line maps.

Five four-car trains operated the line, some of the shortest trains on the network, necessitated by short platforms. The small number of trains made the line particularly sensitive to disruption caused by vandalism or train faults, as the withdrawal of a single train amounted to a 20% cut in capacity - the Metropolitan line would have to lose nine trains to suffer the same percentage cut. Trains used to be operated with guards as well as a driver; the decision to withdraw the guards prompted an unsuccessful strike by the National Union of Railwaymen in May 1985.[6]

Light maintenance and stabling were provided at a small depot near New Cross, with heavier work at the main Metropolitan line depot at Neasden. Between 1985 and 1987, D78 stock operated the line before being replaced by A60 and A62 stock again.

New rolling stock Edit

As part of the upgrade of the East London line new rolling stock will enter service to replace the A Stock (which will be 50 years old by the time Phase 1 is complete in 2010). It was announced on 31 August 2006 that Bombardier has been selected to provide 20 four-car units for the East London line and 24 dual-voltage three-car units for the North London Line. The contract is worth £223m.[7] On 4 July 2007 it was announced that the order had been increased by adding an extra car to the dual-voltage units and an extra three trains for the East London line at a cost of £36m.[8]

The trains are based on the Electrostar design and are outwardly similar to the Class 376 stock in operation in southeast England.

Rail Replacement Bus ServicesEdit

On Sunday, 23 December 2007 three new full-time rail replacement bus services commenced operation, in addition to the ELS, which began on 10 June 2006.

  • ELC New Cross Gate - New Cross - Surrey Quays - Canada Water (every 5-10 minutes Monday to Friday, every 15 minutes weekends).
  • ELS Whitechapel - Shoreditch (Monday to Friday peak hours, 0700-1030 and 1530-2030, and Sundays 0700-1530 only).
  • ELW Whitechapel - Shadwell - Wapping (every 10 minutes, 15 minutes evenings and weekends).

Route ELP Canada Water - Rotherhithe (was every 15 minutes) ran until 24 February 2008, and was withdrawn due to lack of use. Tickets are vaild between Bermondsey and Canada Water on standard route 381 as a replacement. [9] There is no cross-river replacement bus service.

Stations Edit

Geographically accurate map of the East London line

In order from north to south

File:Shoreditch stn closed.JPG


Template:Future uk public transportation

Template:East London Line The East London line is currently being extended in two phases. In Phase 1, due to be completed by June 2010, it is being extended northwards from Whitechapel to Highbury & Islington, and south to Crystal Palace and West Croydon. Phase 2, not yet funded, is proposed to extend the line west to Clapham Junction, but is unlikely to receive approval before 2012 and would probably not be completed much before 2015.[citation needed]

Proposals and problemsEdit

Extensions of the East London line have been discussed for many years. During the 1980s London Transport considered converting it into a light railway along the lines of the Docklands Light Railway, or restoring the connection to Liverpool Street.[10][11] By 1989 a proposal emerged to extend it north to Dalston and south to Dulwich and Peckham Rye, sharing track and stations with the mainline network (as already happens on parts of the Bakerloo Line, District line and Metropolitan line). The plan was costed at £100-£120 million and the extended line was envisaged to open in 1994.[12]

The extension project was proposed several times during the 1990s but repeatedly fell through due to a lack of government support and insufficient financing. In November 1990 Transport Secretary Cecil Parkinson rejected a proposed parliamentary Bill that would have authorised the project[13] and two years later the extension plans were postponed indefinitely due to cutbacks in Tube funding.[14] Another proposal was made in 1993[15] and received the support of a public inquiry in 1994. The project was finally approved by the Government in 1996[16] but a lack of financing again forced the project to be put on hold in 1997.[17]

A solution to the funding issue was found in 1999 when London Transport announced that it was seeking private funds to realise the extension plans.[18] Control of the project was given to the Strategic Rail Authority rather than to London Underground, in view of the impact that it would have on mainline services. It was also proposed that the East London line and other sub-surface Underground lines would be transferred to Railtrack, the private company responsible for maintaining the mainline network. This would have seen the line being integrated with the London suburban commuter network.[19] However, it was soon decided that this was impractical and the Railtrack proposal was abandoned.[20]

Commencement of projectEdit

After the Government gave the go-ahead on 9 October 2001 on the basis of the line being funded through the Private Finance Initiative, the construction of the northern extension was due to begin in December 2001. However, it was held up when it came to light that the Grade II listed 19th century Braithwaite arches in the former Bishopsgate Goods Yard were to be demolished as part of the project. Campaigners launched legal action against London Underground in an effort to prevent the demolition, but the project finally received legal clearance in the Court of Appeal on 7 July 2003. It is now anticipated that the northerly extension to Dalston should open in 2010 (in February 2008 the work was due for completion on 19 October 2009[21], which is ahead of schedule), in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics being held in London, a time-scale confirmed by the project team in January 2006. As part of the work for the extension, the line will be closed for up to 30 months from December 2007, opening by June 2010.[22]

This triple extension project is the first London Underground project to be funded through a Private Finance Initiative scheme, though the recent Jubilee Line Extension project was funded through a similar Public-Private Partnership scheme. The project will cost some £600 million and is projected to yield £10 billion in economic regeneration. It is still not entirely certain whether it will be completed, as the Treasury has not yet confirmed the full funding.

Because of an inability to extend the platforms at the existing Wapping and Rotherhithe stations and make them fully compliant with current rail safety regulations, it was thought that they would be closed, but on 18 August 2004 Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, announced that both stations will remain open, at least when Phase 1 of the project opens by June 2010.

On 12 October 2004 the Mayor formally confirmed that phase one of the East London Line Project would be delivered as part of the Capital Investment programme. A month later, on 16 November, he announced that control of the project had passed from the Strategic Rail Authority to TfL, so that the project may be initiated and funded from TfL's five-year investment programme. The planned service was initially described as a "metro-style (National Rail) train service".[23] On 5 September 2006, it was announced that the line would form part of the London Overground and will be branded with a version of the familiar Underground roundel, replacing the red roundel with orange (the colour that the East London line currently appears on tube maps).[24]

It is expected that the extension will greatly increase the usage of the line. The current figure of 10.4m passengers per year is expected to increase to 35.4m when the first phase of the extension project is completed, and 50m when both phases are finished.[25]

On 23 October 2006, it was announced that a consortium comprising Balfour Beatty and Carillion had been selected to carry out the northern and southern extensions between West Croydon, Crystal Palace and Dalston Junction in a contract worth £363 million ($617 million).[26]

Apart from the Braithwaite arches, the route of the northern extension was uncontroversial, as it reused the disused viaduct to the former Broad Street station. In contrast, the southerly route across south London's existing network of suburban railways underwent many changes. The initial 1999 proposal listed four options, all starting south of Surrey Quays:


  • through East Dulwich and Tooting to Wimbledon;
  • through Forest Hill to West Croydon, with a spur from Sydenham to Crystal Palace (chosen);
  • through Denmark Hill to Clapham Junction;
  • through Forest Hill and Norwood Junction to West Croydon.

Northern extensionEdit

File:East London line all change.JPG

In phase 1, the line is being extended northwards from Whitechapel, with new stations created at Shoreditch High Street, Hoxton, Haggerston and Dalston Junction. A further extension along the North London Line, through Canonbury to Highbury & Islington for interchange with the Victoria line, North London line and Northern City Line will open soon afterwards. The northern extension will require only 3.6 km of new trackbed to be constructed, linking Whitechapel to the Broad Street viaduct, as existing disused trackbeds will be used for most of the distance.

Shoreditch closed permanently in June 2006. The new line will diverge before the closed Shoreditch station, traverse the former site of the Bishopsgate Goods Yard, bridging Shoreditch High Street, before running north along the Broad Street Viaduct. A new Shoreditch station will be located in Bethnal Green Road very near Shoreditch High Street. Statutory planning powers for the extension were granted in January 1997.

As of mid-April 2008, the main structure of the bridge over Shoreditch High Street is complete. The ground on the approaches to the bridge has been largely cleared and significant sections of the approach viaducts have been built. The building of the station itself is at a very early stage only.

Early in the project's life mention was made of the possibility of further extending the line from Highbury & Islington, to Finsbury Park to the north, and Willesden Junction to the west, by way of Camden Road, Primrose Hill and Queen's Park, following the above-ground Network Rail North London Line tracks. This was known as the Mayor's Orbirail project. These ideas are not in the present project. The project's web site states that Finsbury Park is omitted because of operational complexity and says that the Willesden Junction branch could be considered as a separate project in the future. The present track plans[1] show a separated ELL and NLL without the possibility of through running.

Southern extensionEdit


In phase 1, the line will also be extended with a flyover link north of New Cross Gate to the London Bridge arm of the Brighton Main Line, through to Brockley, Honor Oak Park, Forest Hill, Sydenham, Penge West, Crystal Palace (by way of a branch), Anerley, Norwood Junction and terminating at West Croydon. Beyond the construction of a train servicing facility and flyover at New Cross Gate, little work will be needed to achieve this. Both of these plans were approved in October 2001.

There were some campaigning for this extension to go further, to Sutton, but estimates indicated that passenger usage would be so great that the line would be unable to take much traffic north of West Croydon and this option was not adopted.

The stations from New Cross Gate south are currently managed by Southern, and some may be transferred to TfL control as part of the extension project.[citation needed]

Western extensionEdit

In phase 2 of the extension project, a 2.5 km (1.5 mi) link is planned to connect the line south of Surrey Quays to the Network Rail South London Line to Clapham Junction, by way of Queens Road Peckham, Peckham Rye, Denmark Hill, Clapham High Street and Wandsworth Road. This would be constructed on a disused alignment which, until 1911, was used by trains from Rotherhithe to Peckham via the now-defunct Old Kent Road station. A new station at Surrey Canal Road would be built.

Initially it was planned to run this line via East Dulwich to Wimbledon, but this part of the plan has been shelved, probably permanently. In July 2006, the Government warned that this £250m phase was unlikely to be approved before 2012; it is currently unfunded.[27]

Transfer to London Overground Edit

When the extended line reopens, it will be part of London Overground rather than London Underground, having been rebuilt to Network Rail standards. The existing track and the Northern Extension will remain under TfL ownership and the stations from Dalston Junction to Surrey Quays will be part of the London Overground network.[28]


Template:Sectstub The radical changes to the line have sparked fierce debate. In September 2006, union activists protested against the Mayor of London. They said that this was a renewal of plans of effectively privatising the London Underground, although the Mayor dismissed these claims.[29]

External linksEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 East London line facts, Transport for London
  2. East London Line alternative transport strategy update (pdf). London Underground (2006-11-27). Retrieved on 2006-12-24.
  3. "Railway And Other Companies. East London", The Times, Thursday, September 2, 1869; p. 5
  4. Gordon, W.J. (1910). Our Home Railways (volume one). London: Frederick Warne and Co, p 153. 
  5. Klapper, Charles (1976). London’s Lost Railways. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, pp 94-98. ISBN 0-7100-8378-5. 
  6. "Illegal subway strike called off in London", Globe and Mail, 21 May 1985
  7. TfL Board Meeting 25 October [[2006 Agenda Item 4, Page 5
  8. £36m contract to bring extra rail carriages for London Overground
  9. Live travel news. Transport for London. Retrieved on 2008-02-23.
  10. "A working party set up by London Regional Transport and British Rail to examine potential sites for light railway networks in London has revealed its findings." Financial Times, 5 February 1987
  11. "Booming Tube lines may be extended", The Times, 10 April 1987
  12. "Dalston-Dulwich Tube likely to go ahead", Financial Times, 22 December 1989
  13. "Way open for private rail link to City of London." The Guardian, 21 November 1990
  14. "The cuts run deep for London Underground." Financial Times, 14 November 1992
  15. "East London Line - London Underground to seek consent." Estates Gazette, 4 December 1993
  16. "Final approval given for powers to construct East London Line northern extension." Department of Transport, 16 January 1997
  17. "Where Tube axe falls." The Times, 21 February 1997
  18. "Underground to be extended with private funds - London Transport." The Times, 8 February 1999
  19. "Railtrack lines up the prospect of non-stop travel across London." Financial Times, 16 June 1999
  20. "1999 Railtrack and the Underground." UK Government press release, 1 December 1999
  21. Board meeting papers (pdf). Transport for London (2008-02-06). Retrieved on 2008-02-13.
  22. East London line (pdf). 5 Year Investment Programme. Transport for London. Retrieved on 2006-12-24.
  23. East London Railway. Transport for London. Retrieved on 2006-12-24.
  24. TfL - Introducing 'London Overground'
  25. "London takes over responsibility for building East London line extension", Mayor of London, 16 November 2004
  26. "TfL awards £363m contract to build new East London Railway", Transport for London, 23 October 2006
  27. "No early start for 2nd phase in east London." Construction News, 27 July 2006
  28. London Overground signs standard
  29. BBC News (2006) Livingstone shrugs off scab jibe, 11 September 2006. Retrieved 23 November 2006

Template:Refbegin Various sources have been used in the creation of this article, including the external links above, email conversations with the ELL Project Team and emails from the ELL Project Team update newsletter. Template:Refend

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