Why South London is so short of London Underground stations – MyLondon
It’s not easy living south of the river. While secretly we all know its better than up north, we still have to put up with everyone looking down on us.
And it’s especially difficult when we acknowledge that we’ve been totally neglected when it comes to the Tube.
Yes, we’ve got the Overground and trams, and Thameslink connections, but it is no secret that South London was totally robbed when it came to allocating Tube stations in the capital.
North London was handed the lion’s share and people in the south had to make do with a pitiful number of stops.
While there are over 250 stations north of the River Thames there are just 29 to the south.
There are currently proposals to extend the Bakerloo Line further into South London which would see four more stops added.
The plan is to extend the line beyond Elephant and Castle to Lewisham, serving Old Kent Road and New Cross Gate.
Proposed route map:
Work could potentially begin as early as 2023 and London Mayor Sadiq Khan has committed to bring the completion date forward from 2030 to 2028/29.
Proposals beyond Lewisham may also become a reality with a number of extra destinations mentioned including Blackheath and Hayes via Catford and Lower Sydenham.
However none of this is certain, so for the moment Londoners south of the river will have to make do with what they have.
But this does beg the question of why there are so few Underground stations in South London.
There are in fact a few factors which have meant North London was blessed with so many Tube stations.
History and geography
Much of the reasoning is to do with the history and geographical layout of London.
Historical London was built north of the River Thames.
Tube trains are hard to come by
The Romans settled in what would now be the City of London and expansion happened from there into places like Westminster.
South London was just not taken that seriously and many of the places like Croydon or Clapham that are now heavily populated areas were in the countryside.
Essentially the growth and demand all happened in the north.
The lay of the land
Another major factor was the suitability of the ground in the south, whereas the clay soil in the north was perfect for the infancy of Tube tunnel burrowing, the ground in the south being much harder was not.
In 2017 Croydon Council had been keen for the line to be extended from Lewisham to Elmers End and then East Croydon.
However, a report said any “Underground” route making use of existing rail connections would mean a slower service with fewer trains than National Rail services currently provide.
Furthermore, it said a tunnelled route from Elmers End to East Croydon would have a “significant adverse impact on the built and natural environment” because of a lack of suitable areas for construction and tunnelling works.
Central London railway stations
Another reason Tube stations flourished in the north was due to all the large railway stations that had been built there in the 1800s.
These included Kings Cross, Paddington, Euston and St Pancras.
These stations were the end of the line for many commuters due to a Royal Commission in 1846 not allowing trains to advance fully into the City of London.
With roads becoming hugely congested in London alternative ways for people to move between the City and the stations needed to be found.
Hence, the birth of the Underground.
Complex overground network
What South London lost in Tube stations it more than made up for through its overground (now National Rail) network.
During the 19th century while the big train companies were getting fat in London, smaller private train companies were busy constructing an elaborate rail system in the south.
Once the Underground had taken hold around the City of London and they started looking to the south they realised they were already too late for the party.
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12 cool things you probably don’t know about the London Underground
1. An average of 2.7 million Tube journeys are made on the London Underground every day
2. Only three babies have ever been born in the Tube. The first was in 1924, the second in 2008 and the third in 2009
3. The busiest station is Oxford Circus, which is used by more than 98 million passengers per year
4. The London Underground is the third busiest metro system in Europe, after Moscow and Paris
5. The deepest station is Hampstead, 58.5 metres below ground
6. The average speed on the Underground is 33km per hour, including station stops
7. You’ll find three Tube stations on the Monopoly board: Liverpool Street Station, King’s Cross and Marylebone
8. The longest single journey on one train is the 54.5km trip between West Ruislip and Epping on the Central Line
9. The record for visiting all the stations on the London Underground network – known as the Tube Challenge – is currently held by Ronan McDonald and Clive Burgess. The pair completed the challenge in 16 hours, 14 minutes and 10 seconds on 19 February 2015
10. In Harry Potter , Dumbledore has a scar shaped just like the London Underground map on his knee
11. In cockney rhyming slang, the London Underground is known as the Oxo (Cube/Tube)
12. There are only two Tube station names that contain all five vowels – “Mansion House” and “South Ealing”