London Underground Timeline: Summary of Key dates
This is a brief summary of key dates. For a full list of the key dates in London Underground's History see: Underground - How the Tube shaped London
1863 Metropolitan Railway opens the first passenger carrying underground railway in the world between Paddington (Bishop’s Road) and Farringdon Street (now part of the Circle line). It is built using cut and cover construction and is steam operated.
1868 Metropolitan District Railway opens between South Kensington and Westminster (now part of the District and Circle lines). The District is also steam operated and is extended along the new Victoria Embankment towards the City.
1869 East London Railway starts running steam trains through the pioneer Thames Tunnel, built under the river between Rotherhithe and Wapping by Marc Brunel. Construction had taken nearly 20 years and it was originally opened as a foot tunnel in 1843 (now part of the London Overground rail network)
1870 Tower Subway opens under the river near the Tower of London, the first tube tunnel built using a shield. Its cable car railway operated for just a few weeks, then the tunnel became a pedestrian subway until 1894 (now used for pipes and cables only).
1884 Eventual completion of the Inner Circle (now part of the Circle line) through linking up the Metropolitan and District lines at both ends. It was then jointly operated by the two original underground companies.
1890 City & South London Railway (C&SLR) opens the world’s first deep level electric tube railway between Stockwell and King William Street (now mostly part of the Northern line). Access to the station platforms was by hydraulic lift.
1898 Waterloo & City Railway opens (operated by London Underground since 1994 with standard tube trains but still separate from the rest of the network).
1902 Formation of the Underground Electric Railways of London (UERL) Ltd, a holding company known as the Underground Group headed by American entrepreneur Charles Tyson Yerkes. The UERL builds Lots Road power station, electrifies the District Railway and completes three new tube projects in just five years (the Bakerloo, Piccadilly and Hampstead Tubes).
1905 District, Circle and part of the Metropolitan Railway electrified.
1906 Baker Street & Waterloo Railway opens between Baker Street and Elephant & Castle (now part of the Bakerloo line).
1907 Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway (known as the Hampstead Tube) opens from Charing Cross to Golders Green and Highgate ( Archway). Now part of the Northern line.
1908 Start of co-ordinated marketing across the separate underground railway companies through distinctive UNDERGROUND lettering, free pocket maps, posters and signage, all promoted by Frank Pick. First version of the bar and disc on station platform nameboards, later developed into the Underground’s famous bar and circle logo (now known as the roundel).
1912-13 UERL takes over two other tube lines (Central London and C&SLR) and the main bus company (LGOC). It already owns three tram companies and becomes known as the Combine, the main public transport operator in London, but still privately owned.
1915 Women first employed extensively by UERL and Metropolitan Railway in formerly male roles as ‘wartime substitutes’.
1916 Edward Johnston completes design of a unique sans serif letter face commissioned by Frank Pick for Underground signage and publicity. Johnston later redesigns the bar and circle to incorporate his clear, bold typeface. An amended version, New Johnston, is still used by London Underground today.
1925 Metropolitan main line electrification extended from Harrow to Rickmansworth, with new electric branch line to Watford.
1928 Reconstruction of Piccadilly Circus completed, the Underground’s showpiece station in the heart of London.
1929 New Underground headquarters at 55 Broadway, designed by Charles Holden, opens. This was then the tallest building in London.
1933 First printing of Harry Beck’s iconic Underground diagram, an instant popular classic. It is arguably the most successful and influential map design of the twentieth century. Beck’s format has been used and adapted by London Underground ever since.
1935-40 London Transport’s New Works Programme includes new Bakerloo line extension from Baker Street to Stanmore (opened 1939, part of the Jubilee line since 1979) and Northern line extension beyond Archway to link up with and electrify the LNER’s surface branch lines at East Finchley (through tube services opened to High Barnet and Mill Hill East 1940/41 but work suspended because of the war).
1938 Introduction of 1938 stock, the classic London tube train, a benchmark design by WS Graff-Baker, the Underground’s chief rolling stock engineer.
1939-1945 Second World War. Thousands of Londoners take shelter in tube stations during wartime bombing but the Underground continues daily operation throughout the conflict. Underground workshops and tube tunnels are used for war production, safe storage of artworks and military control centres such as anti-aircraft command.
1946-9 Opening of Central line extensions east and west, started in 1930s but suspended because of war.
1948 London Transport nationalised along with the four mainline railway companies, becoming the London Transport Executive, part of the British Transport Commission.
1952 First unpainted silver aluminium alloy train introduced on the District line. All new trains were now left unpainted until the late 1980s when the rise of graffiti tagging led to a change. Intensive cleaning of unpainted trains to remove tags could damage the bodywork and London Underground adopted a new red, blue and white livery in the 1990s, now applied to all trains.
1963 London Transport Executive becomes the London Transport Board, reporting directly to the Minister of Transport.
1968-9 Victoria line opens between Walthamstow Central and Victoria, the first computer controlled underground railway in the world, with automatic trains and ticket gates.
1977 First airport link for the Tube as Piccadilly line extension opens to Heathrow Central (Terminals 1,2 and 3). It was later extended to Heathrow T4 (1986) and T5 (2008).
1978 First woman driver on the London Underground, Hannah Dadds, starts work on the District line.
1979 First stage of Jubilee line opens between Charing Cross and Baker Street, where it took over the former Bakerloo line branch to Stanmore.
1980 London Transport Museum opens in the former Covent Garden Flower Market.
1983 Introduction of zonal fares and the Travelcard on the Underground following the legal battles over ‘Fares Fair’ between the Labour GLC and Conservative Government in 1981/2.
1985 London Underground Ltd formed as a subsidiary company of LRT but still in public ownership.
1987 Serious escalator fire at King’s Cross Underground station kills 31 people. The public inquiry and Fennell Report on the fire led to major changes to the Underground’s fire regulations and a range of safety improvements.
1993 Reconstructed Angel station opens with the longest escalator on the system.
1999 Jubilee line extension (JLE) opens from Green Park to Stratford and original spur to Charing Cross closes. The dramatic new station designs are widely considered the finest late c20th century public architecture in London.
2000 Transport for London (TfL) established as a new transport authority for the capital, returning it to local control. TfL is responsible to the elected Mayor of London and has a much wider remit than London Transport. This includes Underground and bus services, the DLR, the new Tramlink system, taxis and private hire, river services, walking, cycling, main roads and traffic control as well as Victoria coach station.
2005 7/7 coordinated suicide bomb attacks on three Underground trains and a bus kill 52 people, London’s worst terrorist incident.
2008 Metronet infraco collapses and transfers to TfL control
2011 Start of Crossrail construction. The tunnels of the new east-west line will take mainline size trains below central London with direct Underground interchange at several points. The railway is scheduled to open in 2018.
2013 London Underground 150th anniversary celebrations.