Electrifying London

The 1935-1940 New Works Programme

The formation of the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) on July the 1st 1933 allowed for a more centralised approach to be taken in planning the future development of the underground railway system in relation to the suburban lines of the main line companies. Schemes were soon drawn up to allow the tube to take over the running of various under used lines operated by the LNER and integrate them with the existing network. Most of these schemes would never have got further than the discussion stage had it not been for a government initiative aimed at using public works as a means of tackling spiraling unemployment in the mid 1930s. The government offered to subsidise loan interest on capital borrowed to carry out major works in areas where unemployment was high. London was one such area and the LPTB seized upon the chance to obtain cheap capital funding for many of it's expansion proposals which it put forward as the 1935-1940 New Works Programme.

The schemes affected most lines but in many cases these were limited to building new or renewing existing stations and infrastructure, however on the Bakerloo, Metropolitan, Central and Northern Lines far reaching alterations and expansion was planned; line by line the proposals and the end results are explained:


The two track section of the Metropolitan between Baker Street and Finchley Road was a notorious bottleneck due to the high number of services running from the MET main and branch lines trying to gain access to Baker Street Station and the City, the three stations that were located in this section made the problem worse with trains taking longer than their booked station stop time causing delays to following services. Under the new works programme a scheme was authorised that would enable the construction of a twin tube line from a junction with the Bakerloo line just beyond Baker Street (tube station) and run virtually below the MET lines to emerge at Finchley Road from where the Bakerloo would continue with its tube trains to run onto Stanmore. A re-modelling of the junction at Wembley Park would ensure the Stanmore trains would no longer cross the path of the MET main line. At the same time the Bakerloo's existing tube level stations would be rebuilt to allow the running of seven car trains and a programme of resignalling on all the affected routes.

Work began on the works in 1936 and continued apace, included in the scheme was the construction of a vast new rolling stock depot for both Bakerloo and MET use on the site of the MET's Neasden Works. A station on the new tube line was built below the MET's Swiss Cottage one and a further tube station was provided between the sites of the MET's St. John's Wood and Marlborough Road, both of which were closed when the new station (called St. John's Wood) opened for business upon the start of the Bakerloo service to Stanmore which commenced on November 2nd 1939. The platform extensions were delayed by World War 2 and did not come into use until 1946.

Central Line

The scheme devised for the Central was for extensions both East and West. To achieve the former a plan was devised to construct new tube lines from Liverpool Street to emerge onto LNER tracks just south of Leyton where the Central would take over the running of services onward to Loughton and with a new section of tube line to be built from Leytonstone to Newbury Park (including three new intermediate stations at Wanstead Park, Redbridge and Gants Hill) the Central would have a continuous loop round to Woodford via Fairlop and Hainault(where new car sheds would be built). In the west was a scheme to project a branch from the existing Central line west of North Acton station to West Ruislip station where a new stabling and servicing depot was to be constructed. These plans were added to in 1937 when the western extension was authorised beyond West Ruislip to Denham and the decision was made to extend the operation of electric services by the Central in the east to cover the Loughton to Ongar section and thus relieve the LNER of all service responsibility in that part of Essex.

Another major part of the scheme was the re-alignment of the original Central London tube tunnels to allow standard stock trains to be used on the four rail principle (until then the Central used a positive rail in the centre of the track with the running rails taking the negative return) and the extension of the stations in this area to accommodate eight car trains. It was this later part of the plan that was the first to be completed, the first Standard stock units were run on the 12th of November 1938 with the last day of use of the remaining original Central London units of 1903 vintage taking place exactly eight months later.

Work on both the eastern and western extensions was delayed due to the war and during the conflict many of the semi-completed stations and sections of tube tunnel were used as air raid shelters, the incomplete depots and some of the sections of tunnel were turned over to the use of the War Department for munitions and machinery production.

After the end of hostilities work on the extensions resumed with the first section to open being that from Liverpool Street to Stratford on the 3rd of December 1946, the next section from Stratford to Leytonstone came into use on May the 5th the following year. The first section of the western extension from North Acton to Greenford saw it's first tube passengers on June the 30th the same year and before 1947 ended the sections of line from Leytonstone to Newbury Park and Woodford opened on December the 14th. Empty stock working to the new Hainault depot came into being a few months ahead of the public opening of the tube service from Newbury Park to Hainault on May 31st 1948. On the 21st of November 1948 the last section of the western extension came into use with the opening of Greenford to West Ruislip - the proposed line to Denham had been dropped due to 'Green Belt' restrictions on housing developments in that area. The same day the lines from Woodford to Loughton and Hainault opened for business, the latter completing the Fairlop loop. Loughton to Epping went live from September the 25th 1949. This left the single track line from Epping to Ongar as the last steam worked section. There was much 'heel dragging' over whether to electrify this section a decision not being made until 1956 when a light electrification that limited the number of tube trains permitted on the branch at any one time to two was authorised. The line went live and completed the Central new works programme on November the 18th 1957.

Northern Line

Like the Central line plan this one involved the taking over of lines previously operated by the LNER; and also like the Bakerloo scheme the one for the Northern line also took over track previously managed by the Metropolitan. In the end this tuned out to be the most controversial of the lot.

The Plan envisaged the taking over of the MET controlled former GN&C line from Moorgate to Findsbury Park and diverting it just north of Drayton Park to run into new surface height platforms next to Findsbury Park LNER station. From here the Northern would take over the line to Alexandra Palace via Highgate, Just north of Highgate the line would continue over LNER metals to High Barnet and a link into it would be made from the existing Archway terminus line of the Northern which would be extended via a new tube level Highgate station to join the High Barnet line just south of East Finchley station. The Northern would also take over the LNER single track line which branched off the High Barnet line and ran to Edgware where a connection would be built to join the existing Northern line to that destination. North from Edgware a brand new stretch of line was authorised to be constructed to Bushey Heath. Along this stretch between Bushey Heath and Elstree South a new depot (Aldenham) was planned.

The project got off to a good enough start with the line from Archway to East Finchley being opened on July the 3rd 1939. World War Two started at the same time but works that were well in hand were allowed to continue and the East Finchley to High Barnet section was one such project. It opened for business on April the 14th 1940. The single track line from Finchley Central to Edgware had been closed to allow work to proceed on doubling the formation for use by the tube trains service of the Northern line. As the first station on the line from Finchley, Mill Hill East, served a barracks the Northern opened up this section of single line for a tube shuttle service to aid the war effort from the 18th of May 1941. All other works had ceased due to the conflict. The semi completed depot at Aldenham was requisitioned and used for the construction of Halifax bombers.

Upon the end of hostilities work resumed on the many uncompleted new works projects. The Central line ones were given priority over those of the Northern which were left in limbo. During this period the London Underground re-evaluated the need for the Northern line extensions. New 'Green Belt' legislation had put restrictions on residential development in the outer suburbs thus reducing the scope for the expected increases in traffic flows from the districts served by those lines. Finance was also restricted and much was needed to rebuild other parts of the system damaged during the war. In 1950 the Underground announce the abandonment of both the construction of the Edgware - Bushey Heath line and the completion of the Edgware - Finchley Central sections, the later would remain only as the single track shuttle to Mill Hill East. Hopes remained that the Drayton Park- Alexandra Palace section would be finished but it never happened, the scheme was withdrawn and the last steam trains ran by the LNER over the line on 5th May 1954 were the last passenger trains to run.

Many of the redundant sections remained in use for a few more years for freight traffic run by British Railways. The depot building at Aldenham was converted to a major bus works but the semi-completed stations, signal boxes and sub-stations built by the underground were simply abandoned.

New Works Rolling Stock