The Secrets of the Underground: The Waterloo and City Line

Find out secrets about London's shortest underground tube line.

The Secrets of the Underground: The Waterloo and City Line

The Waterloo and City Line was opened in 1898 and runs between two stations, Waterloo and Bank. The line goes under the River Thames and it best serves commuters that are travelling between Waterloo and the City of London. The colour of the line is turquoise and there are roughly 9.6 million journeys made along the line each year. The Waterloo and City Line doesn’t operate late evenings or on a Sunday, but that wasn’t always the case as between 1943 and 1947 the line operated on a Sunday.

The first secret of the line is that not many people know that Bank was originally named as “City,” and it was named this because it’s within the City of London. Bank is home to many offices as well as being a major station on the underground with many different London Underground lines running through it.

In 2016, Bank was named the 8th busiest underground station on the London Underground network, with over 64 million people passing through it. Waterloo, on the other hand, was the busiest station on the network with over 100 million passengers in 2016, 5 million ahead of the next busiest station, which was Kings Cross St. Pancras.

Another secret of the Waterloo and City line is that it’s the last and now only line where 4 car trains run back and forth between two stations; previously, the Metropolitan Line had a shuttle service from Chalfont and Latimer.

In 2006, the Waterloo and City Line was closed for some time as they refurbished the trains and completely replaced the track along the whole of the line; it reopened in September of the same year. This was done to create a faster and more reliable service along the line.

Unsurprisingly, the Waterloo and City Line has the least peak time trains with just 5, which is 86 less than the Northern Line, which has the most. The line is also the shortest on the London Underground network with a length of just 2.37km, with a travel time of only 4 minutes from end to end.

Despite the line opening in 1898, it’s the newest on the London Underground map. This is because British Rail owned it until 1994 and before that, it wasn’t on the London Underground network; however, Crossrail or the Elizabeth Line will be the newest on the tube map.

The Waterloo and City Line is also the only tube line that doesn’t go above ground. Instead, it stays below ground the whole way. The Victoria Line is the closest to this; however, this comes above ground on the way to the depot while the Waterloo and City Line doesn’t.

The Waterloo and City Line is also known as the ‘drain’; however the exact reason why this is isn’t clear today. However, there are many theories as to why this could be. One of the main theories to this day is that the name was given by maintenance staff; they named it the ‘drain’ because the line runs under the River Thames and it leaks water from above, so this water has to be often pumped out, but also the smell the water gives off in the tunnel is another theory. It’s also often rumoured that when drivers are discussing shifts they sometimes say they are working ‘in the drain’ when referring to the Waterloo and City Line.

The final secret of the Waterloo and City Line is that the tunnels have often been used in films. This is convenient as the line doesn’t run on a Sunday, therefore leaving time for film crews to produce their films. One example of this was the 1962 film On The Beat, even featuring the 1940 trains.

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