Holborn and the Aldwych Branch

Ashley Hill

Established Member
Joined
8 Dec 2019
Messages
1,346
Location
The West Country
Following on from the Secrets of the Underground I have a few questions which may be better answered on this thread.
It was stated the branch was still live i.e. active,is that to electric units or battery cars?
Some years ago I came across a picture on a website of a unit stabled on the branch in the tunnel. It apparently made occasional runs along the line to keep it and the infrastructure servicable. Is this still the case ?
image.jpeg
I cannot give a photo credit as I can no longer find the site but will happily correct that if a name is supplied,thanks.
Tim Dunn said that the Aldwych platform at Holborn will disappear during station expansion. Will this cut off rail access to the branch?
Thanks in advance for any replies :)
 
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

bluegoblin7

Member
Joined
10 May 2011
Messages
1,089
Location
JB
Short answer to all of these questions is yes.

The 1972 Mk1 TS in the above photo is based permanently on the branch, save for an annual maintenance trip, and is used for a variety of filming and training purposes.

This unit remains fully operational (albeit not licensed for passenger use) and is powered by the fourth rail on the branch. The branch is its own traction current section and can be switched on or off independently of the main, but should for all intents and purposes be considered live at all times.

If the Holborn works happen (very much now on the back burner with the funding issues) it will encroach onto platform 5 and sever access to the Aldwych branch.
 

pdeaves

Established Member
Joined
14 Sep 2014
Messages
4,525
Location
Gateway to the South West
It was stated the branch was still live i.e. active,is that to electric units or battery cars?
Some years ago I came across a picture on a website of a unit stabled on the branch in the tunnel. It apparently made occasional runs along the line to keep it and the infrastructure servicable. Is this still the case ?
Electric units and yes, respectively.
 

Vespa

Member
Joined
20 Dec 2019
Messages
862
Location
Merseyside
If the branch been able to continue on to Waterloo station it would have been a viable line.
 

Busaholic

Established Member
Joined
7 Jun 2014
Messages
11,021
If the branch been able to continue on to Waterloo station it would have been a viable line.
As a sort of Waterloo and Holborn line, possibly, but far better to incorporate it into the Piccadilly Line somehow in the Kings Cross direction. If that had happened, Thameslink could have confined itself to the Midland route which, possibly, might have made it more reliable, for some of the time anyway!
 

Ashley Hill

Established Member
Joined
8 Dec 2019
Messages
1,346
Location
The West Country
Short answer to all of these questions is yes.

The 1972 Mk1 TS in the above photo is based permanently on the branch, save for an annual maintenance trip, and is used for a variety of filming and training purposes.

This unit remains fully operational (albeit not licensed for passenger use) and is powered by the fourth rail on the branch. The branch is its own traction current section and can be switched on or off independently of the main, but should for all intents and purposes be considered live at all times.

If the Holborn works happen (very much now on the back burner with the funding issues) it will encroach onto platform 5 and sever access to the Aldwych branch.

Electric units and yes, respectively.
Thanks for your replies.
So if the expansion work will sever the branch connection will the set remain marooned in its role or recovered and the line operationally abandoned?
I'm surprised Tim never revealed this secret!
 

bluegoblin7

Member
Joined
10 May 2011
Messages
1,089
Location
JB
So if the expansion work will sever the branch connection will the set remain marooned in its role or recovered and the line operationally abandoned?
Given the train has to move elsewhere for annual maintenance I think the answer should be fairly self-explanatory.

It's certainly expected that the train will be scrapped if the plans come to fruition, and there would be no capability to leave the branch operational either.

Given the changing nature of the Holborn plans, and the fact that much of this is still informed speculation rather than fact, it's not unsurprising that the script would be light on the details.
 

bramling

Veteran Member
Joined
5 Mar 2012
Messages
13,997
Location
Hertfordshire / Teesdale
Given the train has to move elsewhere for annual maintenance I think the answer should be fairly self-explanatory.

It's certainly expected that the train will be scrapped if the plans come to fruition, and there would be no capability to leave the branch operational either.

Given the changing nature of the Holborn plans, and the fact that much of this is still informed speculation rather than fact, it's not unsurprising that the script would be light on the details.

I always wondered if it would be viable to keep the track intact, perhaps with a removable cover, to allow the branch to be kept intact for use of Aldwych. Depends to what extent LU derive value from the filming and training which happens there.

I’m not sure to what extent the plans interfere with platform 5 though. I know it will be used as a concourse, but I’m not sure how much further the work goes.
 

AlbertBeale

Established Member
Joined
16 Jun 2019
Messages
1,457
Location
London
As I understand it, the tunnelling for Crossrail works under Holborn [some of the Crossrail work was undertaken from a block near Holborn that TfL took over for the purpose] included leaving some below-ground space [once its use for accessing the tunnelling below was finished] for use to reduce congestion at Holborn underground (which is - was, pre Covid anyway - bursting at times). There's provision for a second street access/egress, albeit away from the main crossroads, in Proctor Street. My guess would be that people leaving the station - especially from the Piccadilly Line - would be signposted to use new exits from the northern end of the platforms (which I presume would be where the loss of track access to platform 5 would come in), with the intention of leaving the existing lower bank of escalators as primarily an interchange link between the two lines (which they conveniently do).

Any interchange connection via the new subterranean development would likely make for a slower interchange then the existing route, hence leading to the idea that a logical way to spread the load is for entrances/exits to be encouraged via Proctor Street, and existing routes prioritised for interchanges. The flaw in this, of course, is that (a) for most people the existing exit takes them somewhere they want to be, and from where they can more easily navigate onwards [unless they're heading to Red Lion Square / Conway Hall] and (b) not many people entering the station would be likely to encounter the Proctor Street entrance first.

Of course there's always the Kings Cross solution - installing signage which sends unwary non-regular users on an unnecessarily long hike in order to reduce congestion for the regulars who know what they're doing and go the way they've always gone!

Having said this ... as has been pointed out above, financial pressures mean the Holborn station expansion will no doubt return to the back-burner where it's been for years anyway; though with the advantage that some of the digging for any future works has already been done and with - presumably - the space safeguarded future use.
 

Mikey C

Established Member
Joined
11 Feb 2013
Messages
4,925
London Underground now have the Jubilee Line platforms at Charing Cross available for filming purposes, more modern and easier to access
 

kwrail

Member
Joined
21 Sep 2012
Messages
36
Enjoyed the footage of Secrets of the London Underground - they went to some interesting places, but not the Janet and John commentary. Found it a bit patronising. Really no need to dumb down so much.

Also a pity that there were no diagrams to explain why the Aldwych branch was there in the first place. It was a consequence of the merger between the Great Northern & Strand Railway and the Brompton & Piccadilly Circus Railway to form the Piccadilly, and it was a bit of the former that was left behind. Could have done with one of Geoff Marshall's diagrams.

Looks like a trip to Highgate High Level later in the series, so maybe some content on Northern Heights programme
 

Journeyman

Established Member
Joined
16 Apr 2014
Messages
6,278
London Underground now have the Jubilee Line platforms at Charing Cross available for filming purposes, more modern and easier to access
Both get used, though. Aldwych is much better for period productions.
 

Ralph Ayres

Member
Joined
2 May 2012
Messages
131
We weren't shown the Aldwych branch train in the programme. Seems a bit odd as I'd have thought that would be something for Tim to get characteristically excited by! Was it coincidentally away for maintenance I wonder?
 

swt_passenger

Veteran Member
Joined
7 Apr 2010
Messages
26,739
If you go to Holborn Piccadilly Line platforms , is it possible to view / visit the unit on the Aldwych branch ?
Not nowadays, but I remember many years ago there used to be views of the platform available through the usual cross passages between platforms 4 and 5, (as they had those expanding steel gates), but some time in the last 20 years or so they all got replaced by solid doors. I believe even then the locked in unit was usually kept in a position away from view.
 

Mojo

Forum Staff
Staff Member
Administrator
Joined
7 Aug 2005
Messages
18,804
Location
0035
If you go to Holborn Piccadilly Line platforms , is it possible to view / visit the unit on the Aldwych branch ?
No, the unit is in the tunnel at the Aldwych end (prior to the pandemic it was in the platform at Aldwych but moved due to continued graffiti). The unit is now well overdue its routine overhaul and maintenance and due to the cost of getting it done it is planned for the unit to be scrapped, regardless of any decision being taken about severing the line as part of the Holborn station upgrade.

It was stated the branch was still live i.e. active,is that to electric units or battery cars?
The branch is still electrified and can be switched on / off as required by the Piccadilly line.

We weren't shown the Aldwych branch train in the programme. Seems a bit odd as I'd have thought that would be something for Tim to get characteristically excited by! Was it coincidentally away for maintenance I wonder?
Probably too difficult, as I said above the unit was moved into the tunnel last year. It’s still on the branch whilst a decision is taken with regards to its future.

I always wondered if it would be viable to keep the track intact, perhaps with a removable cover, to allow the branch to be kept intact for use of Aldwych. Depends to what extent LU derive value from the filming and training which happens there.

I’m not sure to what extent the plans interfere with platform 5 though. I know it will be used as a concourse, but I’m not sure how much further the work goes.
If the work as planned goes ahead, then it will not be possible to use Aldwych whatsoever due to air quality issues.

Despite all the talk in this thread, and elsewhere, about Aldwych being used for filming, its primary users are training, both internal and external (London Air Ambulance / Hems, London Fire Brigade make significant use of the location).
 
Last edited:

Ianno87

Veteran Member
Joined
3 May 2015
Messages
15,215
I still stand by a previous comment I made to run the line as a heritage railway for old stock.

That would be either:
1) For TfL/LU who are currently cash-strapped and for whom it would hardly be a priority (See also: Heritage routemasters)
2) A volunteer organisation who would have to take on all the various safety liabilities involved in operating an underground railway (fire evacuation etc.)
 

Journeyman

Established Member
Joined
16 Apr 2014
Messages
6,278
I still stand by a previous comment I made to run the line as a heritage railway for old stock.
You've got to be kidding!
  • TfL are facing an existential crisis regarding funding, so there's no way they'd be able to take it on, so the only other option would be selling or leasing the infrastructure to someone else, who would need to be certain they could operate profitably.
  • The reason the line closed in the first place was the poor state of the infrastructure, and the inability of the line's meagre traffic to justify spending on fixing everything. The lifts at Aldwych needed replacing with an estimated cost of half a million quid in the early nineties. How much would that cost now? There's no way you could safely operate using the spiral staircase alone.
  • The rest of the station has been quietly crumbling away and would need a fortune spent on it to meet modern safety standards.
  • The line has one track and no sidings or maintenance facilities. Movements on and off the Piccadilly line are complex and can only be done during engineering hours.
  • The journey time between Holborn and Aldwych is approximately two minutes. How much, in all honesty, are people going to be willing to pay for that, and how many tickets would you have to sell to finance the essential works I've mentioned above?
  • It's already possible to travel on heritage LU stock elsewhere, although I know this might be an issue in future, but a two minute ride in a tunnel...really? Who honestly wants to do that?
  • Aldwych is a popular place for tours as there's a lot of interest in abandoned stations, but that's the best you'll manage, and there's no way they'll make enough money to cover repairs if the station deteriorates any further.
 
Joined
9 Dec 2012
Messages
393
In the current climate where TFL are totally brassic, Any Holborn station development is likely to be filed back in the same hot air chamber as a Camden Town / Oxford Circus/ Leicester Square Development etc. I imagine Aldwych will be breathable for some while yet!
 

Ashley Hill

Established Member
Joined
8 Dec 2019
Messages
1,346
Location
The West Country
The unit is now well overdue its routine overhaul and maintenance and due to the cost of getting it done it is planned for the unit to be scrapped

If the expansion scheme is kicked into the long grass would the 1972 cars be replaced until such time the scheme goes ahead?
 

Mojo

Forum Staff
Staff Member
Administrator
Joined
7 Aug 2005
Messages
18,804
Location
0035
If the expansion scheme is kicked into the long grass would the 1972 cars be replaced until such time the scheme goes ahead?
The 72 TS unit is unconnected with the station capacity upgrade at Holborn.
 

Sad Sprinter

Member
Joined
5 Jun 2017
Messages
1,008
Location
Way on down South London town
You've got to be kidding!
  • TfL are facing an existential crisis regarding funding, so there's no way they'd be able to take it on, so the only other option would be selling or leasing the infrastructure to someone else, who would need to be certain they could operate profitably.
  • The reason the line closed in the first place was the poor state of the infrastructure, and the inability of the line's meagre traffic to justify spending on fixing everything. The lifts at Aldwych needed replacing with an estimated cost of half a million quid in the early nineties. How much would that cost now? There's no way you could safely operate using the spiral staircase alone.
  • The rest of the station has been quietly crumbling away and would need a fortune spent on it to meet modern safety standards.
  • The line has one track and no sidings or maintenance facilities. Movements on and off the Piccadilly line are complex and can only be done during engineering hours.
  • The journey time between Holborn and Aldwych is approximately two minutes. How much, in all honesty, are people going to be willing to pay for that, and how many tickets would you have to sell to finance the essential works I've mentioned above?
  • It's already possible to travel on heritage LU stock elsewhere, although I know this might be an issue in future, but a two minute ride in a tunnel...really? Who honestly wants to do that?
  • Aldwych is a popular place for tours as there's a lot of interest in abandoned stations, but that's the best you'll manage, and there's no way they'll make enough money to cover repairs if the station deteriorates any further.

Not kidding at all-I think if money could be found it would be a fantastic opportunity to create something quite unique.
 

Ianno87

Veteran Member
Joined
3 May 2015
Messages
15,215
Presumably the appeal of Aldwych as an abandoned station will diminish somewhat if its no longer abandoned.

Frankly, if you want an old-skool tube experience, ride the Bakerloo line at some point in the next 10 years of so...
 

Journeyman

Established Member
Joined
16 Apr 2014
Messages
6,278
Not kidding at all-I think if money could be found it would be a fantastic opportunity to create something quite unique.
It will take multiple millions of pounds. Where, exactly, is that coming from? And who, honestly, is going to fork out a decent sum for a two minute train ride?

Let's put the crayons away.

I think Aldwych station has potential as a museum and event space, as it's pretty big, but even that will need millions spent to make it happen, but for the reasons I've stated, an operational heritage railway is cloud cuckoo land.

Presumably the appeal of Aldwych as an abandoned station will diminish somewhat if its no longer abandoned.
Exactly. You'd have to remove many of the interesting features to make it safe and accessible. Some years ago LU did a study on turning Down Street station into a museum, and concluded that to provide safe access you'd destroy the historical significance of the site.
Frankly, if you want an old-skool tube experience, ride the Bakerloo line at some point in the next 10 years of so...
Exactly. You get much more than two minutes out of that.
 

D365

Established Member
Joined
29 Jun 2012
Messages
8,994
Not kidding at all-I think if money could be found it would be a fantastic opportunity to create something quite unique.
This is exactly the sticking point.

Frankly, if you want an old-skool tube experience, ride the Bakerloo line at some point in the next 10 years of so...
The Bakerloo has been a heritage experience for at least the past ten years.
 

nlogax

Established Member
Joined
29 May 2011
Messages
4,149
Location
London & Scotland
Presumably the appeal of Aldwych as an abandoned station will diminish somewhat if its no longer abandoned.

Frankly, if you want an old-skool tube experience, ride the Bakerloo line at some point in the next 10 years of so...
Exactly this. It's already a heritage tube experience in terms of sights, sounds and smells and it's only going to get more heritage-y as time goes on.

Meanwhile I honestly can't imagine a viable business case for doing something with the Aldwych branch.
 

Journeyman

Established Member
Joined
16 Apr 2014
Messages
6,278
Meanwhile I honestly can't imagine a viable business case for doing something with the Aldwych branch.
Yup. It was a basket case in regular service, and it would be an even bigger basket case as a heritage railway. It would cost an absolute fortune to rehabilitate and make safe and suitable for passenger use again...and once more...how much is anyone going to pay for a journey that takes two minutes?
 

Gloster

Established Member
Joined
4 Sep 2020
Messages
2,983
Location
Up the creek
But you can no longer go to the Isle of Wight to ‘enjoy’ its heritage London Transport experience. Although in a couple of years they will probably be repainting the 484 units in LT livery and promoting the retro ambience.
 

Top