Why Build Underground?

CONGESTION IN THE CITY

Congestion in London

In the 1840’s, the City of London was small and densely populated. Streets were often congested; traffic and transportation were becoming issues that needed to be dealt with.

The central area contained majority of the commercial, industrial and financial businesses; people needed access to it on a daily basis.

The existing railways could not join this area due to the congestion in the city, land ownership and the Royal Commission.
The solution founded by Charles Pearson became to connect the railways by building underground.

LAND OWNERSHIP

2 basemap esates

3 basemap estates zoomed in

5 basemap boundaries

4 basemap boundaries zoomed in

6 basemap with railways

The introduction of industrialization brought locomotives to the forefront of transportation. Initially as a method of carrying goods, railways were not used as a method of passenger transportation. For this reason, the termini of main line services were placed outside of central London. This avoided interfering with the heavy traffic that already existed or building on valuable property. Eventually, a few of the termini were placed closer to the center but still not breach the city boundaries.

Upon realizing the potential in railways for passenger transportation, interest in the construction of new lines or the extension of existing lines into central London peaked.

Three questions were brought forward when the construction of passenger railways started. The practicality of:

  1. A great central station in London
  2. Keeping the termini of the main lines outside of the city center
  3. Connecting the main lines by railway communication through the metropolitan area

Private railway companies continuously promoted new railways schemes to be constructed in central London to the Parliament.

With the flood of propositions for construction, the government issued the Royal Commission of 1846 which declared that railways could not enter central London and opposed a great central station.

That on the North of the Thames, no Railway now before Parliament or projected be permitted to come within the limits described in our Instructions… Park Lane in the West, up to the line of the Marylebone and Euston Roads in the north, down to the Lambeth road on the south.” – Royal Commission of 1846

The distance between each termini of the main lines was not long enough to justify the sacrifice of property for a railway, or the interference on the population and traffic of central London. After the Royal Commission had indicated a set boundary in which railways could not enter, private railway companies extended their termini to the edge of the boundary. This is most evident on the northern boundary

  1. King’s Cross Railway Station of the Great Northern Railway
  2. St. Pancras Station of The Midland Railway
  3. Euston Railway Station of The London and North-Western Railway

The Royal Commission of 1846 also recommended that “if at any time hereafter it should be deemed advisable to admit Railways within those limits, this should be done in conformity with some uniform plan, carefully laid down under the authority of Your Majesty’s Government, and sanctioned by the wisdom of Parliament; and that under no circumstances should the Thoroughfares of the Metropolis, and the Property and comfort of its inhabitants, be surrendered to separates schemes, brought forward at different times, and without reference to each other.

“We give this as our opinion, because we consider that the merit of the Street improvements of London, in regard as well to their utility and beauty as to the economy and convenience with which they can be carried out, must greatly depend upon their being executed with one intention, and as part of one well­considered scheme; and because we see no security for this, if they are left to originate with different Railway Companies, according as these may spring up, and without any other supervision than that supplied by Parliamentary Committees.”

About the same time the question of intra­metropolitan railways had come to the front, in 1854 and 1855 a line was sanctioned connecting Paddington Station with Farringdon Street; the railway was to be laid in an open cutting where possible, and underground where the open cutting was impracticable; the first section of this line was opened in 1863. This railway later became the Metropolitan line, marking the beginning of London’s underground system that will evolve into the London Underground, providing transportation in London without the sacrifice of property, or the interference on the population and traffic of central London.

THE ROYAL COMMISSION

The Royal Commission of April 2nd, 1846, reported against a project for a great central station in London and recommended, “That on the North of the Thames, no Railway now before Parliament or projected be permitted to come within the limits described in our Instructions.” They found that the distance between each termini of the main lines was not long enough to justify the sacrifice of property, or the interference on the population and traffic of central London.

The same Commission recommended that “if at any time hereafter it should be deemed advisable to admit Railways within those limits, this should be done in conformity with some uniform plan, carefully laid down under the authority of Your Majesty’s Government, and sanctioned by the wisdom of Parliament; and that under no circumstances should the Thoroughfares of the Metropolis, and the Property and comfort of its inhabitants, be surrendered to separates schemes, brought forward at different times, and without reference to each other.

The commission also stated that a communication between the railways approaching London on the north and south sides of the River was desirable, and suggested paths in which the new railways could take to achieve this. The main objective of this suggestion was not only to accelerate the speed of the mails, passenger traffic, and more importantly, removing the transportation of goods from the streets.

About the same time the question of intra-metropolitan railways had come to the front, and in 1854 and 1855 a line was sanctioned connecting Paddington Station with Farringdon Street, which is now the Metropolitan line. The railway to be laid in an open cutting where possible, and underground where the open cutting was impracticable; the first section of this line was opened in 1863.

In 1864 a Joint Select Committee was appointed to review the very large number of railway schemes affecting the metropolitan area that were then presented before the Parliament. The Committee advised the Parliament’s sanction on the system of railways known as the “Inner Circle”, which is now the Circle line, but it will not have been completed until 1884. Under the recommendation of the Select Committee of 1863, the ” Inner Circle ” Railway system is to be owned and worked by two companies: the Metropolitan Railway Company and the Metropolitan District Railway Company. So from these railways, branches have been made into outlying districts, so that the whole system now carries a very large amount of suburban as well as urban traffic. Owing to this system having been originally planned with the object of connecting the termini of the main lines, it is not situated in the best position for dealing with urban traffic. The completion of the “Inner Circle” Railway (Circle line) marked the last of the sub-surface line, constructed with the traditional “cut-and-cover” method.

The next great step in the provision of means of mechanical transport in London was the adoption of the “tube” railway system, in which the rails are laid in an iron-lined deep level tube for the construction. This system was adopted on account of the great cost of “shallow” underground railways, such as those of the “Inner Circle”, and in order to avoid interference with the construction of such railways. All the deep level lines are worked by electricity. The first line of this class was authorized in 1884, and the first portion of it was opened in 1890; it is known as the City and South London Railway. The Central London Railway was authorized in 1891, and was opened in 1900. Many other lines are sanctioned and built in the late 19th century into the early 20th century.

CHARLES PEARSON

Charles Pearson was one of the 1st underground visionaries. He promoted an underground railway, the notion of “trains in drains” in 1845. In 1846, Pearson proposed a central railway station for the City, accessed by a tunnel for workers to commute but his proposition was rejected later that year by the Royal Commission of Metropolitan Railway Termini. Pearson didn’t give up, he proposed for a railway connecting the London Termini, presenting it as evidence of the high congested city caused by cabs, carts and cars but mainly caused by the natural increase in population. These propositions were rejected but the Commission recommend that a railway be constructed linking the termini with the docks and the General Post Office at St. Martin’s Le Grand in 1853. He used his influence as the City Solicitor to raise the 1 million euros needed to run the line and promote the project, creating a pamphlet in favour of the Metropolitan Railway and City Station. By 1860 the project was finalized, the funds were all collected, and the project was started, taking less than 3 years to excavate through the slums of Victorian London. Pearson died of dropsy in 1862 and did not live to see the opening of the Metropolitan line.

RAILWAYS

 Railway construction in England was left to private enterprises in the latter portion of the first half of the nineteenth century. In the first instance, a number of railways were promoted for construction in the neighbourhood of London, which, by a process of amalgamation, have been reduced to the following ten main line railways systems which would have termini in London in 1905:

  1. The London. Tilbury and Southend Railway

  2. The Great Eastern Railway

  3. The Great Northern Railway

  4. The Midland Railway

  5. The London and North-Western Railway

  6. The Great Central Railway

  7. The Great Western Railway

  8. The London Brighton and South Coast Railway

  9. The South-Eastern, and London Chatham and Dover Railway

  10. The London and South-Western Railway

The carrying of goods was its initial intent in the earlier days of the construction of railways; the great increase of passenger traffic was not foreseen. As a result, the termini of the main lines serving London was placed at some distance from the centre in order to not interfere with the heavy traffic of central London, disrupt the comfort of the residences, and take up valuable properties. Eventually some of the termini were allowed to be placed closer to the centre.

 The questions that were prominently brought forward in the earlier days of railway construction were:

  1. The expediency of constructing a great central station in London
  2. The expediency of keeping the termini of the main lines outside the thickly inhabited area
  3. The expediency of connecting the main lines by railway communication lying outside the metropolitan area

  The only authorities that existed in London at the time were the Corporation of the City of London, having jurisdiction over more than a square mile of the central area, and it was unfit and unable to deal the great metropolitan improvement issues. In the absence of an authority, the questions concerning locomotion seemed to have been left to be disposed of by occasional Royal Commissions of Select Committees Parliament, assisted by the Corporation of the City of London and the Board of Trade. The first attempt at creating a central authority was the establishment of the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1856; the powers and authority of this body in connection with the construction of railways were extremely limited.

railways1863notubePrior to 1863
This map shows the railway termini in existence before the construction of the underground. Due to congestion in the center of the city, private land ownership, and laws set out by the Royal Commission tracks could not be extended to join the railway lines in the downtown core.

railway1863tube1863
The solution became to build an underground. The first line built was in attempt to solve the prior problems. It was built underground to relieve congestion. It also connected the main termini lines enabling the masses to access the center of the city much more easily.

railways1900 1900
Further expansion of the tube meant more people could enter the city much more easily. Hence we can see that the railway lines continued to expand to cater to this need.


railways19401949
Commuters were entering the city due to the convenience of getting to the city centre by the underground. This caused the railway to continually expand linking further areas to stations on the tube line themselves.

railway2013Present – 2013
London’s’ suburbs have expanded further out from the city centre. Majority of the commercial and industrial areas remained in the downtown core. This caused the development of the London Commuter Belt, which brings the people in on a daily basis. The underground and railways have expanded yet again to serve this need.

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