Northern City Line

Northern City Line
Northern City Line
Type Commuter rail, Suburban rail
System National Rail
Status Operational
Locale Greater London
Termini Finsbury Park
London Moorgate
Stations 4
Opened 1904
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) First Capital Connect
Depot(s) Hornsey
Rolling stock British Rail Class 313
No. of tracks Two
Track gauge Standard gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Loading gauge W6[1]
Electrification 25 kV 50hz AC OHLE (North of Drayton)
750 V DC third rail (South of Drayton)
[v · d · e]Northern City Line
LNER Alexandra Palace branch
(Conversion started but abandoned)
Continuation backward Unknown BSicon "uexLUECKE"
East Coast Main Line
Station on track + Hub
Unknown BSicon "uextKBHFa" + Hub
Unknown BSicon "uexBHF"
Finsbury Park National Rail Piccadilly roundel1.PNG Victoria roundel1.PNG
Straight track Unknown BSicon "uexTUNNELe" Unused straight waterway
Junction to left
Unknown BSicon "uexABZrg" + Track turning from right
Unused waterway turning right
Unknown BSicon "exSTRrg" Unknown BSicon "eABZrf" Straight track
Unknown BSicon "exTUNNELa" Straight track Stop on track
Drayton Park
Unknown BSicon "extCONTf" Continuation forward Straight track
to King's Cross
Unknown BSicon "utCONTg" Enter tunnel
Continuation to left Unknown BSicon "umtKRZ" Unknown BSicon "tKRZ" Track turning from right
North London Line
Unknown BSicon "utCPICl" + Hub
Unknown BSicon "tCPICr" + Hub
Station on track + Hub
Highbury & Islington _Victoria roundel1.PNG London Overground National Rail
Urban tunnel straight track Unknown BSicon "tSTR" Continuation forward
Unknown BSicon "utCONTf" Unknown BSicon "tSTR"
Victoria Line
Unknown BSicon "tHST"
Essex Road
Unknown BSicon "tBHF"
Old Street Northern roundel1.PNG
Unknown BSicon "exCONTg" Unknown BSicon "tSTR"
Thameslink (closed March 2009)
Unknown BSicon "exKBHFe" + Hub
Unknown BSicon "tBHF" + Hub
Moorgate Circle roundel1.PNG H&c roundel.PNG Metropolitan roundel1.PNG Northern roundel1.PNG
Unused urban end station
(Extension authorised but
construction abandoned)
[v · d · e]Finsbury Park to Highbury & Islington to Dalston
Continuation backward
East Coast Main Line
Track turning from left Transverse track Transverse track Unknown BSicon "ABZdf" Transverse track Transverse track Track turning from right
One way backward Station on track One way forward
Finsbury Park Victoria roundel1.PNG Piccadilly roundel1.PNG
Junction to left Track turning from right Track turning from left Unknown BSicon "ABZdf" Track turning from right Track turning from left Junction to right
Junctions with Canonbury
One way backward One way backward One way backward Straight track One way forward One way forward One way forward
Curve and Northern City Line
Junction from left Unknown BSicon "KRZu" Unknown BSicon "KRZu" Unknown BSicon "ABZ3rf" Unknown BSicon "KRZu" Unknown BSicon "KRZu" Track turning right
towards King's Cross
Continuation forward One way backward Enter tunnel Enter tunnel One way forward
Track turning left Unknown BSicon "tKRZ" One way rightward Unknown BSicon "tKRZ" Junction from right
Exit tunnel Exit tunnel Straight track
Junction from left Transverse track Track turning right Straight track
Cutting start Straight track
Underbridge Underbridge
Bridge to Emirates Stadium
Drayton Park
Station on track + Cutting
Straight track
Cutting end Straight track
Victoria line Victoria roundel1.PNG
Unknown BSicon "utCONTg" Enter tunnel Straight track
North London Line London Overground National Rail
Continuation to left Unknown BSicon "umtKRZ" Unknown BSicon "tKRZ" Unknown BSicon "eABZ3lg" Track turning from right Enter tunnel
Unknown BSicon "utCPICl" + Hub
Unknown BSicon "tCPICr" + Hub
Unknown BSicon "xCPICla" + Hub
Left side of cross-platform interchange + Hub
Exit tunnel
Highbury & Islington _Victoria roundel1.PNG London Overground National Rail
Urban tunnel straight track Unknown BSicon "tSTR" Straight track Junction from left Track turning right
Canonbury Curve
Victoria line Victoria roundel1.PNG
Unknown BSicon "utCONTf" Unknown BSicon "tSTR" Straight track Straight track
Northern City Line
Unknown BSicon "tCONTf" Straight track Straight track
Right side of cross-platform interchange Left side of cross-platform interchange
Canonbury London Overground National Rail
Unknown BSicon "ÜWc2" Unknown BSicon "ÜWor" Straight track
Dalston Junction London Overground National Rail
Unknown BSicon "ÜWc2"
Unknown BSicon "CPICuu" + Unknown BSicon "ÜWorl" + Station + Hub
+ Unknown BSicon "ÜWc4" + Hub
Station on track + Hub
Dalston Kingsland London Overground National Rail
East London Line London Overground National Rail
Continuation to left Unknown BSicon "ÜABZ3rf"
Unknown BSicon "CPICe" + Unknown BSicon "ÜWc4" + Hub
Unknown BSicon "exSTRq" Unknown BSicon "eABZlg"
Continuation forward
North London Line London Overground National Rail

The Northern City Line is a railway line from Moorgate to Finsbury Park in London, once part of the Great Northern Electrics line. It should not be confused with the City branch of the Northern line, nor with the North London Line. The line is underground from Moorgate to just south of Drayton Park, and runs in a cutting from there until meeting the East Coast Main Line south of Finsbury Park.

The line was formerly part of London Underground, and during its history has been part of both the Metropolitan and Northern lines, although it is connected to neither. It is now part of the National Rail network and is owned by Network Rail. The line is served by London commuter trains run by First Capital Connect on the lines London Moorgate - Welwyn Garden City and London Moorgate - Hertford North - (Letchworth Garden City).



Rolling stock

The line is electrified — 25 kV AC overhead line as far south as Drayton Park and 750 V DC third rail from there to Moorgate. Services are operated by Class 313 electric multiple units (EMUs), the only units certified for use on the line. In keeping with the UK regulations for trains operating in single bore tunnels, they have emergency doors at the end of each unit, and are also designed so that when operating on 750 V DC the two motor coaches are electrically separate as far as the traction supply goes - unlike other contemporary units, there are no DC traction supply jumper cables between carriages. All Class 313 units operating over the NCL are configured with their Driving Motor B vehicle at the London end, and whilst on DC traction current are electronically limited to 30 mph,[2] which is the maximum line speed[3] on the Northern City Line. All stations are long enough to accept two three-car EMUs.[4]


The line was originally named the Great Northern & City Railway, and was intended to allow mainline trains of the Great Northern Railway to run from Finsbury Park directly into the City of London at Moorgate. Accordingly, the tubes were made large enough to take a main-line train, unlike those of the other tube railways being built in London at the time. The internal diameter was 16 feet (4.9 m),[5] compared with less than 12 feet (3.7 m) for the Central London Railway and smaller still for the original City & South London Railway tunnels. However, the Great Northern was lukewarm about the scheme, and the GN&CR had to settle for a northern terminus in tube underneath Finsbury Park station. The line opened in 1904. It was originally electrified with an unusual fourth-rail system featuring a conductor rail outside each running rail. This was altered to the standard LT arrangement at a later date.

The GN&CR was bought in 1913 by the Metropolitan Railway, which operated today's Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines and the ex-East London line. The Met made various plans to link it to some point on the Circle line or to the Waterloo & City line, but these never came to fruition.

After the Metropolitan was nationalised (along with the other underground lines) in 1933, the line was renamed the Northern City Line and became part of the Edgware-Morden Line (which became the Northern line in 1937) for operational purposes. As part of London Underground's "New Works" programme, plans were made to connect the Northern City Line to the surface at Finsbury Park, and then join suburban branches to Alexandra Palace, High Barnet and Edgware. The Highgate branch of the Edgware-Morden Line would be connected to this network north of Highgate. By the time the Second World War started, the Highgate link and electrification of the Barnet branch were well under way, but work on the Northern City link was postponed.

However, after the war there were proposals to extend the Northern City Line not only north but also south. The London Plan Working Party Report of 1949 proposed several new lines and suburban electrification schemes for London, lettered from A to M. Route C would become the Victoria Line. The lower priority routes J and K would have seen the Northern City extended to Woolwich (Route J) and Crystal Palace (Route K). At the same time as retaining the "Northern Heights" extensions to Edgware and Alexandra Palace, the line would have run in small-diameter tube tunnel south from Moorgate to Bank and London Bridge. John Glover's map[6] is not a detailed presentation of the proposals, but it appears by comparison of the route with a London A-Z that the branches would have diverged south of London Bridge, near Bricklayers' Arms. The "J" branch would have followed the A2, running via New Cross Gate and New Cross, Blackheath Road, and Shooters Hill to some point in Woolwich or Plumstead (off Glover's map by this point).[7] Obviously the line would all have had to be in tunnel (except if it had been intended to take over the Bricklayer's Arms goods branch for part of the way), and would have served heavily populated areas. The "K" branch would have run under Peckham to Peckham Rye, continuing onward to join the old Crystal Palace (High Level) branch (which was still open in 1949) near Lordship Lane station. But nothing came of the 1949 proposal, and the Edgware, Alexandra Palace and Crystal Palace (High Level) branches were all closed to passengers in 1954. As a result the Northern City Line remained isolated from the rest of the network.

Services were cut back from Finsbury Park to Drayton Park in 1964 to make room for the Victoria line to use the platforms at Finsbury Park (Low level). The former Piccadilly line platforms are now the northbound Piccadilly/Victoria line platforms, and the former Northern City Line platforms are the southbound Piccadilly and Victoria line ones (of course, today trains once more go from Drayton Park to Finsbury Park, but to the high level station). In 1970 the line was renamed Northern line (Highbury Branch). The following year, an agreement was made to transfer the line to British Rail and connect it (as was intended by its original promoters) to the main line at Finsbury Park. By running commuter trains to Moorgate instead of King's Cross, congestion at King's Cross was relieved.

The last London Underground services ran in October 1975, and British Rail services commenced in August 1976, replacing services run into Broad Street via the City Branch of the North London Line. These BR services used the name "Great Northern Electrics". The track is now owned by Network Rail. Services, provided on the line by First Capital Connect, run to Welwyn Garden City or are Hertford Loop Line services to Hertford North (some extending to Stevenage or Letchworth). The name "Northern City Line" has been revived to refer to the subsurface part of the route.

The former Northern City Line terminus at Finsbury Park is now used by Southbound Victoria and Piccadilly line London Underground services, allowing cross platform interchange between the two lines. Northbound Victoria line trains use the former Southbound Piccadilly platform, again providing cross platform interchange with the Northbound Piccadilly. This change was made in 1968 when the Victoria line opened, with Northern City trains terminating at Drayton Park.

As part of the opening of the Victoria line, a further change was made at Highbury and Islington, with the Northbound Northern City line diverted to a new platform alongside the Northbound Victoria line, and the Southbound Victoria using the former Northbound Northern City platform, also providing cross platform interchange.

The Moorgate tube crash, the most serious railway accident on the London Underground system, occurred at Moorgate station on 28 February 1975, when a Highbury Branch train ran through the terminus at speed and crashed into the dead end of the tunnel beyond. The cause of the accident, which killed 43 people, was never determined.

The original generating station for the GN&CR was closed when the Metropolitan Railway took over, and became the studio of Gainsborough Pictures. After lying derelict for many years, it was a temporary venue for the Almeida Theatre, and has since been redeveloped as apartments.

Green Party proposal

The Green Party has proposed that the Northern City Line be connected to the Waterloo & City line to create a new cross-London route.[citation needed] The core section of the route would be from Finsbury Park to Clapham Junction via Moorgate, Bank and Waterloo, with a new connection at Blackfriars. Through services could then run from Welwyn Garden City and Hertford North to destinations like Hounslow, Richmond, Shepperton, Kingston and Weybridge, thus enabling much better use of the capacity offered by this part of the network, particularly outside city commuting hours.[8] However, the Waterloo & City was designed and built as a deep tube line; were this to be connected to the Northern City line this would mean either a reversion to using deep tube stock along the whole length (as when the NCL was part of the Northern line), or converting the Waterloo & City for main line sized rolling stock. The latter would be made more difficult still because of the tight curves, which would not suit conventional carriages. It would therefore probably mean boring completely new tunnels for much of the length. It should be born in mind, however, that the City & South London Line (which became the Bank branch of the Northern Line) was enlarged during the 1920s.

See also


  1. ^ Network Rail: RUS, ECML Page 57 Accessed 19 Feb 2011
  2. ^ Class 313 Traction Manual
  3. ^ Network Rail [ Sectional Appendix]], London North Eastern Region
  4. ^ Network Rail, Rules Of The Plan, 2009, London North Eastern Region
  5. ^ Great Northern & City
  6. ^ J. Glover, "London's Underground", 7th edition, Shepperton, Ian Allan, 1991, p.61.
  7. ^ H.F. Howson says that the line would have run to Woolwich and Plumstead (London’s Underground, 6th edition, Shepperton, Ian Allan Ltd, 1986, pp.124-5).
  8. ^ "Green Party response to East Coast Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy Consultation". The Green Party. 2007-09. 


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