Circle line (London Underground)

Circle line (London Underground)
Circle line flag box.png
Colour on map Yellow
Year opened 1884
Line type Sub-Surface
Rolling stock C Stock 6 carriages per trainset
Stations served 36
Length 27 km (17 mi)
Depots Hammersmith[1]
Journeys made 68.485 million (2009)[2]

The Circle line, coloured yellow on the tube map, is the eighth busiest line on the London Underground.[3] It forms a loop line around the centre of London on the north side of the River Thames with, since 13 December 2009, an extension to Hammersmith on its north-western side.



The route now known as the Circle line was authorised when Acts of Parliament in 1853 and 1854 empowered the Metropolitan Railway (MR) and the Metropolitan District Railway (MDR) to construct the world's first underground railway in central London. From an initial section between Farringdon and Paddington stations, the route was gradually extended at each end. Financial difficulties in the construction of the section through the City of London, as well as animosity between the two railway companies, delayed completion of the full circuit until 6 October 1884, although it had been known as the Inner Circle since the 1870s.

Trains on the route were originally hauled by steam engines, but electrification was started with an experimental section in 1900. A disagreement between the two companies over the method of electrification delayed the exercise, so that the first electric trains were introduced gradually over the 11 days to 24 September 1905.

The introduction of this line took over many parts of the Metropolitan line, confining it to the north-west and limiting its interchanges with the District line. The Uxbridge branch of the Metropolitan last shared track with the District in 1933, when Piccadilly line services replaced the latter. In the east, the Barking service of the Metropolitan, also sharing track with the District, was designated part of the Hammersmith & City line in 1988, though in practice the Hammersmith & City service had already been run as a separate operation for many years.

Other circle routes

The Inner Circle and other circular routes

The success of the Inner Circle led to the operation of three other "circular" routes within the capital, over existing main line routes and sections of the Inner Circle tracks. Like the Inner Circle at the time they were established, none of them was actually a complete circle:

These routes failed to attract the passenger numbers hoped for. The Super Outer Circle ran for only two years; the other two routes lasted longer, but were eventually cut back and finally ended (see the map for details). Other services on the lines continued. Today parts of the Outer Circle and Super Outer Circle routes are operated by London Overground trains on the North London Line. Plans to complete an outer rail loop have been relaunched under the name Orbirail.[4]

7 July 2005 terrorist attack

On 7 July 2005 two Circle line trains were bombed. The blasts occurred almost simultaneously at 08:50 BST, one between Liverpool Street and Aldgate and the other at Edgware Road.

Following the attacks, the whole of the Circle line was closed. While most other lines re-opened on 8 July, the Circle remained closed for several weeks, reopening a little less than a month after the attacks, on 4 August. 13 people were killed by the blasts on the Circle line trains. A third attack occurred on the Piccadilly line between King's Cross St Pancras and Russell Square.

Pre-13 December 2009

Prior to 13 December 2009, the Circle line was true to its name and formed a simple loop. This orbital route had 27 stations and 14.5 miles (23.3 km) of track. The map below shows what it looked like from a geographic point of view:

Circle Line (old).svg
Former Circle line route before the service was extended on to the Hammersmith branch

The route

The Circle line became known as such in 1949, when it was designated separately from its parent lines, the Metropolitan line and the District line, although it had been shown on Underground maps since 1947 (see history above). It is a "route" rather than a separate "line": it does not have any stations for its sole use and only has two short sections of track over which it operates exclusively: the chords between High Street Kensington and Gloucester Road, and between Tower Hill and Aldgate.

A complete journey around the line took approximately 55 minutes, but timetabling constraints meant that each train had scheduled two-minute stops at High Street Kensington and Aldgate, extending the time required to about 59 minutes. This meant the service was operated with seven trains in each direction, providing an 8.5-minute service interval (but a shorter service interval in combination with other lines operating on the same tracks).

Since 13 December 2009, the name of the line has been misleading: from that date its trains ceased to run a continuous circuit, taking instead a "lassoo" shape.It now has 35 stations and 17 mi (27 km) of track.[1]

In the north, east and west of central London, the loop part of the Circle line roughly follows the boundary of Travelcard Zone 1, but in the south a substantial portion of the zone is outside the Circle line. With the extension on 13 December 2009, it ceased to be one of the two lines operated completely within Zone 1 (the other being the two-stop shuttle Waterloo & City line). Of the 35 stations served, a substantial number have Circle line platforms wholly or almost wholly underground, while those at Edgware Road, Farringdon, Barbican, Aldgate, Sloane Square, South Kensington, High Street Kensington, Bayswater, Notting Hill Gate and Paddington are in cuttings or under train sheds. They are all below street level, albeit only by a few feet, whereas all the stations on the Hammersmith extension are above ground: indeed most of this section is an elevated railway, built largely on brick arches. See below for the changes that took place on 13 December 2009, extending the line to Hammersmith.

Post-13 December 2009

Circle Line.svg
Circle line route since 13 December 2009


The Circle line extension extended the route from Edgware Road to Hammersmith.[5]

The idea had been in discussion for some years: at one point diagrams were drawn up, for internal use only, bearing the provisional name "Hammersmith & Circle Line", the implication being that the two lines would be merged into one.[6] This idea was abandoned in favour of the 'extension' to the Circle and retention of the Hammersmith & City route as a separate identity.

The extension was announced in March 2009 and introduced on 13 December 2009, when the Circle line was extended from Edgware Road to Hammersmith, sharing tracks with the Hammersmith & City line (see station list above). Clockwise, the new service runs from Hammersmith to Edgware Road, and then makes a full loop of the circle to arrive at Edgware Road a second time, where trains terminate. Anticlockwise, trains leave Edgware Road, travel round the circle and pass through Edgware Road a second time, and continue to Hammersmith. This means it is no longer possible to travel between certain stations on the line (such as Baker Street to Bayswater) via Edgware Road without changing trains there. However, London Underground has said that giving the line fixed termini improves reliability. At the same time the day-time service interval on both the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines was increased from 8.5 to 10 minutes, between them providing a train every five minutes between Hammersmith and Liverpool Street. This increased the frequency on the Hammersmith branch by 70 per cent, but slightly reduced it on the loop. Despite its new spiral shape, the Circle line has retained its name.[7]

No new track was required as this was solely a change in route pattern, using existing lines. It now shares the tracks previously used only by the Hammersmith & City line, although movements were regularly made over this section to and from Hammersmith depot as the two lines already shared a common fleet of trains.

The extension was intended to reduce overcrowding on Hammersmith & City line trains between Hammersmith and Edgware Road by improving the frequency of trains on that section. It was also designed to bring about improved reliability, not only for the Circle line itself but also for the District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines by slightly reducing the number of train movements on the loop.[citation needed]

Orbital routes

Orbital routes have an intrinsic problem of timetabling robustness. The trains are constantly in service and so there is little scope for "recovery time" if they are delayed. A single delay can have long-lasting knock-on effects and be much more disruptive than on a non-orbital railway. Recovery time can be created by timetabling longer stops at some stations, but this increases journey times. The current spiral route supposedly removed this problem because of the recovery time at both ends of the route.[8][9]

Technical information


All Circle line trains are in the distinctive London Underground livery of red, white and blue and are the larger of the two sizes used on the network. These 6-car trains comprise C stock, introduced 1969–70, with a further batch in 1978.

LUL says these 40-year-old trains, part of the same fleet that also operates the Hammersmith & City line, are "in an increasingly poor state",[10] and they are to be replaced with new seven-car S stock air-conditioned trains from Bombardier Transportation,[11] with delivery scheduled to begin in 2012 for completion by the end of 2014. In combination with new signalling (see below), this is expected to produce an eventual overall increase in the capacity of the route of up to 65%.[12]

To accommodate these longer trains (117 metres (384 ft) long as opposed to 93 metres (305 ft) for C stock), station platforms are currently being lengthened.[11]


The principal depot for the Circle line is at Hammersmith,[1]map 36 but there are several other sidings at Barking, Triangle Sidings (in Kensington) and Farringdon. Sidings at Edgware Road have been decommissioned.


LUL intends to award a contract in 2012 to build a single signal control centre for the whole of the sub-surface network (Circle, District, Metropolitan, and Hammersmith & City lines. Some of the existing signalling dates from before the Second World War and it has become unreliable, with replacement components often unavailable. A new system will be installed with automatic train operation (ATO), which it is hoped will be fully working by 2018,[12] increasing throughput in the central area from 27 trains per hour to 32 trains per hour.[10]


[v · d · e]Circle line
District line
Unknown BSicon "uCONTg"
Hammersmith District roundel1.PNG Piccadilly roundel1.PNG
Unknown BSicon "uACC" + Hub
Unknown BSicon "uHACCr" + Hub
Unknown BSicon "uABZ3lg" Unknown BSicon "uHSTq" Urban track turning from right
Goldhawk Road
Hammersmith depot
Unknown BSicon "uLUECKE" Urban non-passenger end station Urban stop on track
Shepherd's Bush Market
Urban stop on track
Wood Lane
Joint route section with
Unknown BSicon "POINTERr" Urban stop on track
Latimer Road
Hammersmith & City line
Urban stop on track
Ladbroke Grove
Urban stop on track
Westbourne Park
District line
Unknown BSicon "utLUECKE" Urban stop on track
Royal Oak
High Street Kensington District roundel1.PNG
Unknown BSicon "utABZld" Unknown BSicon "uBHFCCq" Unknown BSicon "utSTRq" Urban tunnel turning from right Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "exCONTg"
Piccadilly roundel1.PNG Gloucester Road
Unknown BSicon "utINT" Unknown BSicon "utINT" Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "exTUNNELa"
Notting Hill Gate Central roundel1.PNG
Urban tunnel straight track Urban tunnel stop on track Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "extSTR"
District roundel1.PNGPiccadilly roundel1.PNG South Kensington
Unknown BSicon "uBHFCC"
Urban tunnel stop on track + Hub
Unknown BSicon "uHSTCCe" + Hub
Unknown BSicon "extBHF" + Hub
Paddington Bakerloo roundel1.PNGNational Rail
Urban tunnel straight track Unknown BSicon "utBS2lg" Unknown BSicon "utBS2rg" Unknown BSicon "extLUECKE"
Praed Street Junction
Sloane Square
Unknown BSicon "uHSTCC" Unknown BSicon "utv-BS2+l" Unknown BSicon "utvBS2+r-"
Unknown BSicon "utSTR-R" Unknown BSicon "utSTR-L"
Unknown BSicon "utvKBHFe-BHF" + Unknown BSicon "PORTALf" + Unknown BSicon "PORTALg"
Edgware Road District roundel1.PNG H&c roundel.PNG
Victoria roundel1.PNGNational Rail Victoria
Unknown BSicon "utINT" Unknown BSicon "utvBS2+r" Unknown BSicon "utSTRrg" Unknown BSicon "utCONTl"
Metropolitan line
Urban tunnel straight track Unknown BSicon "utCPICl" Unknown BSicon "uCPICCCr"
Baker Street Bakerloo roundel1.PNG Jubilee roundel1.PNG Metropolitan roundel1.PNG
St James's Park
Urban tunnel stop on track Unknown BSicon "utABZrg" Unknown BSicon "utSTRrf"
Urban tunnel straight track Urban tunnel stop on track
Great Portland Street
_Jubilee roundel1.PNG London River Services Westminster
Unknown BSicon "utACC" Urban tunnel stop on track
Euston Square (National RailEuston)
_Bakerloo roundel1.PNG_Northern roundel1.PNG London River Services Embankment
Unknown BSicon "utINT" Unknown BSicon "tSTRrg"
Urban tunnel straight track + Unknown BSicon "BRIDGEq" + Unknown BSicon "tSTRq"
Unknown BSicon "tBHFq" + Hub
Unknown BSicon "tCONTl"
(National RailCharing Cross)
Urban tunnel straight track Unknown BSicon "tSTR"
Unknown BSicon "utACC" + Hub
Unknown BSicon "HUB76"
King's Cross St. Pancras
Urban tunnel stop on track Exit tunnel Exit urban tunnel Unknown BSicon "extLUECKE"
___Northern roundel1.PNG __Piccadilly roundel1.PNG _Victoria roundel1.PNG National Rail
Urban tunnel straight track
Right side of cross-platform interchange + Hub
Left side of urban cross-platform interchange + Hub
Unknown BSicon "extSTR" + Unknown BSicon "HUB79"
Farringdon National Rail
National Rail London River Services Blackfriars
Continuation to left
Unknown BSicon "utINT" + Interchange on transverse track + Unknown BSicon "PORTALl"
Unknown BSicon "tHSTq" Enter transverse tunnel to right Unknown BSicon "xABZrf" Urban straight track
Unknown BSicon "extSTR" + Unknown BSicon "HUB26"
City Thameslink
(Tube station closed until 2011)
Urban tunnel straight track Unknown BSicon "exTUNNEL1" Unknown BSicon "uTUNNEL1"
Unknown BSicon "extBHF" + Unknown BSicon "HUB26"
Mansion House
Urban tunnel stop on track Unknown BSicon "exCPICl"
Left side of urban cross-platform interchange + Hub
Unknown BSicon "extSTR" + Unknown BSicon "HUB76"
National Rail Cannon Street
Unknown BSicon "utINT" Unknown BSicon "exTUNNELa" Enter urban tunnel Unknown BSicon "extSTR"
Central roundel1.PNGNorthern roundel1.PNGW&c roundel.PNGDocklands Light Railway Monument
Unknown BSicon "utINT" Unknown BSicon "extSTR" Unknown BSicon "utvSTRa" Unknown BSicon "extSTR"
District roundel1.PNGDocklands Light Railway London River Services Tower Hill
Urban tunnel stop on track Unknown BSicon "texCPICle"
Unknown BSicon "utvKBHFe-BHF" + Hub
Unknown BSicon "extSTR" + Unknown BSicon "HUB79"
Moorgate _Northern roundel1.PNG National Rail
National Rail (Fenchurch Street)
Urban tunnel straight track Unknown BSicon "utvBS2+l"
Unknown BSicon "extBHF" + Unknown BSicon "HUB26"
Urban tunnel straight track
Unknown BSicon "utINT" + Hub
Unknown BSicon "extSTR" + Unknown BSicon "HUB76"
Liverpool Street __Central roundel1.PNG _H&c roundel.PNG National Rail
Metropolitan roundel1.PNG Aldgate
Unknown BSicon "utSTRlf" + Unknown BSicon "utÜWol"
Unknown BSicon "utSTRq" + Unknown BSicon "uÜWc3"
Unknown BSicon "uBHFCCq"
Unknown BSicon "utSTRq" + Unknown BSicon "uÜWc2"
Unknown BSicon "utSTRrf" + Unknown BSicon "utÜWor"
Unknown BSicon "extSTR"
Unknown BSicon "uÜWc1" Unknown BSicon "utÜW+r" Unknown BSicon "utABZlr" Unknown BSicon "utÜW+l" Unknown BSicon "uÜWc4" Unknown BSicon "extCONTf"
District line
Unknown BSicon "utCONTf"
Hammersmith & City line
Station Image Opened Additional information
Hammersmith Handicapped/disabled access Hammersmith (H & C line) station building.JPG 1 December 1868 Hammersmith & Citymap 1. This is the terminus for trains travelling anticlockwise.
Goldhawk Road Goldhawk Road stn east entrance.JPG 13 June 1864 map 2
Shepherd's Bush Market Shepherd's Bush Market stn east entrance.JPG 13 June 1864 map 3
Wood Lane Handicapped/disabled access Wood Lane tube station 8.jpg 12 October 2008 map 4
Latimer Road Latimer Road Tube Station with Trellick Tower.jpg 16 December 1868 map 5
Ladbroke Grove Ladbroke Grove station.jpg 13 June 1864 map 6
Westbourne Park Westbourne Park tube station 1.jpg 30 October 1871 map 7
Royal Oak Royal Oak tube station Entrance.jpg 30 October 1871 map 8
Paddington Paddington H&C station 03.jpg 10 January 1863 Bakerloo, District, Hammersmith & City, Great Western Main Linemap 9
Edgware Road EdgwareRdHammersmith.jpg 1 October 1863 District, Hammersmith & City, Bakerloo (150 m (490 ft))map 10. This is the terminus for trains travelling clockwise.
Baker Street BakerStEntrance.JPG 10 January 1863 Bakerloo, Jubilee, Metropolitanmap 11
Great Portland Street Great Portland St Tube Station.jpg 10 January 1863 map 12
Euston Square Euston Square stn south entrance.JPG 10 January 1863 Euston and West Coast Main Linemap 13
King's Cross St. Pancras Handicapped/disabled access King's Cross St Pancras tube stn Euston Rd NE entrance.JPG 10 January 1863 Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria. Rail stations:
Farringdon Farringdon station building.JPG 10 January 1863 First Capital Connect (Thameslink)map 15
Barbican Barbican station entrance.JPG 23 December 1865 map 16
Moorgate Moorgate entrance Mgate.JPG 23 December 1865 Northern, First Capital Connect (Northern City Line)map 17
Liverpool Street Liverpool Street station entrance Bishopsgate.JPG 12 July 1874 Central, National Express East Anglia, c2cmap 18
Aldgate Aldgate-Station-Entrance.jpg 18 November 1876 Metropolitanmap 19
Tower Hill Tower hill entrance.jpg 25 September 1882 Districtmap 20
Monument Monument station roundel and crests.JPG 6 October 1884 Central, Northern, Waterloo & City, DLR (all via escalator connection to Bank station)map 21
Cannon Street CannonStreet.jpg 6 October 1884 Southeasternmap 22
Mansion House Mansionhouse300.jpg 3 July 1871 map 23
(closed until 2011)
Blackfriars station main entrance.JPG 30 May 1870 First Capital Connect / Southeastern (Thameslink)map 24
Temple Templetube.jpg 30 May 1870 map 25
Embankment Embankment station.jpg 30 May 1870 Bakerloo, Northernmap 26
Westminster Handicapped/disabled access Westminster station entrance Portcullis House.JPG 24 December 1868 Jubileemap 27
St. James's Park St James's Park stn entrance Palmer Street.JPG 24 December 1868 map 28
Victoria London Victoria station -14Oct2008.jpg 24 December 1868 Victoria, Southeastern, Southernmap 29
Sloane Square Sloane Square stn entrance.JPG 24 December 1868 map 30
South Kensington South Kensington station.jpg 24 December 1868 Piccadillymap 31
Gloucester Road GlocesterRoadTube.jpg 1 October 1868 Piccadillymap 32
High Street Kensington HighStKensington.jpg 1 October 1868 Districtmap 33
Notting Hill Gate NottingHillGate.jpg 1 October 1868 Centralmap 34
Bayswater Bayswater Station Exterior.jpg 1 October 1868 map 35
Paddington Paddington subsurface station building.jpg 1 October 1868 Bakerloo, District, Hammersmith & City, Great Western Main Linemap 9

The line then continues to Edgware Road where trains terminate before traversing the loop in an anticlockwise direction toward Hammersmith.

Circle line parties

The Circle line suspended due to a May 2008 party

Circle-line parties have gained in popularity on the line in the 21st century, similar to subway parties in the United States. These involve large groups of people boarding a train and holding an impromptu party in the carriages, often dressing in costume.

A high-profile Circle-line party took place on 31 May 2008 to celebrate the last night of legal alcohol drinking on public transport in London. Thousands of people attended and seventeen were arrested by police due to disorderly behaviour, eventually causing the entire line to be suspended for the rest of the night.



  1. ^ a b c Key Facts, Transport for London.
  2. ^ "Circle Line Facts". Transport for London. 2009. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  3. ^ Line facts. Ridership figures are listed for each line separately.
  4. ^ "London Overground & Orbirail". Always Touch Out. 12 February 2008. Retrieved 12 July 2009. 
  5. ^ Mayorwatch – Circle Line Extension.
  6. ^ "Death of the Circle Line confirmed". London Connections (blog). 9 July 2008. 
  7. ^ "Circle Line extended to the west". BBC News. 5 March 2009.
  8. ^ "Subsurface network (SSL) upgrade". Always Touch Out. 12 February 2008. Retrieved 12 July 2008. 
  9. ^ "District Dave". "Proposals for the Upgrade of the Sub-surface lines". Retrieved 12 July 2008. 
  10. ^ a b Waboso, David (December 2010). "Transforming the tube". Modern Railways (London): pp. 42–45. 
  11. ^ a b "'S' stock making its mark". Modern Railways (London): p. 46. December 2010. 
  12. ^ a b "Tube upgrade plan timeline". Transport for London. February 2011. 

External links

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