Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

When is a Circle not a Circle? (When it’s a spiral/teacup/saucepan)

Posted in Great Britain, Infrastructure, Metro by Chairman Pip on 11 January 2010

On the 13th December, the day of the pan-European timetable change, London Underground instituted its new Circle Line service – rather than it being a circle, instead it starts at Hammersmith, along the Hammersmith & City Line as far as Edgware Road, then completes a loop of the old Circle Line terminating back at Edgware Road. The idea is that an orbital route, with no distinct terminus, can suffer major disruption if there is a problem, especially on one of the lines that the Circle shares its route with. This, according to TfL, “allows services to recover more quickly”, as trains have somewhere to run to and terminate. This has also led to more trains on the northern half (the Hammersmith & City Line). But, the new route has come in for a fair degree of criticism – first, it no longer allows through running past Edgware Road for those on the southern half of the Circle, so, assuming you’d want to go from (for example) Sloane Square to Great Portland Street, before you could just get on a clockwise Circle Line train, but now you’d have to change at Edgware Road. Additionally, the new service frequency is every ten minutes, which is wider than before; some passengers have been complaining that trains have at some points been every twenty minutes. Of course, it seemingly doesn’t occur to these passengers to just use an alternate route to get to where they need to be. Indeed, I fail to actually see the point of the Circle Line today. The service was designed during the railway boom of the mid 19th century as a means of connecting London’s major railway termini following the decision to ban main line trains from travelling across central London. But since then, several tube lines have been built that travel north-south which also connect the major termini:

Bakerloo: Paddington-Marylebone-Charing Cross-Waterloo
Jubilee: London Bridge-Waterloo
Northern (City): Euston-King’s Cross/St Pancras-Moorgate-London Bridge
Northern (Charing Cross): Euston-Charing Cross-Waterloo
Victoria: Victoria-Euston-King’s Cross/St Pancras

This is in addition to the District and Metropolitan/Hammersmith & City lines, which connect the termini along each side of the current Circle:

District: Fenchurch Street (via Tower Hill)-Cannon Street-Blackfriars-Charing Cross-Victoria
Hammersmith & City: Paddington-Euston (via Euston Square)-King’s Cross/St Pancras-Moorgate-Liverpool Street

So why do we need the Circle Line anymore?

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