The Northern Line Extension has arrived!
Lost somewhat against the cacophony of noise about the Crossrail escapades, it’s easy to forget that there’s another Underground project that’s been running slightly more on time. The Northern Line Extension has now brought the black line to the redeveloped Battersea Power Station area, marking the first major extension of a Tube line since the Jubilee line was extended to Stratford back in 1999. So, it’s a Pretty Big Deal, and today (September 20), the hallowed event has finally taken place! [Featured image: Battersea Power Station, via Twitter]
We’d been promised that Londoners could ride the new extension from ‘autumn 2021’, and the developers have stayed true to their word (we’ll try not to compare it to the Elizabeth Line any more but, ya know). The extension runs from the Northern line’s current terminus at Kennington, and has necessitated the building of two new stations: Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station. It’s a link which will bring Battersea and the local area onto the Tube network, and mean you’ll be able to get from Battersea to the West End in 15 minutes. TfL are also quick to point out the 25,000 jobs and 20,000 new homes that could be created as a result of the project. Exciting stuff!
How the Northern Line extension came to life
Though major construction began in 2015, it wasn’t until a couple of years later that the exciting stuff began. In April 2017, the tunnelling project began, ably assisted by Helen and Amy, a pair of 650-tonne tunnel-boring bombshells. Well, machines. There’s nothing we love more than a couple of strong ladies…
Say hello to Helen and Amy, our 650-tonne tunnel boring machines that will start building the @northernline extension in March pic.twitter.com/9mwtsHSd4Q
— Transport for London (@TfL) 22 January 2017
The machines were named by local schoolchildren after Helen Sharman, who became the first British astronaut in 1991, and Amy Johnson, the aviation pioneer best known as the first woman to fly solo from London to Australia. Unsurprisingly, given their past achievements, the tunnelling was completed in a jiffy, with work finished in November 2017. The tunnels themselves are unique; they’re the widest tunnels anywhere on the Tube network, and feature an emergency walkway along the side of them.
As sometimes happens with TfL projects, however, there were delays: in 2018, it was reported that the opening date, originally scheduled for December 2020, would be pushed back to autumn 2021. This was supposedly to coincide with the reopening of the Moorgate-Bank section of the line, which was originally scheduled to be closed in spring 2020 in order to speed up renovation works at Bank station, and somewhat audaciously move that stretch of the Northern line slightly to the west. However, the Northern line closure around Bank is now set for January to May 2022 (read all about it here), so the Battersea branch will now finish first.
Anyway, things picked up in the summer of 2019, when an engineering train travelled the full length of the tunnels for the first time. In February 2020, the extension took another important step forward with the addition of station roundels – a historic moment, as London’s Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander was celebrating on Twitter:
First new @TfL roundels for a new Northern Line station in almost 100 years are now up on platforms at Battersea Power Station – really feels like the opening of the extension next year is getting that bit closer. pic.twitter.com/vHMFstWppj
— Heidi Alexander (@Heidi_LDN) February 20, 2020
These were the first of 113 roundels needed for the two new stations – 62 for Battersea Power Station and 51 for Nine Elms. No roundels had been made for a new Northern line station since the Clapham Common to Morden extension was unveiled in 1926, so this was kind of a big deal for transport nerds!
An arguably more important step was taken over Christmas 2020, as the first test passenger trains journeyed along the line from Kennington to Battersea Power Station and back again. Travelling through the 3.2km of tunnels, these test trains kicked off a series of rigorous test journeys that are needed to ensure the smooth running of the line. Further landmarks reached this year included a permanent power supply switched on, and commissioning new signalling software for the line, and now, it’s time for the big one.
When does the Northern Line Extension open?
Today, my friends! The two new stations are both step-free, and fall in Zone 1 of TfL’s fare zones. The extension will be served by six trains an hour initially (during peak times), but plans are afoot to increase that to twelve per hour by mid-2022. At off-peak times, that number drops to five per hour, although again it’s expected to be doubled next year.
How do I get there?
The new extension will be served by Charing Cross branch trains only, so if you’re heading north from Battersea Power Station, you’ll need to change at Kennington to get to Bank. Similarly, if you’re coming south from London Bridge, you’ll have to hop onto a new train at Kennington to reach Nine Elms. Hey, if TfL can finally untangle the mess that is Camden Town station, they’ll be able to achieve their long-held dream of splitting the Northern line in two! Rumours of a further extension from Battersea Power Station to Clapham Junction, meanwhile, are still just a pipe dream – so don’t expect that anytime soon.
What can I do in Battersea and Nine Elms?
Glad you asked. Battersea Power Station and the surrounding area has seen one of London’s biggest urban development projects in recent years, with the first residents moving into the luxury flats in the old power station earlier this year. The area also boasts this funky crazy golf course, a soon-to-open luxury shopping centre, this floating sky pool, and will also welcome a great glass elevator inside one of the power station’s history chimneys. I think it’s safe to say we’ll be itching to ride the Northern Line Extension once it opens!
Find out more about the Northern Line Extension on TfL’s website.
Also published on Medium.