Why is the London Underground So Confusing? Part 3

Anyway, with Watkin and Forbes going every which way but round, by the 1880s the government was getting frustrated with the lack of a Circle Line, so a third, separate company was formed to fill in the gaps between the Metropolitan and District Railways.  Watkin wasn’t happy with this at all, bought it out and decided to finish the job himself.  

The first train to travel in a loop around London was in 1884.  James Forbes and Edward Watkin rode in the same carriage as part of the celebration, but at opposite ends, and refused to say a word to each other the entire way round. 

The enmity between these bitter rivals not only delayed the development of the underground, but also causes problem to this day.  Watkin and Forbes set the tone for the rest of the network being built.  Every one of London’s tube lines (apart from the Victoria and Jubilee Lines which came much later) were built by separate private companies competing with each other to bring passengers to popular parts of London, rather than cooperating.  

This is why there are two separate stations called Edgware Road that have nothing to do with one other.  It’s why Hammersmith has two stations on opposite sides of the road.  Why Euston has two different stations, as well as Aldgate.  

Ever tried changing trains at Oxford Circus or Charing Cross and found yourself lost in a warren of endless, confusing tunnels?  That’s because each was two separate stations combined into one.  Finally it’s also why, when the entire network came together in 1933, many stations became redundant and were closed, leaving London with around 40 abandoned ‘ghost stations’ (see our other blog on Aldwich station, and the image of Down Street station below).

The London Underground is an iconic part of the city that, as much as its users grumble, they would never wish to do without.  We owe its existence to the extraordinary vision of its creators, and its many annoyances to their equally massive egos.

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