Night Tube packed out as TfL launches a 24-hour ‘no sleep’ London

Jubilant passengers turn up at Bethnal Green at 2am...

Jubilant passengers turn up at Bethnal Green at 2am... - Credit: Archant

Tens of thousands of Londoners crammed onto the Night Tube after midnight as Transport for London put the capital on 24-hour call out.

Jubilant passengers turn up at Bethnal Green at 2am...

Jubilant passengers turn up at Bethnal Green at 2am... - Credit: Archant

The Central and Victoria lines went ‘live’ through the night running trains every 1o minutes, carrying passengers east and west, north and south in one of the most ambitious upgrades of the capital’s transport network.

Nearly all trains were packed for the first two hours with “standing room only” when the countdown began for the new 24-hour weekend service on Fridays and Saturdays.

Trains were still running full through Oxford Circus, the interchange where the Central and Victoria meet, well into the night.

Jubilant passengers turn up at Bethnal Green at 2am...

Jubilant passengers turn up at Bethnal Green at 2am... - Credit: Archant

Londoners were enjoying their new freedom to travel. Many women on the Central getting on at Bethnal Green and Mile End said they felt safe in a crowded Underground to go out at night.


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Night Tube is being patrolled by 300 Transport Police officers in high-visibility jackets riding the network like New York cops for safety and security.

It’s costing TfL a cool £3.4 million—but the sheer volume of night passengers for a city that doesn’t want to sleep, like the Big Apple, is a good earner for London’s coffers.

Jubilant passengers turn up at Bethnal Green at 2am...

Jubilant passengers turn up at Bethnal Green at 2am... - Credit: Archant

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One of the first passengers on the Victoria Line was London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan who got on at Brixton at midnight making his way through crowds craming into the station entrance, for a long-haul ride towards Walthamstow at the other end of town.

Meanwhile, London Underground’s chief operating manager Steve Griffiths was over-the-moon meeting the public and the world’s media at Oxford Circus, the centre of the operation, to promote the launch to radio and TV crews from the BBC, from Paris and elsewhere on the Continent and even one turning up from Australia, assuring that night travel on the Underground would be safe.

“We’re spending £3.5m on security recruiting 300 British Transport police officers,” Steve told the East London Advertiser night edition, the paper that also never sleeps.

Jubilant passengers turn up at Bethnal Green at 2am...

Jubilant passengers turn up at Bethnal Green at 2am... - Credit: Archant

“The officers and our well-trained staff focus on safety and security of the public to make sure the Tube is as safe at night as it is in the daytime. All our stations are open and staffed and police are moving around the network.”

Extensive planning behind the scenes went into the Night Tube launch.

“We had a trial run last week to iron out any issues,” Steve reveals. “There were just a few things to sort out.”

Jubilant passengers turn up at Bethnal Green at 2am...

Jubilant passengers turn up at Bethnal Green at 2am... - Credit: Archant

TfL chose the Central running east-west and Victoria north-south, intersecting at the heart of the West End, which would “benefit the highest number of Londoners”.

The Central going east, for example, has Night Tube trains every 10 minutes stopping at Liverpool Street, Bethnal Green, Mile End and Stratford heading out to Leytonstone where the line splits—half go on to Loughton, the rest to Hainaut, giving a 20-minute service.

But there are plans to expand the Night Tube to other bits of the network. Next stage is the Jubilee serving Canary Wharf, Piccadilly serving Heathrow and the Northern famously to Morden.

Jubilant passengers turn up at Bethnal Green at 2am...

Jubilant passengers turn up at Bethnal Green at 2am... - Credit: Archant

But what might seem odd is that the Circle through Aldgate and Tower Hill, linking most of London’s main-line terminals like Liverpool Street, has been left out. It is undergoing new tracks, signalling and walk-through trains and won’t be ready for several years, we’re told, although it will eventually ‘circle’ round the clock.

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