Growing out of the London Underground’s first line, the Metropolitan Railway, the Jubilee Line is named after Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee. Of course, this route for the Tube is much older than that with origins that date back to the 1930s. Today it is one of the leading Tube lines when it comes to technology and it has a fascinating history both before and after it received its official name. Join us as we explore the first London Underground line named explicitly after Her Majesty from its earliest days to the present.
The history of the Jubilee line begins in 1932 when the Metropolitan Railway opened a branch that ran between Stanmore and Wembley Park. The purpose for the new branch was to alleviate some of the commuter traffic coming out of the ever-growing London suburbs. This line proved more popular than originally predicted and by the end of the decade the line was absolutely packed on a regular basis. This problem was only made worse with post-war flight of residents from the City of London to West London. To alleviate the problem, the Metropolitan Railway proposed a new line that ran along the existing railway from Edgeware Road to somewhere near Wilsden Green.
However, the London Passenger Transport Board had other ideas and moved the Stanmore branch to the Bakerloo line and closed the Lords, Marlborough Road, and Swiss Cottage, only opening them for special occasions or peak times. The new Bakerloo extension then opened in 1939 and the alleviation of increased post-war traffic was taken on by the Victoria Line which was completed in 1968. Even before the Victoria Line became operational, however, there was talk as early as 1965 of another line that would be referred to as the Fleet Line.
Construction on this new Fleet Line got its start in 1971, though funding questions and the uncertainty of the line’s final destination meant it would be constructed in phases. The first phase would run from Baker Street into Central London with stops at Bond Street and Green Park before terminating at a new station at Charing Cross. Phase 2 would extend along the River Fleet to Fenchurch Street, then Phase 3 would go under the river to Surrey Docks (known today as Surrey Quays on the DLR), and Phase 4 would continue on mainline suburban tracks to Addiscombe or Hayes.
Tunneling took place from 1972 to 1979 and during this time, the line’s name was changed to Jubilee to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. Prince Charles opened the line on April 30, 1979, and service began on May 1. Despite the initial plans for the phased extensions, no additional stations or rails were added to the Jubilee Line until the 1990s. By that point, the development of the London Docklands had taken center stage and the Jubilee Line was instead extended from Green Park to Stratford, foregoing the Charing Cross station and passing through the Docklands before heading north after passing through North Greenwich.
Since these expansions, the Jubilee Line has ever sought to be at the forefront of new technology for the London Underground. It received a seventh car on each of its trains beginning in 2005 and in 2011 it converted to Automatic Train Operation, increasing service capacity and decreasing wait times. Beginning in March 2020, a leaky feeder was installed that could provide the line with 4G service for commuters, a feature that is to be expanded to other Underground lines in the future. If you want to have a ride on the Jubilee Line, keep an eye on the London Underground map for the silver/gray path and hop on for an experience you won’t forget.