Aldwych Underground station and its Piccadilly Line spur will close this month after 87 years of service.

The Department of Transport also gave permission yesterday for London Underground to close the six-mile Epping to Ongar branch of the Central Line, including North Weald station which carries 100 people a day.

The last trains on both lines will run on 30 September.

Frank Dobson, Labour's transport spokesman, said the Government's transport policy was 'going in the wrong direction' and condemning Londoners to worse pollution.

John Stewart, chairman of Alarm UK, a national pressure group campaigning for investment in public transport, said: 'Aldwych not only provides a convenient way of getting to the West End, but is an attractive option for extending the line to Waterloo.'

LUL said its closure and the discontinuation of the shuttle service between Epping and Ongar will save at least pounds 10.8m.

A spokeswoman said that if Aldwych was kept open, pounds 3m would have to be spent to replace the 88-year-old lifts and a further pounds 3.8m to maintain it during the next 10 years.

The station is operating at a loss of pounds 150,000 a year, while the Epping to Ongar link makes a loss of pounds 184,000.

Both Aldwych station and the Essex branch have witnessed a decline in passengers. LUL reports that at Aldwych figures have dwindled from 950 return trips a day in 1971 to fewer than 80.

Denis Tunnicliffe, managing director of London Underground, said yesterday that closing Aldwych and the Epping to Ongar branch was 'unfortunately the only sensible option at a time when prudent spending is essential'.

LUL await offers from the private sector to take over the axed sections of line.

The Secretary of State told London Underground that it must not dismantle the track or dispose of any associated property for three years to allow other operators time to acquire the assets.

The only interest shown has come from the Ongar Railway Preservation Society.

It is keen to look into the possibility of operating a

limited steam-hauled passenger service.

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