“I’m so excited. This is the best experience I’ve done. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.” So said Lia Calzolari from Hertfordshire, one of around 100 London Underground enthusiasts who were waiting outside the gates of the capital’s newest Tube terminus – Battersea Power Station.
She had taken the last train from her local station to London Liverpool Street and walked six miles across the capital to be ready for the 5.28am departure: first stop, Nine Elms.
Battersea Power Station and Nine Elms are the the first additions to the Northern Line since the Clapham Common to Morden extension was unveiled in 1926.
“It’s just going to change my life,” said John Baloro, a city accountant who lives two minutes’ walk from the new Battersea Power Station Tube stop. “I normally take about two buses to get to work and now being able to get to the City in 15 minutes is amazing.
“Getting friends to come here has been a nightmare because we’re cut off. This used to be an industrial area. We used to be in Zone 2 [the first fare zone outside central London], we’re now Zone 1, that adds to the prestige of the area.”
Nicholas Skinner, another Battersea resident who is working as a civil servant, said: “It’s something very surreal – a Northern Line that hasn’t changed for almost 100 years, suddenly adding a new branch in south London.
“It is expensive, but it will prove its worth. We’ll wonder why we didn’t build this earlier.
“The next stop is: where do we take the extension? Arguably Roehampton, one of the most neglected parts of London.”
Work on the two-mile extension began in 2015. Unlike the troubled Crossrail project, which is running over three years late and billions of pounds over budget, the short Northern Line extension cost £1.1bn – £160m less than the maximum allocated. But the cost works out at £100,000 for every foot of the new extension.
A significant part of the funding came from property developers who believe that the link will boost residential demand in the area.
It was built to a high specification – with the widest tunnels anywhere on the Tube network, accommodating an emergency walkway along the side to be used in the event of an evacuation.
As the first return train arrived from Kennington, one enthusiast temporarily appended the word “station” to the name, arguing that it is actually Battersea Power Station station.
Besides making commuting easier, the project will also make the rejuvenated area around Gilbert Scott’s iconic power station more accessible to Londoners and tourists.
Simon Kendler, who works for Network Rail, said the new branch would ease the pressure on other parts of the transport system currently used by local residents. “It actually offers capacity relief for the lines into Victoria and Waterloo.”
He said that the Battersea branch would enhance capacity on the Northern Line by freeing up the bottleneck at Kennington – where the two branches of the Northern Line meet, and some trains terminate.
The new extension will be served by Charing Cross branch trains only. Trains will run every 10-12 minutes initially.
The frequency will increase when the City branch of the Northern line closes at Bank in the new year, for a project expected to last five months.
The total number of Tube stations on the London Underground network is now 272 – though, as many enthusiasts who were at the opening were keen to point out, Heathrow Terminal 4 is temporally closed due to the Covid crisis.
Some niche record-setters were in attendance. Peter Torre, from Mill Hill East, was the first person to take the first through train from his local station to Battersea Power Station.
He told The Independent that he was also the first person to drive across the Brent Cross flyover in 1965, as well as the Staples Corner flyover at the foot of the M1 in 1974.
The comedian Kieran Hodgson tweeted from Glasgow: “Welcome to the World, Northern Line Extension! And congratulations to all the beautiful nerds who’ve been riding the first trains already.”
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