Site Records

SiteName: Kingsway Tramway Subway

Southampton Row - Victoria Embankment
London, WC2
OS Grid Ref: TQ30478163

Sub Brit site visit August 1994

[Source: Nick Catford]

South of Aldwych Station, the tracks curved sharply to the south west in twin tunnels and continued beneath Aldwych as a single tunnel with brick arch roof, separating again at the Strand into twin cast iron tubes which continued to about a third of the way under Lancaster Place. The exit on to the Embankment was through the western wing wall of Waterloo Bridge and here a triangular junction was constructed. The eastern side of the junction, leading towards Blackfriars, was never used and was removed during later reconstruction.

Through services were inaugurated on 10th April 1908, from Highbury Station to Tower Bridge and from Highbury Station to Kennington Gate. The cars were stabled at Holloway and New Cross depots. There were numerous changes to the routes over the following 20 years.

As the years passed, it became increasingly evident that the operation of single-deck cars could not be made profitable and moreover, if the subway could be enlarged to take double-deckers many useful connections could be given and the movement of rolling stock from north of the Thames to Charlton works would be greatly improved.

New entrance under construction at Waterloo Bridge

Photo:Holborn Station - The portacabin is the GLC flood control centre
Photo by Nick Catford

Southampton Row Entrance

In 1929 therefore, the LCC decided to increase In 1929 therefore, the LCC decided to increase the headroom to 16 ft. 6 in. by raising the roof at the northern end and by deepening the tunnel at other places.

This announcement brought suggestions that the subway might well be enlarged to take motor traffic as well as trams, but the Metropolitan Police Commissioner pointed out that congestion would arise at each end of the tunnel, that a serious traffic block would quickly develop if a vehicle broke down inside and

that there was a danger of exhaust fumes and even fire.

The London Traffic Advisory Committee recommended that the tunnel could serve no useful purpose as a motor way and the L.C.C. would have nothing to do with the idea. The contract was awarded to John Cochrane and Sons, Limited, who started work on the street level on 11th September 1929.

North of Holborn the roadway was opened up and the twin tunnels replaced by one wide passage with a steel girder roof, while

Holborn Station

elsewhere the additional headroom was obtained by under-pinning the side walls with concrete and lowering the track by approximately 5 ft. The estimated cost was 326,000 including 76,000 for the reconstruction of the 50 single-deck cars.

Photo:The subway between Holborn and Strand
Photo by Nick Catford

The two tramway stations were rebuilt and modernised, that at Holborn being finished in travertine, a cream marble used in ancient Rome. Standard trackwork with yokes and slot-rails set in concrete was used in place of the special type evolved for the original construction.

The formal reopening was performed on Wednesday, 14th January, 1931, by the Chairman of the Council, Major Tasker. Public service commenced at 5 o'clock next morning, with a one-minute headway and a total of 5,000 cars per week.

The Southampton Row ramp as it appears today

In 1937, the rebuilding of Waterloo Bridge necessitated the diversion of the subway exit to a position centrally beneath the new bridge, at a cost of 70,000 including a new crossing of the District Railway; after the changeover took place, on 21st November, 1937, the curved section of tunnel leading to the former exit in the bridge abutment was walled off and still exists.

In anticipation of a general conversion of the London tramways to trolleybus working, an experimental trolleybus placed in service on 12th June, 1939, was so designed as to permit passengers to board and alight from the offside at Aldwych and Holborn Stations.

The war brought a reprieve to the remaining London tramways and was followed by a decision that the routes still working would be replaced by motor buses and the subway closed.


Further information and pictures about this site continues here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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