The tube is one of my obsessions, and I’ve already toured the closed Aldwych/Strand station, so I was thrilled to have the chance to tour the disused Jubilee Line platforms of Charing Cross station. The tours, organised by the London Transport Museum and Hidden London, sold out almost as soon as they went on sale. We were told to meet by the barriers in Charing Cross underground station – this was unusually quiet for a Sunday, perhaps because the main line station was closed.
We were issued with wristbands and taken through the barrier and down the escalator. Once we had reached the bottom, a door in the unassuming wall directly in front of us was opened and we were ushered through to find another escalator, this time switched off, so that we had to walk down it. At the bottom were the platforms, decorated with film posters left over from the Underground Film Club‘s recent residency.
The Jubilee line was first opened in 1979, two years after the Queen’s Silver Jubilee which lent its name to the line as well as the silver/grey colour of the line on the tube map. Known prior to its construction as the Fleet line, after the tributary of the Thames that also gave its name to Fleet Street, it took over what was formerly the Bakerloo line between Stanmore and Baker Street, continuing on to Charing Cross, a station with a chequered history, having originally been two separate stations that were united only when the Jubilee line platforms opened.
For twenty years the Jubilee line served Charing Cross, alongside the Bakerloo and Northern lines. However, in 1999 the Jubilee line was extended: the line was rerouted from Green Park to Westminster, carrying on south of the river to the Docklands area and the O2 (then the Millennium Dome), curving back up and terminating at Stratford. The Green Park-Charing Cross section of the line has been closed to regular tube trains ever since, though it is still used as a sidings and in certain circumstances trains can be sent down here to help avoid congestion – one of my friends was once on a train that was temporarily rerouted down here, and when she told me about it I was VERY jealous.
Our knowledgeable and informative volunteer guides told us all about the station, its history, and how it is used today. It is often used for testing new features.
The station is sometimes used for storage.
The station has a distinctive look that you can recognise if you see it on screen – so long as you know what to look for.
The open ceiling signifies air vents.
We were shown a series of short film clips featuring Skyfall (2011/12), Paddington (2013) and the TV show 24 (2014), filmed on these platforms. As I had learned at Aldwych station, historical TV programmes and films tend to be filmed in that station, whereas more modern shows tend to be shot here at Charing Cross.
After we had explored the platforms we were divided into two groups and taken to see more hidden parts of the station.
My group visited a construction tunnel first – entering via the door that Daniel Craig pops out of in Skyfall, blending in seamlessly with the hordes of commuters.
When the Jubilee line was first being built, constructors couldn’t dig directly beneath Charing Cross station, as this would have been too disruptive for traffic. Instead, they sunk a hole next to the National Gallery – where the Sainsbury Wing is located now – and tunnelled along from there.
An older part of the tunnel is now entirely blocked up, in a location directly beneath the Fourth Plinth.
The tunnellers used the same methods as the original Underground workers did back in the nineteenth century.
Once out of the tunnel, we changed places with the other group, causing passing tube-travellers to look somewhat bemused as we emerged from one door in the wall only to enter another one shortly afterwards.
We had to don hard hats for this part of the journey.
This is the cooling system for parts of Charing Cross station. I had no idea, waiting for a train, that there was all this space above my head.
From here we could LOOK DIRECTLY ONTO THE PLATFORM AND THE TRAINS.
I had hoped that somebody on the platform would look up and get a shock, but sadly it was not to be. However, the guy in front of me later managed to frighten a tourist by waving to her from the passage.
We went off down the passage in the other direction to see where the cooling system begins. It’s possible to see it from outside the station, if you know where to look. It was raining outside and we could feel the rain on our faces.
That was the end of the tour. We were taken back to the top of the escalators to make our own way home.
I had an AMAZING time and would definitely recommend the tour to anyone who might be interested. It is sold out at the moment but there may be more tours announced in the future, so I’d recommend signing up to the London Transport Museum’s mailing list to be the first to find out about any future dates. The guides hinted that there would be more exciting tours to look forward to – I’m hoping for Down Street but I’ll have to wait and see!