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The Circle line, coloured yellow on the tube map, is the eighth busiest line on the London Underground. It forms a loop line around the centre of London on the north side of the River Thames. Platforms are 120 metres long in the south and 130 metres long on the part of the track shared with the Metropolitan line.


The route now known as the Circle line was authorised when Acts of Parliament in 1853 and 1854 empowered the Metropolitan Railway (MR) and the Metropolitan District Railway (MDR) to construct the world's first underground railway in central London. From an initial section between Farringdonmarker and Paddingtonmarker stations, the route was gradually extended at each end. Financial difficulties in the construction of the section through the City of Londonmarker as well as animosity between the two railway companies delayed completion of the full circuit until 6 October 1884, although it had been known as the Inner Circle since the 1870s.

Trains on the route were originally hauled by steam engines, but electrification was started with an experimental section in 1900. A disagreement between the two companies over the method of electrification delayed the exercise, so that the first electric trains were introduced gradually over the 11 days to 24 September 1905.

The introduction of this line took over many parts of the Metropolitan Line, confining it to the north-west and limiting its interchanges with the District Line. The Uxbridgemarker branch of the Metropolitan last shared track with the District in 1933, when Piccadilly line services replaced the latter. In the east, the Barkingmarker service of the Metropolitan, also sharing track with the District, was designated part of the Hammersmith & City line in 1988, though in practice the Hammersmith & City had been operated as a separate line for many years before that date.

Other circle routes

The Inner Circle and other circular routes
The success of the Inner Circle led to the operation of three other "circular" routes within the capital, over existing main line routes and sections of the Inner Circle tracks. Like the Inner Circle at the time they were established, none of them was actually a complete circle:

These routes failed to attract the passenger numbers hoped for. The Super Outer Circle ran for only two years; the other two routes lasted longer, but were eventually cut back and finally ended (see the map for details). Other services on the lines continued. Today parts of the Outer Circle and Super Outer Circle routes are operated by London Overground trains on the North London Line. Plans to complete an outer rail loop have been relaunched under the name Orbirail.

7 July 2005 terrorist attack

On 7 July 2005 two Circle line trains were bombed. The blasts occurred almost simultaneously at 08:50 BST, one between Liverpool Streetmarker and Aldgatemarker and the other on a train at Edgware Roadmarker.

Following the attacks, the whole of the Circle line was closed. While most other lines re-opened on 8 July, the Circle remained closed for several weeks, reopening a little less than a month after the attacks, on 4 August. 13 people were killed by the blasts on the Circle line trains. A third attack occurred on the Piccadilly line between King's Cross St Pancras and Russell Square.

The route

The line became known as such in 1949, when it was designated separately from its parent lines, the Metropolitan line and the District line, although it had been shown on Underground maps since 1947 (see history above). It is a "route" more than a real "line", as it does not have any stations for its sole use and only has two short sections of track over which it operates exclusively: the chords between High Street Kensingtonmarker and Gloucester Roadmarker, and between Tower Hillmarker and Aldgate.

As the name implies, trains on the line run a continuous circuit. A complete journey around the line would take 45 minutes, but time-tabling constraints mean that each train has a scheduled two-minute stop at High Street Kensington and Aldgate, extending the time required for a full circuit to 49 minutes. This allows the service to operate with seven trains in each direction with a seven-minute service interval. It has 27 stations and 14 miles (22 km) of track .

There are usually quicker routes on other lines when travelling from south to north or vice versa, e.g. Victoria to Kings Cross (much quicker by Victoria line) or Embankment to Baker Street (much quicker by Bakerloo line). In particular, from Blackfriars to Farringdon it is actually quicker to walk than to travel around the eastern end of the Circle line. An even faster alternative between these two stations is the National Rail Thameslink service (not currently shown on the Tube Map, though it has been in the past).

In the north, east and west of central London, the Circle line approximately outlines Travelcard Zone 1, but in the south there is a substantial portion of the zone outside the Circle line. Apart from the two-stop shuttle Waterloo & City line, it is the only line completely within Zone 1. Out of the 27 stations served, most have Circle line platforms that are wholly or almost wholly underground; while those at Edgware Road, Farringdon, Barbican, Aldgate, Sloane Square, South Kensington, High Street Kensington, Notting Hill Gate and Paddington are in cuttings or under train-sheds. However these are still all below street level, albeit only a few feet. See below for changes on 13 December 2009 extending the line to Hammersmith.

Technical information


All Circle line trains are in the distinctive London Underground livery of red, white and blue and are the larger of the two sizes used on the network. These trains use C stock, introduced 1969-70, and also in 1978. They are expected to be replaced with S stock by 2012.

See London Underground rolling stock for more information


The principal depot for the Circle line is at Hammersmithmarker, but there are several other sidings at Barkingmarker, Edgware Road, Triangle Sidings (in Kensington) and Farringdon.


Current Circle line route

Circle line route with extension to Hammersmith


Station Image Opening Date Additional Information (Interchange)

Paddingtonmarker 10 January 1863 Bakerloo, District, Hammersmith & City, Great Western Main Line
Edgware Roadmarker 1 October 1863 Bakerloomarker (150m)
Baker Streetmarker 10 January 1863 Bakerloo, Jubilee, Metropolitan
Great Portland Streetmarker 10 January 1863
Euston Squaremarker 10 January 1863 and West Coast Main Linemarker
King's Cross St. Pancrasmarker 10 January 1863 Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria. for Eurostar, Midland Main Line,
High Speed 1 and for East Coast Main Line and Cambridge/King's Lynn line
Farringdonmarker 10 January 1863 First Capital Connect (Thameslink)
Barbicanmarker 23 December 1865
Moorgatemarker 23 December 1865 Northern, First Capital Connect (Northern City Line)
Liverpool Streetmarker 12 July 1874 Central, National Express East Anglia, c2c
Aldgatemarker 18 November 1876 Metropolitan
Tower Hillmarker 25 September 1882 District
Monumentmarker 6 October 1884 Central, Northern, Waterloo & City, DLR (all via escalator connection to Bank station)
Cannon Street 6 October 1884 Southeastern
Mansion Housemarker 3 July 1871
Blackfriarsmarker (closed until 2011) 30 May 1870 First Capital Connect / Southeastern (Thameslink)
Templemarker 30 May 1870
Embankmentmarker 30 May 1870 Bakerloo, Northern
Westminstermarker 24 December 1868 Jubilee
St. James's Parkmarker 24 December 1868
Victoriamarker 24 December 1868 Victoria, Southeastern, Southern
Sloane Squaremarker 24 December 1868
South Kensingtonmarker 24 December 1868 Piccadilly
Gloucester Roadmarker 1 October 1868 Piccadilly
High Street Kensingtonmarker 50px 1 October 1868 District
Notting Hill Gatemarker 1 October 1868 Central
Bayswatermarker 1 October 1868

in order, clockwise from Paddington



The Circle line extension is the future extension of the Circle Line from Edgware Roadmarker to Hammersmithmarker.

From 13 December 2009 the Circle line will be extended to Hammersmith, sharing tracks with the Hammersmith & City line (see station list above). The new service will run from Hammersmith to Edgware Road station, where it will make a single loop back to Edgware Road. This means it will no longer be possible to travel between certain stations on the line without changing trains. However, London Underground has said that giving the Circle line a fixed terminus will help improve reliability and capacity. Despite its new spiral shape, it will still be called the Circle line. A map of the new shape has been published by Transport for London.

No new track is required as this is solely an extension to the service pattern, using existing lines. It will share the tracks previously used only by the Hammersmith & City Line. Future anti-clockwise services will start at Edgware Road, make a whole lap as they do now, but on returning to Edgware Road will then continue to Hammersmith. Clockwise services will do the same in reverse.

The extension was announced on 5 March 2009 and is due to open on Sunday, 13 December 2009.

Stations on the Circle line extension

The extension begins just west of Edgware Road, westward to:

Station London borough
Paddingtonmarker Westminster
Royal Oakmarker Westminster
Westbourne Parkmarker Westminster
Ladbroke Grovemarker Kensington & Chelsea
Latimer Roadmarker Kensington & Chelsea
Wood Lanemarker Hammersmith & Fulham
Shepherds Bush Marketmarker Hammersmith & Fulham
Goldhawk Roadmarker Hammersmith & Fulham
Hammersmithmarker Hammersmith & Fulham

Other Information

The extension will double the frequency of trains and reduce overcrowding on Hammersmith & City Line trains between Hammersmith and Edgware Road, and is intended to bring about reliability improvements, not only for the Circle line itself but also for the District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines.

Disruption on the sub-surface lines has a knock-on effect on Circle line services, because it shares track with the other sub-surface lines.

Orbital Routes

Orbital routes have an intrinsic timetabling robustness problem. The trains are constantly "in orbit" so there is little scope for "recovery time" if they are delayed. A single delay can have long lasting knock on effects and be much more disruptive than on a non-orbital railway. Recovery time can be created by timetabling for longer stops at some stations but this increases journey times and reduces train frequency. The proposed spiral route would remove this problem because there would be adequate recovery time at both ends of the route.

In popular culture

Circle Line Parties

The Circle Line suspended due to a May 2008 party
Circle-line parties have gained in popularity on the line in the 21st century, similar to subway parties in the United States. These involve large groups of people boarding a train and holding an impromptu party in the carriages, often dressing in costume.

A high-profile Circle-line party took place on 31 May 2008 to celebrate the last night of legal alcohol drinking on public transport in London. Thousands of people attended and seventeen were arrested by police due to disorderly behaviour, eventually causing the entire line to be suspended for the rest of the night.


The Circle Line Pub Crawl aims to visit each Circle line station in turn, drinking a half pint or shot in a pub near to each.

The Cast Off knitting club sometimes holds knit-ins on the Circle line


File:Bayswater Platform, Circle Line 2008.jpg|Bayswater station on the Circle and District Lines, 2008File:Bayswater Roundel 2008.jpg|Bayswater station roundel


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