The Aldwych Failure

INTRODUCTION

This post is about a station that is now closed, and the opportunities that were missed by that closure. A lot of it therefore is speculative in nature.

THE HISTORY

Aldwych was part of the original Piccadilly line that opened in 1906. In the early years of the line there was a Strand Theatre Train which ran straight through to the northern terminus rather than operating as a shuttle to Holborn where a change was then necessary. The significance of this fact should become more obvious later in the post, but meanwhile here is an extract from the Diagrammatic History:

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SEGUE: ALDWYCH ON THA-Z

To set the scene for the rest of this post I have some A-Z pages from just before the closure of Aldwych…

As the two individual shots show, Aldwych is on the edge of a map page.
As the two individual shots show, Aldwych is on the edge of a map page.

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Aldwych A-Z

Aldwych is very close to Temple, and this was recognized as an interchange when both stations were open, but my speculations centre mainly on two railway stations through which an extension from Aldwych could logically pass: Blackfriars and Waterloo.

MAIDSTONE VIA BLACKFRIARS AND/ OR SEVENOAKS VIA WATERLOO

Firstly, to make one thing clear, this branch would not be treated as a shuttle in my scheme, trains would run along it to and from Cockfosters. The two potential routes for my extension would be:

Via Waterloo: Waterloo, Elephant & Castle, Walworth, Old Kent Road, Queens Road Peckham, Brockley, Crofton Park, Catford, Grove Park, Sundridge, Elmstead Woods, Bickley, Jubilee Country Park, Orpington, Goddington, Chelsfield Village (which would have a connection to my envisaged London Orbital Railway – see this post for more details), Well Hill, Shoreham, Kemsing and Sevenoaks (thereby terminating somewhere with good onward connections in the form of mainline railways and – see here for more – London Overground)

Via Blackfriars: Blackfriars, London Bridge, Bermondsey, Surrey Quays, Mudchute, Island Gardens, Greenwich Park, Blackheath, Eltham High Street, New Eltham, Longlands, Sidcup High Street, Foots Cray, Ruxley, Hockenden, Crockenhill, Hulberry, Eynsford (connection to London orbital Railway in my scheme), Maplescombe, West Kingsdown, Fairseat, Vigo Village, Ditton, Maidstone West and Maidstone East (again terminating somewhere with mainline railway connections).

If forced to choose between the two plans I would opt for the second plan, going via Blackfriars. If both were to be built I would consider it an opportunity to advertise this wonderful walk, which would be within the ambit of London Underground:

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EXTRA SPECULATIONS

Of course, this scheme would make the Piccadilly line very large and sprawling., especially if my envisaged northward extension to Welwyn Garden City were also to be built. Ultimately, as a speculation on a speculation, I could see a split, as services run between Welwyn Garden City and Sevenoaks/ Maidstone on one line, Uxbridge/ Heathrow to Holborn on the other, with a possible eastward extension from Holborn to come.

CONCLUSION

My vision around Aldwych (and I travelled the by then shabby and ill-kept branch just before it closed) would see it not as an endpoint in which role it served little purpose, but as a starting point for new developments as outlined above.