The Waterloo & City line is a short underground railway line in London, which formally opened on 11 July 1898. It has only two stations, Waterloo and Bank (formerly called "City", as it is within the City of London). Between its stations, the line passes under the River Thames.
It exists almost exclusively to serve commuters between Waterloo mainline station and the City of London, and does not operate late in the evening or on Sundays (during the line's history there has been only a single four-year period, between 1943 and 1947, when the line did operate on that day). By far the shortest line on the London Underground at only 1.5 miles (2.5 km), it takes only four minutes to travel from end to end. It was the second electric tube railway to open in London, after the City & South London Railway (now part of the Northern line).
Nonetheless the difficult access continued to be a problem, and eventually the solution was determined to be a tube railway, hugely cheaper than a surface line as it avoided nearly all land acquisition that would have been required on the surface. It was opened in 1898, and operated by the L&SWR, passing into the Southern Railway on the grouping of British railways in 1923, and subsequently became part of British Rail's Southern Region on nationalisation in 1948. When British Rail was privatised, it was seen as anomalous for it to be part of the National Rail network, and by agreement ownership was transferred to London Underground.
Its ticketing was fully integrated with the national network and passengers could buy through tickets from mainline railway stations to Bank.
The line was designed by civil engineer W.R. Galbraith and James Henry Greathead, inventor of the tunnelling shield that bears his name. The remnants of one of the Greathead tunnelling shields used in the construction of the line can be seen in the interchange tunnel linking the Waterloo and City with the Northern Line and Docklands Light Railway.
Uniquely among London's Underground lines, the Waterloo & City runs underground for its entire length, including both stations. (The Victoria line comes closest to this, with the only non-underground section being that to the depot).
The Waterloo & City has no direct rail connection to the rest of the rail network, so that vehicle exchanges now require road vehicle transportation. Before the construction of Waterloo International terminal in 1990, the vehicles were hoisted individually by the Armstrong lift outside the north wall of Waterloo main-line station. The procedure is now carried out using a road-mounted crane in a shaft adjacent to the depot, south of Waterloo mainline station. This is only necessary for major maintenance work that requires lifting of the car body as the Waterloo depot is fully equipped for general maintenance work.
The Waterloo & City originally had its own electric power station, and coal was delivered from Waterloo main line station using a second, smaller lift (known as the Abbotts Lift), which explains the continued presence of a wagon turntable in Waterloo depot. The remaining stub of the siding tunnel that led to the Armstrong Lift can still be seen on the left hand side of the train shortly after leaving Waterloo for Bank. The lift itself was demolished (along with the entire Western sidings) in 1992 due to the construction of Waterloo International — the former Eurostar terminal.
In January 2003, the Waterloo & City was closed for over three weeks for safety checks due to a major derailment on the Central line, which required all 1992 tube stock trains to be modified. That same year, responsibility for the line's maintenance was given to the Metronet consortium under the terms of a Public-Private Partnership arrangement.
The line has one unique feature on London Underground operated lines in that all speed limits along the line are in kilometres per hour as are the speed gauges in the driving cabs. All other LUL operated lines are in miles per hour.
The Board of Trade was dissatisfied with this arrangement and forbade traction current being conveyed between carriages on any further tube projects, forcing the Central London Railway to use conventional locomotives.
Five additional single motor cars were ordered from Dick, Kerr and Co. of Preston in 1899 for single carriage operation outside rush hours.
The inconvenience to passengers of interior lights being momentarily extinguished as the train passes over conductor rail gaps was partially eliminated in this stock by feeding half the car lights from the motor car at one end of the unit, and half from the other.
The stock was replaced by Class 482 units in 1992, which were virtually identical to the 1992 stock used on the Central line. The line was converted to four-rail operation in common with other tube lines: the original steel positive rail was retained, with the new negative rail made from aluminium. The positive rail was replaced by an aluminium one in 2008. Since its introduction, this stock on the Waterloo & City has diverged sufficiently from that used on the Central line through various modifications, primarily to the latter with the introduction of Automatic Train Operation, that the two are no longer interchangeable. It was almost immediately after the introduction of this stock that management of the line was transferred to London Underground.
Up to the time of closure for refurbishment (see below) the Class 482 trains carried the original blue British Rail Network SouthEast livery that they had when they were introduced, despite having been part of London Underground for more than ten years.
In the 1980s there was a suggestion that an intermediate station be built at Blackfriars, which is on the route of the line, but nothing further has been heard for many years and the Department for Transport currently considers this to have "no significant transport benefit".
The line was shut on 1 April 2006 for refurbishment works. It re-opened on 11 September 2006, eleven days after the predicted completion date of the project. As well as the repainting and cleaning of the trains, the work included refurbishment of the tunnels, platforms and depot, and an upgrade of the track and signalling systems. These and other works completed by 2007 were expected to boost rush-hour capacity by 25% and line capability by 12% at a cost of tens of millions of pounds. It was also claimed the average journey will be up to forty seconds faster.
Transport for London have announced plans to install a further entrance to Bank station in Walbrook Square by 2013.
Because of its Sunday closures, the Waterloo & City has become a well-established and convenient location for filming, not least because in the days of British Rail (and predecessor) ownership, it could be used in the event of London Transport being either unable or unwilling to allow access to their stations or lines. It can be seen in the 1962 Norman Wisdom film On the Beat (complete with 1940 stock train); the second series of the BBC's Survivors, representing various parts of the Central and Northern lines; and in the 1984 adaptation of The Tripods, where it masquerades as Porte de la Chapelle station on the Paris Métro. It was also used in the 1998 Peter Howitt film Sliding Doors, portraying Embankment and one other unknown station.