7 March 1969: Queen Elizabeth II officially opens the Victoria Line

On this day in 1969, Queen Elizabeth II took only her second trip on the tube to officially open the underground’s newest line – the Victoria Line.

London's tube system is a marvel to behold. It is the world's oldest – the Metropolitan Railway first opened in 1863, while the first deep line, the City and South London Railway (now part of the Northern Line) opened in 1890. But by the end of the 1940s, the tube was getting congested. A new line was proposed that could relieve congestion in the centre of London, and would run between Victoria and Walthamstow.

A trial tunnel was built in 1959, and construction began in earnest in 1962. The 21-foot diameter tunnels were dug into the buttery clay beneath London by hand. Progress was slow – they managed just over three metres a day. By contrast, the latest tunnel boring machines used in London's newest underground line – Crossrail – managed 38 metres a day.

But by 1 September 1968, the first section between Walthamstow Central and Highbury & Islington was ready to open. There was no ceremony, no pomp; the first train just trundled out of the station at 6:30 in the morning. On 1 December 1968, operations were extended to Warren Street. But by 7 March 1969, the new line had reached Victoria Station. It was time for an official opening.

So the Queen made the short journey from her house in town to Green Park station, where, surrounded by palace flunkeys and the world's press, she “bought” a ticket, rode the escalator down to the platform, and stepped into the cab of a waiting train, which whisked her the two stops to Oxford Circus. It was only the second time she had ever been on the tube. At Oxford Circus, she got out of the cab and returned to Victoria in the train's carriage. At Victoria, she unveiled a plaque. The Victoria Line was officially open. It reached its final destination, Brixton, in 1971.

Recommended

1 April 1999: The minimum wage is introduced in Britain
This day in history

1 April 1999: The minimum wage is introduced in Britain

On this day in 1999, the national minimum wage was introduced in Britain, bringing an instant pay rise to 1.9 million low-paid workers.
1 Apr 2021
27 February 1900: The launch of the Labour Party
This day in history

27 February 1900: The launch of the Labour Party

Responding to the need for a single political party to represent the trade unions, the Labour Party was formed on this day in 1900.
27 Feb 2021
24 February 1981: Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer announce their engagement
This day in history

24 February 1981: Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer announce their engagement

On this day in 1981, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer made their engagement official in front of the world's press at Buckingham Palace.
24 Feb 2021
24 February 1809: Drury Lane theatre burns down
This day in history

24 February 1809: Drury Lane theatre burns down

On this day in 1809, celebrated playwright Richard Sheridan was effectively ruined when the Drury Lane theatre went up in smoke.
24 Feb 2021

Most Popular

China owns a lot more gold than it’s letting on – and here’s why
Gold

China owns a lot more gold than it’s letting on – and here’s why

In a world awash with money-printing, a currency backed by gold would have great credibility. And China – with designs on the yuan becoming the world’…
21 Apr 2021
“Joke” cryptocurrency dogecoin goes to the moon. What’s going on?
Bitcoin

“Joke” cryptocurrency dogecoin goes to the moon. What’s going on?

Dogecoin – a cryptocurrency created as a joke – has risen by more than 9,000% this year alone. Saloni Sardana looks at how something that began as an …
19 Apr 2021
House prices in the UK are still surging – here’s why it’ll probably continue
Property

House prices in the UK are still surging – here’s why it’ll probably continue

The latest UK house price data shows no letup in the country’s booming property market, with the biggest yearly rise since 2014. And there’s no end in…
22 Apr 2021