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The parts of the London Underground you didn’t know go beyond the M25

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When we usually think of the London Underground we think of the labyrinth of stations and tunnels deep underneath Zone 1.

Indeed, the just about comfortable size of the trains and tunnels is encapsulated in its nickname ‘the Tube’.

There are three sections of the London Underground which manage to entirely escape not just London but also its orbital motorway, the M25, with free range deep into the Home Counties countryside, venturing to Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Essex.

READ MORE: The London Underground station that thousands of people enter but seemingly never leave

These sections are primarily used by commuters and were constructed as commuter and even national railway lines prior to their integration into the formal London Underground by London Transport (the predecessor to Transport for London -TfL) in 1933.

Today, they also offer a cheap, reliable and frequent way for Londoners looking to escape the hustle and bustle for the day somewhere to visit.

There are three sections:

1. Rickmansworth to Amersham (Metropolitan line)

2. Chalfont & Latimer to Chesham (Metropolitan line)

3. Theydon Bois to Epping (Central line)

Rickmansworth to Amersham

Metropolitan line travels to zone 9

The Metropolitan line passes underneath the M25 in a cutting just over a mile north of Rickmansworth station. At this point, the Metropolitan line is well into Hertfordshire and is now in zone 7, beyond the usual London TfL fare zones of 1 to 6.

The exact point the line goes under the M25 is very obvious as a giant chalky, light brown to grey viaduct emerges from the otherwise verdant, green scenery witnessed either side of it.

Trains over this section run every 15 minutes as far as Chalfont & Latimer when half of them divert along a single-track branch line to their final destination, the Buckinghamshire commuter town of Chesham.

The section has impressive scenery, as the valleys of Hertfordshire progressively merge into the Chiltern Hills.

There’s the impressive ‘happiest place to live’, the Hertfordshire village of Chorleywood and its common on the northern bank overlooking the train line, then Chenies Wood just before Chalfont & Latimer station and finally a glimpse towards Amersham Old Town as you roll into Amersham station.

There are two historical quirks of this section.

0 Amersham Tube

Amersham is in Zone 9, the last station on the Metropolitan line

One is London Underground’s only remaining public level crossing just beyond Amersham station, still on London Underground property and the second being that London Underground still owns the track well beyond Amersham as far as a tiny level crossing in the middle of a forest, despite not being able to run a Tube train through there at all.

This part of the Metropolitan line once formed part of the Great Central Main Line which took mainline steam trains from Marylebone station to the Midlands via Harrow, Rickmansworth and Aylesbury.

Due to the development of other railway lines, notably the West Coast Main Line and the Midland Main Line, the line dwindles in importance and fell out of use.

It also saw the Metropolitan line cut back from its furthest reaches at Verney Junction, then Brill, then Aylesbury and since electrification in 1961, Amersham.

Chalfont & Latimer to Chesham

0 theydon boisPNG

Theydon Bois is on the Central line

Branching off from the above route just over three miles from the M25, this single-track branch line is the longest stretch on the London Underground network between two stations, is just under four miles long and takes around eight minutes to travel along.

Until 2010, outside of peak hours, all Metropolitan line trains from London ran to Amersham and a shuttle service provided by a shorter length train than on the rest of the Metropolitan line ran back and forth between these two stations.

TfL abandoned this service pattern when the current S Stock trains were brought into use, which would be too long to fit into the short platform at Chalfont & Latimer used by the shuttle service.

Being a single-track, lengthy line in Underground terms, the line is more difficult to operate than other parts of the Tube network.

It means that services can’t usually run more frequently than every half-hour and that if a train is late there is almost guaranteed to be a knock on effect on the next train which won’t be able to enter the single-track line until the late train exits it.

Since the start of the Covid pandemic, isolating driver shortages, early retirements and lack of control room staff have caused much disruption for those using this section of track.

Theydon Bois to Epping

The shortest section of the three is barely a mile long as the tip of the Central line just pierces beyond the M25.

It’s also not very obvious when it does so as the line runs on an embankment under the M25 and a set of power lines.

Prior to 1994, the Central line used to run as far as Ongar in Essex, on a single-track line beyond Epping.

Despite this section being converted to a heritage railway, all distances on the London Underground are still measured from a zero-point at Ongar to this day.

0 Enfield

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Although the Central line has seen Night Tube services since 2018, these terminate at Loughton and do not make it beyond the M25 in the small hours, meaning no part of the Underground outside the M25 has a 24 hour service.

An honourable mention goes to the Piccadilly line at Heathrow Terminal 5, which terminates within sight of London’s orbital motorway.

Should Heathrow ever get a Terminal 6, there could be scope for the Piccadilly line to cross the M25 as it would need a large enough turning circle to head from the direction it currently faces back round to the new building.

Have you every travelled along these sections of the Tube? Tell us in the comments below!

You can read all of MyLondon’s Tube-related trivia, news stories and features on our dedicated page here.

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